Interview: Ustwo's new MD on what's next for the digital design agency

Scott Ewings has taken the helm at Ustwo. While he wants to evolve what they do, he says he's not going to change the culture that's made them successful.

Ustwo is a digital agency known for wearing its eccentric creative culture – whether that’s founder Mills selecting the firm’s in-house wendy house to be interviewed by our Alice Ross or team members riding around the studio in a mobility scooter.

Behind this demeanor that treads a fine line between cool and Nathan Barley is a leading digital design firm that’s just as capable at creating its own products – such as wonderfully fun cult games such as Whale Trail, innovative kids apps like Nursery Rhymes, and hipster toys like Rando – as it is with more mainstream projects such as the UX for the Tesco Hudl tablet that lots of your relatives will be buying this Christmas or totally unhipster-like work for corporate clients such as designing the interfaces for deriviative trading systems.

If you only know the image, you might be surprised that Ustwo has acquired a new MD in the shape of ex-Fjord UK head Scott Ewings, who left the service design company when it was bought by consultancy giant Accenture. Fjord is known for innovation – it helped design the biggest on-demand TV service in the UK, BBC’s iPlayer – but it’s style is more Brooks Brothers than self-screenprinted t-shirt and a snapback. But considering Ustwo’s client base is blue-chip rather than blue-haired, the fit is less strange than it might first appear.

We sat down with Scott to see if he’ll be toning down Ustwo – and where he sees Ustwo going in the future.

Scott Ewing, MD of Ustwo interview

DA: What attracted you to the idea of heading up Ustwo?

SE: "Independence, experimentation, totally about people and creativity, strangely revolutionary and definitely not normal."

DA: What does Ustwo gain from having someone from your background?

SE: "Quite a few scars and I’ve been through the studio growth thing quite a few times now, so I can be useful."

DA: Fjord has evolved from a service design company into an area some are calling 'experience design'. Do you see Ustwo evolving along this path too?

SE: "I actually think the evolution is more like user experience [in the ]90s/early noughties, customer rxperience [in] the mid noughties, service andd product design now – and we are probably headed into something like 'pervasive' or 'living design', where the interface starts to become invisible.

"I know clients – and the design industry for that matter – love to box things off this way, but I kind of think it's not helpful. Ustwo have definitely been on their own journey through deep mobile, into wider digital touchpoints, so we are equipped for service design challenges, but I like to think of us evolving into a very pure design firm – and by the way I make no distinction between design and development, it's all design.

"Definitions are useful sometimes, but inevitably limiting in the end. We've got the talent and the cojones to take on any design challenge and get some great things done."

DA: Are there other ways you want Ustwo to develop?

SE: "Ustwo have been pumping out their own products for ages now, so they're actually incredibly venture-oriented – though they would never describe themselves as such. The opportunity is to build on that no fear foundation and start doing ventures more effectively.

"The client work is core and always will be, you are going to see more and more interesting client products in market (like Tesco's Hudl) that have some ustwo DNA in there, but it's certainly not just about fees for hours anymore. It's an entrepreneurial outfit.

DA: Ustwo is known for its creative, possibly even eccentric,  culture. Do you want to maintain this?

SE: "Totally, that's the asset right there. It's an enormously attractive environment to be in and collaborate in, whatever flavour you are – whether you are a designer, developer, partner, or client. The hugely positive 'get it done, and get it done beautifully' attitude is all about the people who work as a team here, and that's something amazing to build on."

DA: How else would you like ustwo to grow and change under your leadership?

SE: "I genuinely want it to be an even better place for everyone, and to get more and more useful through the work we do.

"Design is a force for good."

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