/ Design

Studio 2.0: Encouraging Creativity by Utilizing the Power of Remixing

You can launch Studio and within a minute have designed something that you never thought you could create before because everyone’s sharing with that remix feature.

When Studio launched last August, the Provo-based company embarked on the familiar startup journey of figuring out what their users love, what makes an active user, and what makes an engaged user who’s in it for the long haul. Today, the social design app has 100,000 daily active users, 2.5 million downloads, 10 million different designs posted, and has facilitated 16.5 million connections.

In an interview with Beehive Startups at the company’s headquarters in downtown Provo, Studio Co-founder and CEO Joe Wilson explained how user feedback shaped version 2.0 of the app, which officially went live late Tuesday night. “We’ve gotten a lot of really cool feedback from users and the number two piece of feedback we’ve received is they want to be able to create and design easier. The way we make it easier for everyone to create in Studio is by remixing,” Wilson said.

The first iteration of the app concentrated more on the visual editor than the remix option, but Studio 2.0 encourages users to remix by prominently displaying the feature and simplifying the process. In the latest version of Studio, when you see something you want to remix, the original photo disappears, a live camera emerges, and users are encouraged to create their own unique image around the base design. Wilson says you can design a photo just as fast as you can make an Instagram post.

“We want it to seem very tangible to users. But if a user is taken by all of this creative energy, maybe they spent five minutes inside of our editor producing something pretty elaborate, the whole concept of Studio is that that’s valuable to the community at large, not just from a consumption model, but from an actionable model. That’s what remixing is. The best designer in the world can sit down with Studio and make something really attractive, really engaging, and everyone in Studio can remix it with their base content,” Wilson said.

Studio wants to become the household name for creativity. “It’s not an elite community of people who are already designers — although we want those people in Studio helping other people create, sharing their knowledge and wisdom,” Wilson said. “Studio is the app that you can launch at a bus stop and actually make something before the bus gets there. It’s the Photoshop that you can engage with or create something before your kid wakes up from a nap. It’s removing all these barriers to creation so that we as a human race can make design part of everyone’s lexicon.”

The most common piece of feedback Studio received from its users was they wanted the app to be more social. They wanted to know how they could connect with more people, and how they could get more people checking out their designs. Studio 2.0 addresses these concerns by adding user profiles, a reposting feature, and making it easier for people to like and remix other users’ content.

“It really warms our hearts that users want to be social around design because it’s a new reason to be social,” Wilson said. “We’re all familiar with being social to be connected, which is obviously a brilliant idea; the platforms that exist have remarkable frequency — they’re very, very, very valuable. But with Studio this idea is you get all that benefit, that let’s be connected to share, to communicate, but you can also say, let’s be connected so we can design better. Let’s be connected so my creativity can be amplified by your creativity.

“When you think of the business world, how many millions of dollars have been poured into collaborative software for business people to be able to produce above their pay grade by sharing data, by sharing tangible, actionable items? Studio is an application of that for the masses. You could have never composed a design in your life; never launched Photoshop, never launched Illustrator, or more commonly, you have launched Photoshop and you have launched Illustrator and you just scratched your head and closed them. You can launch Studio and within a minute have designed something that you never thought you could create before because everyone’s sharing with that remix feature. Studio 2.0 is a focus on that. 1.0 was a focus on the feature.”

Studio also allows users to link to other social media platforms, which is something other social networks intentionally avoid. In the bio section, users can link to their Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr page. “We view ourselves as the Trojan horse into other social networks. Since we’re a creation engine first, we don’t really compete in that way with an Instagram or a Facebook or a Twitter. And because remixing is unique to Studio, the creation process is unique to Studio — you have to be in Studio to do that,” Wilson said.

Co-founder Brad Hagen doesn’t believe Studio competes with other photo sharing apps, specifically Instagram. “Instagram has millions of users, and when people create something they want to show it where their network has the most users, the most opportunity to get the most likes, things like that,” said Hagen. “The beautiful thing about Studio, and the reason we don’t compete with Instagram, is because you can’t reuse or repost Instagram’s content. What we see a ton right now is people post to Instagram, their friends say, ‘what app did you make this in? How did you make this?’ They want to do the same thing; they want to make something beautiful. Instagram is actually a catalyst for our app, helping people be aware of what they can do with Studio. We turn our users into advocates by them posting out their creativity.”

Wilson had a similar take:

We’ve talked about Studio to a lot of people, a lot of influential people. Brad and I are personally in and out of San Francisco way too often, and one of the questions we used to get asked a lot was, ‘what if Instagram had the ability to put text or something on top of their photos? Does that scare you?’ The answer’s no. Because of remix. You might have all the tools in the world to design, and all those tools might be as simple as possible, and you still might not be able to make anything noteworthy. Even if it’s easy to put text on something, I don’t know what font to use, I don’t know character spacing, what color, I don’t know. I’m not a designer. That’s what a lot of people are going to come away with.

Unless you can overcome those barriers it doesn’t matter how simple the software is. Compare it to Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. Has Photoshop Elements ever made anybody a better designer? No. It’s actually just as hard to use as Photoshop, it’s just had a bunch of features stripped out. The simplicity of the software, the capability of the software is only important when you have a motivated user with time on their hands. That’s not the masses, and that’s not the mobile philosophy.

It’s remixing that gives people that ability to create like this. It’s remixing that gives someone who has no creative ability the ability to be creative, and share something creative, or express themselves through that. If someone makes something and it resonates with you, it is part of your personality, it does speak to you even though it was created by someone else, you replace that base photo with something from your life. You are communicating a taste, you’re communicating a preference, you’re communicating all those things. Like I said, it doesn’t matter: all these photo apps, all these design apps. Some of them are absolutely beautiful tools, some of them have absolutely beautiful interfaces, they ship with gorgeous fonts. They’re awesome. They’re cool, cool apps. My mom could never design with them.

I look at my wife a lot when I think about these things, because my wife is a creative person. She’s done a little traditional art in her life to destress, it’s something she does that’s therapeutic. She’s never created anything digitally, or shared anything digitally ever, and she’s a daily, active user on Studio. And she creates things that are really, really good. Sometimes when I see her post and I look at it I say, ‘My wife just made something really great with a picture of my kid.’ And I scroll a little further and I see it’s inspired by so-and-so. It doesn’t matter. That post is still incredibly meaningful and it helps her express something as a mom at home, stressed out with a kid, trying to figure things out. It’s that remix button that we can’t say enough how it distinguishes us as a product. Anyone can come to the table regardless of what they have with them, and walk away with something they’re proud to have created. If someone like Instagram added the ability to just put things on top of your photos, that’s great, but people are alone. It’s a single-player creation process. Studio’s a multiplayer creation process where we help each other create.

Studio plans to keep its headquarters in Utah, but building the best company is what’s most important, which means they’re more than willing to expand and open other offices in other places.

”The great thing about Utah is there is talent here, there is a great startup scene here, and we like it as a company,” said Wilson. “The truth is, as CEO of the company, that’s secondary to making sure Studio is successful. The great thing is we live in a world where it’s easy for teams in multiple locations to communicate. So it’s not our priority to move from Utah; it’s not our priority to stay in Utah. It’s our priority to build the best product in the world.”

Published 5/22/2014