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What’s more fun than attending a great party? Getting paid to attend a great party! What’s more fun than getting paid to attend a great party? Getting paid to design the thing that allows everyone to attend that party and get paid…while you also attend! It’s a very small group that gets to boast of their inclusion in this club but Graphic Designer and UI/UX Designer Neo Tran is one of the lucky…and talented few. 

Surkus is the vehicle which has created this 360 beneficial circumstance. It seems as if there is an app for everything these days. Whereas in the past communication marketing was focused on trying to get everyone on the same page, current technology finds ways to serve the diversity of groups. Technology is used to make our personal lives easier but increasingly it has become about connection with others. When Neo was contacted by Jeff Tidwell about coming aboard to work on Surkus, there was an effortless professional energy between the two which led both men to believe that their efforts on Surkus would be fruitful in a myriad of ways. Tidwell ran Tran through a series of design tests that he had already used on 100 plus designers and was instantly impressed that Neo was someone who who could tackle both the advertising design and app design. The sets of UI icons and app user interface which Tran initially presented created a strong impression that quickly led these two to work on a very modern and unusual app. 

Tidwell was the lead UX (User Experience) designer and Tran was the lead UI (User Interface) designer for Surkus. The pair worked on a rebranding of Surkus in order to update the increasing popularity of the app. Surkus is a crowdsourcing app that pays users to attend fun parties. As the User Interface Designer, Neo worked with Tidwell in developing the brand identity, color palette, and photographic style. The tasks included: prototyping the application, interim web site design, photo styling, composition and retouching, Advertising design, UX flows, and motion graphics. Much of Neo’s time at Surkus manifested a Venn diagram of the existing and approaching versions of Surkus. He was in charge of creating screens for web developers in the company to follow and implement in the mobile application while maintaining and creating new features for the old user interface of the app. At the same time he was creating a new concept for the new app to be rolled out with the new rebranding. Focusing on millennials and using the inspiration of them having fun, Jeff and Neo used fun images and bold colors to imply the energy and enthusiasm of youth. Actual active users of Surkus were asked to take part in a photoshoot for marketing use to infuse it with authenticity. The resulting look is young, playful, and sophisticated. This design duo also worked closely with the app development team to make sure that the app user flow had a modern and intuitive feel as well. New features like guest lists, friend lists, detailed profile views, etc., fostered a familiar and modern connection for users. 

It can all sound deceptively simple when think about doing an app makeover, deceptive being the appropriate adjective. There’s a long and well thought out schedule of processes that must take place to properly implement this type of rebranding. A new brand identity focusing on a fashion forward style that was both fun and sophisticated was the focus. Careful thought was put into a color scheme (bright blue, pink, and green for Surkus) that would appeal to both genders as fun and yet powerful. A fashion forward photography style was used which concentrated on inclusion of the group. Once set, the new prototype with its additional features required field testing. Before the new branding was implemented, Tran designed an interim website. He and Tidwell worked to reduce the information of the old website into 3 blocks of content and simplified this. Stylistically, this is the tease to the new branding that was about to be put in place. Finally, as the release approached, a social media ad campaign was used to make the public aware of the new Surkus. 

 All of this sounds as if it leans more towards the “nuts & bolts” technical side of Neo’s involvement rather than the artistic side. This poses the question, “where does art or the genius of an idea exist?” One of the most creative aspects of the work which Neo and Jeff did for Surkus is explained through the process they came up with and dubbed “Blue Sky Thinking.” Blue sky thinking can best be described as a way of thinking that is not confined by reality or technological limitation. The duo created designs that were perfect to solve the issues they were experiencing and then consulted with their product developers to gauge how realistic this perfect design was. This was used as a start point, trimming it to fit with the company’s limitations like developing time, development feasibility, etc. In daily meetings with the group, members were invited to openly discuss issues they were having in hopes of visualizing a better path to the project’s goal. 

 While the rebranding of Surkus resulted in a visually more exciting look and greater versatility of the app through improved usability and more features, the greatest asset is its simplicity. Tran is excited that he has a career that is changing every day and helps people relate to each other. There’s no risk of boredom in his line of work. He communicates, “Technology is changing and refreshing itself with every heartbeat. About 10 years ago, the first iPhone was released. User interface design wasn’t as wide spread as now. Since the technology and digital design trend is so new and evolving, people are still getting used to the concept of it. About 10 years from now, I can only imagine the incredible opportunities for digital design and user research. Very soon it will be much more advanced than it is now. VR/AR is going to be popular and more affordable; resulting in more job opportunities for 3D design, animation, motion graphics, UI/UX field. Between now and then a lot of people are going to be using Surkus to have a lot of fun!”
A VERY DIFFERENT SURKUS WITH NEO TRAN Reviewed by JaamZIN on 9:46:00 PM Rating: 5
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