Uppercase on studio culture, the metaverse and what it means to be a ‘tech-driven’ design studio
Uppercase is a ‘tech-driven’ digital design studio, led by a multidisciplinary team of designers, developers, thinkers and do-ers. Based in the Norwegian city of Oslo, they work nationally and internationally with clients at every stage of their business, aiming to create value through intricate insights, strategy, design and development. Intrigued by their approach, we spoke to the Uppercase team to discuss everything from their projects and processes to their plans for the somewhat daunting, yet inevitable metaverse.
EM Hi, how’s 2022 going for you so far?
UC Hi Elliott, So far so good! The sun is shining and we are back in our office socialising. Couldn’t be better!
EM What’s happening at Uppercase at the moment?
UC It’s an exciting time at Uppercase right now with a couple of new clients and adventures in the pipeline. We all recently came back to the office from a long time working from home. It’s great to see everyone being eager to socialise and quenching their thirst for once again being able to hover over co-workers shoulders or indulge in a game of ping pong.
EM What size is the team, and how is it structured?
UC We have been fortunate enough to be able to strengthen our team during this last year. There are 18 curious individuals as we speak and a couple more joining us later this year.
We are a wide array of designers, developers, business developers and producers working together in an interdisciplinary approach to find solutions to problems. Whatever they might be. We do have an internal structure but working as a flat hierarchy since we believe that everyone should be able to experience empowerment through their own decision-making but still have support from their peers.
EM What does being a ‘tech-driven’ design studio mean for the work you do?
UC Technology is one of our cornerstones at Uppercase. We aim to incorporate technology as a tool to solve problems, make meaningful interactions between humans and interfaces and communicate personality through a brand. Today we separate technology and design as two different disciplines but the overlap between them grows every day. Our approach is not to look at tech and design as separate entities but rather as a coexistence where one feeds the other to provide the most meaningful experience for a user. Depending on the nature of the project, tech can come first and provides the architectural structure where design is a natural way of communicating and visualising the output. Sometimes, it’s the other way around but they always compliment each other.
EM How has the studio, and the work you do, evolved since starting out?
UC Since the very beginning, we’ve focused on three areas of expertise being driven by design, tech and business development. Our core business lies in the intersection of these three areas. The idea of being labelled as ‘just’ a design studio, tech firm or business company has never been our goal. We aim to combine these three together and say that we’re a design driven-tech studio motivated by good ideas. We started out as a small studio in 2011, at the very beginning of Norway’s start-up scene. Working with our own ideas, from inception to reality, doing everything ourselves, we slowly evolved, failed (a lot) and learned to make the right choices.
Today, Uppercase has spawned a handful of start-ups, created tonnes of code, design and great ideas and most importantly – we’ve had fun along the way. Our passion has always been digital product development and branding, but has since realised that we could be more effective teaming up with great minds and teams to make things happen. We’re passionate about our craft, trying to make ‘everyday’ worthwhile, and meanwhile, make an impact for the better. How all living things live and prosper in the future means a great deal to us, we strive to make a difference.
EM Do you have a project that you're most proud of, or one that you feel truly represents what uppercase has become today?
UC We can’t point out one project that we call THE project. The nature of our projects is wide and you would probably get a different answer from everyone working at Uppercase. However, one project that combined all of our skills and lies very close to our hearts is Brandpad and Massimo Says. It is a well-executed combination of design and new technologies. It helps that it’s also very relatable to designers. It’s kind of making ourselves the perfect target audience.
How all living things live and prosper in the future means a great deal to us.
EM As a studio, what have you taken away from the last couple of years – with COVID-19 and remote working at their peak?
UC As the world took a weird turn we also noticed the need for digital tools that make everyone’s life easier. Needless to say an increased need for digital tools was not the worst thing for us as a company. Internally, COVID definitely had an impact on individuals’ everyday lives. We made a bigger effort in making team members engaged, heard and valued to keep our company culture intact.
EM How did you go about that?
UC We started to hang out more via video. After meetings, it was pretty common to keep working while still being on the video call without really talking that much. We noticed that we wanted to be close to each other without being physically close. We sent out breakfast to our employees and we could enjoy it together. We even had a remote wine-tasting with a professional at one point and also invited other speakers to some of our gatherings.
EM Having a bespoke typeface ‘Uppercase Sans’ for the studio is a nice touch – what was the process like of creating it?
UC Faktum, a geometric sans genre typeface, was chosen quite early on in the creative process of our rebranding. The font allowed us to create the perfect bridge between technology and design. Its organic curves and geometric lines give it such a unique look and feel, we felt instantly at home using it.
Especially, the angled corners where round elements meet sharp corners (visible in many upper case and lower case characters and glyphs). Yet, we wanted to take it closer to us by reworking some of the letters and creating new glyphs. We worked alongside Studio René Bieder to customise it into our own Uppercase Sans.
Some of the modifications in the process were to add a double-story ‘a,’ as well as modifying character 0075 ss10u according to our symbol, and a simplification of all comma characters. We finished the typeface by incorporating Uppercase’s symbol as a special character.
EM I noticed a mention of the metaverse on Uppercase’s LinkedIn profile – is that a world you guys are already starting to work in, or at least think about?
UC Uppercase were very early (compared to many) dabbling with technology and research within this space. We’ve always had a strong belief regarding the potential of digital currency or the ‘metaverse.’ Through the last few years, we’ve been active in the scene, but have still to come out with a product of our own. But that might change in the near future, let’s say that we’re on the fence, currently figuring things out. It’s a hazardous and crazy development in the ‘metaverse’ as we know it at the moment, but we love good tech, design, art and a good community, so let’s see.
EM What’s in the works over the coming months?
UC We have a couple of things coming up in the future. Right now we are in the midst of a great project where we do everything from brand strategy, identity and product development. It’s fascinating to see that all our brains are working to achieve the same goal no matter what our role is.
Except for new exciting clients and projects, the entire studio usually teams up for a day or two to brainstorm and develop internal concepts. It can be anything from an audio visualiser, a brand pattern generator or a new start-up venture. Basically, everyone who has an idea they want to try, gets some time and help from the team to explore it.