2015: A Good Year for Studio Rodrigo

Ritik Dholakia
6 min readJan 15, 2016

The end of February marks 4 years that Khoi Uong and I decided to start Studio Rodrigo. Setting off on our own was always a calculated risk — worst case scenario, we figured we could always get jobs if the whole thing fell apart. But in choosing to launch a small-on-purpose, financially independent, product-design focused studio, we were creating an opportunity for ourselves to focus on the two things that really matter to us in our working life — seeking out projects that interest us and creating the freedom to invest in people and working relationships we value.

Through some combination of luck and being good, I feel like we’ve been able to do that fairly effectively pretty much right out of the gate. It feels good. And 2015 was the first year that we’ve really been able to reflect on the year in a public way — something we want to do a little more of, going forward. Expect more writing from us this year!

So here’s our 2015 year in review.

Highlights — the TL/DR version:
Take the time to skim the remainder, but here are some highlights:
- a great collaboration with the team at Uprise Art (www.upriseart.com)
- working with Venamour on www.venamour.com
- the launch of the Serial Season 2 website (www.serialpodcast.com)
- producing the State x State gift guides (www.statexstate.com)
- creating an identity for the 2015 Kickstarter Film Festival
- helping launch the numberFire Live predictive analytics product, prior to acquisition by Fan Duel
- continuing our working relationship with Comcast across a number of mobile and web initiatives, including my.xfinity.com and the Share app
- embedding a team at Spotify
- expanding our studio on 22nd St. including co-locating with two of our development partners Shift Lab (www.shiftlabny.com) and Posse (www.goposse.com)

Developed in collaboration with Shift Lab

Uprise Art
Working with Tze Chun and her team at Uprise Art was definitely one of the highlights of 2015, and a prime example of why we started the studio. From the beginning, it felt like a great collaboration, with the Uprise team knowledgable about their business and with a great vision for moving forward, allowing us to invest time in designing what we feel is a great art discovery experience. With Shift Lab, we were able to create a custom Ruby-on-Rails platform that seamlessly integrates content publishing and e-commerce, and totally streamlines a major part of Uprise’s digital operations. We’re very proud of the end product and excited to see Uprise grow.

Developed in collaboration with Shift Lab

Helping Lisa Hedge launch Venamour was another great creative collaboration, allowing our design team to create a showcase for Lisa’s incredible wedding stationary collections. We love working with brands that are passionate about design and enabling them to realize their vision across digital platforms. Another company we’re excited to see grow in 2016.

Developed in collaboration with Rich Orris

Serial Season 2
We’re avid public radio and podcast consumers here in the studio — and it’s always fun to work with creative people working in mediums outside your own. Last year, we had the opportunity to work on the website for Serial’s breakout first season, and this year we’ve been excited to keep pushing that relationship for Serial Season 2.

State x State
One of our goals in launching our studio was to be able to invest in our own projects. State x State is our first major foray into an independent, curated content experience, and our 2015 gift guides feel like a pretty unique take on the maker movement that’s happening across the country. A ton of great work by Narguess Noshirvani, Koun Bae, and Lucie Shelley in curating this year’s guides.

Radius Fitness
Our focus as a studio is on helping companies big and small launch new products. The occupational risk in that is, of course, not everything succeeds. We worked with the team at NBC to try and help with their OTT fitness product, Radius. For a number of reasons, the product didn’t quite gain the traction it needed, but we’re proud of our work here.

A definite trend in agency relationships that we have been seeing is the need to be flexible enough to completely embed with certain clients, in order to move at their speed and absorb their internal culture. Having the financial and operational flexibility to embed is something that we definitely recognize as being important for studios and agencies going forward. The ability to provide our designers with opportunities to collaborate with talented internal product and design teams and work on products with huge reach and impact is great for us. Pleased to have been able to contribute to some of the cool things being designed by the teams at Spotify.

Kickstarter Film Festival 2015
While our focus is largely digital, we do love working on things that manifest IRL, as well. We had a fun time working with the Kickstarter team to support their 2015 Film Festival.

XFINITY.com and Share
Fairly regular trips to Philly were a staple of 2015. We enjoy our partnership with the product and UX teams at Comcast, as they try to develop products and services that position them to try and compete with the consumer services developed by Apple and Google. Moving new product and design ideas through a big company is a challenge, but Comcast sits at a really interesting intersection of content, technology, and market reach. We hope we’re helping to move the needle!

W. 22nd St. — home to Rodrigo, Shift Lab, and Posse
We were able to invest in growing our studio footprint this year, and have a really wonderful place to work and collaborate. With a little more room, David DeRemer and Luke Freeman’s Posse joined Rodrigo and Jeremy Jackson’s Shift Lab in our studio. Having specialist teams that can collaborate closely while also pursuing their own priorities has been tremendously valuable.

It’s Fun To Come To Work
As a design consulting company, we get to see the inside of a lot of other companies (clients, partners, competitors) who are doing really cool things, often growing at a pace that blows away the pace we’ve set for ourselves. We’ve chosen to be small, focus on hiring and investing in people we really believe in, and so far, it’s paid off royally. It’s a fun place to come to work.

What’s Next? 2016.
A few things we are already excited for:
- a big next step for Openfolio, a personal finance big data platform
- cool things coming from Public Radio Exchange
- a really cool and unique connected device ecosystem in the medical space
- some fun stuff from the ABC digital team
- the official launch of the ShiftPub platform

Thanks for reading!
- Ritik