Two years on with Sebazzo

Sebazzo is a London-based digital design studio co-founded by Sebastian Hefel and Michael Azzopardi. It delivers interaction design and app development for some leading global brands including Carlsberg and HP.

Sebazzo founders Michael Azzopardi (left) and Sebastian Hefel
Sebazzo founders Michael Azzopardi (left) and Sebastian Hefel

Congratulations on 2 years of Sebazzo. Can you tell us about the motivation behind starting the company?

We’ve always had a desire to have this creative space. Sebazzo is about realising visions, our own and those of our clients. We strive to make a measurable difference to them and their people.

We formed this team because we wanted to have an active role in the digital industry by innovating in the best way possible and we wanted to give our clients the freedom to experience this with us too — that’s the motivation.

Sebazzo is known for involving clients in the process. Why do you think this sets you apart from other studios?

I think we’re very good at breaking down the client-studio barrier. Businesses and their customers should inform the outcome of our work, they are central to the entire process and without this attitude, a product can never reach its full potential.

So we provide the ideas, thought-processes, design and technical skills to support their vision. We do this by regularly inviting them over to the studio for internal workshops and team meetings until things reach absolute clarity. We want our clients to see how we work.

Digital design is your expertise. How do you see it evolve businesses in the future?

Employee training and development is a major change area. Enterprises are hiring a new kind of employee who absorbs information through devices and in shorter bursts. A shift in company culture, combined with innovative digital products, will allow for a more contemporary training experience, that’s the next step. Businesses will need to embrace mobility and recognise it as a brilliant opportunity to cultivate a highly developed, better connected workforce.

You built employee training apps for Ibis Hotels and Air Malta. Can you explain the development process behind your products?

The key for us is understanding why people need a product and how they will prefer to use it, we call that User Experience design. We begin by finding this out from end users via interviews and focus group discussions. We then use the outcome to inform the design, keeping end user closely involved for routine product testing. In the case of training apps, the idea is always to create a digital training experience that complements company culture but provides a truly refreshing learning experience.

You’re currently hiring new talent to support bigger brands. What kind of projects are currently under way at Sebazzo?

We’re at a very exciting juncture right now. We’ve just joined Carlsberg on the important journey of redeveloping their internal marketing-resource. We’re launching the HP DataPass product early 2015 with Zagreb-based studio Bunch. We are creating interactive apps for Museums in London, aimed to give young people an extended experience after leaving an exhibition.

Hotels and Airlines like Air Malta continue to make us challenge ourselves in the training apps industry. 2015 will also see Sebazzo partnering with clients in Switzerland and Germany, which are very interesting areas for us.

Beyond the client work there are self-initiated projects in the works. A big part of our responsibility as a design studio is research. We publish this content regularly. We also believe in the importance of cultivating a network of ideas and creatives. This is why we created Hey Disco (heydisco.com) - an event for innovators and entrepreneurs in the industry and combines a fun night out with a bit of learning.

Hey Disco is a great side project. How do these self-initiated projects come about?

One of the reasons why we started Sebazzo was to find freedom to work on the things we really want to see happen, and some of those are our own ideas. A lot of time is spent exchanging ideas in the studio and sifting through the ones that stick. We share all of them with our peers and friends in the industry - it’s important to get ideas validated before going any further. We’d like to do more of these self-started projects inside Sebazzo, it’s the kind of freedom every creative person dreams of.

What are your hopes and dreams for the next 5 years?

Firstly, we’re opening our doors to more exciting clients who want to work with us. One thing we learnt in these 2 years is that we can achieve great things with big brands, who strive for innovation as much as we do. We want to be on the forefront of education/training innovation and continue to bring to market our own products.

We want to give more opportunities to young designers who’d like to share our vision, for that we will continue to build a great working environment here in our London studio. We want our people to enjoy their time while with us, and to have the freedom they need for developing themselves and their own ideas. Not only as employees but as interesting individuals… work isn’t everything.

Learn more about Sebazzo at Sebazzo.com, follow them on twitter @studioSebazzo.

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