After falling in love with Moxie’s photo filter sharing user experience, we decided to pay a visit to Todd Scheuring, its mobile designer, and discuss building a social network, nurturing creativity, and sharing inspiration through making art.
Interview by Stephen Harber
UI: A social network based around filter sharing is a new and specific concept. What was your thought process like coming up with that?
TS: Our whole premise is about making awesome art; making something, being the producer. We feel that that’s accomplished the best through others, by being inspired by other people. Sharing your work and growing community is really enhancing the creative experience. The more you can be inspired by others, the more you can inspire others, and the more creative you can be.
UI: How did you notice there was a market niche waiting to be filled in a seemingly flooded area (photo sharing apps)?
TS: The idea initially came from Kyle, our funder, who made an previous photo app called PicToo. It was a standalone app where you could mix two filters together, so he got a good inside look at what people are being attracted to. He wanted to make something more than just a standalone app, and that’s where he got the idea of making something super-powerful that he could use himself to help inspire people. It came from his desire to be creative himself. As a programmer he doesn’t get exposed to the artistic and creative world often, and he had an interest in that.
As far as the niche, it seems like a lot of other photo sharing apps are about consuming. It’s about sharing memories, sharing your life – and that’s cool. Looking at all the other apps in general – the pinterests and facebooks and instagrams of the world – they’re all about consuming. We feel like Moxie is more about creating. It’s a different lens of looking at it.
UI: What was your inspiration for the Moxie monster icon?
TS: We started with the name “Moxie”, and taking a look at a lot of other photo app icons, it really seemed like there was this general theme of inanimate photo objects. I still really wanted to make sure that it spoke to the photo customers, but I didn’t like the idea of making it inanimate. I wanted to make something that was living and breathing and growing and really spoke to the idea of a network. I wanted to make something alive and kind of messy and like nature is kind of messy, and if you look at the icon closely on the top right, there’s even a green scale. It’s like an anomaly of nature, like a birthmark kind of thing. The mix of the MO and Moxie really helped with jumping over into the monster theme as well.
UI: How did you come up with the textures to use?
TS: First, we reached out to some bloggers to get different textures. We felt that the more available textures that we could provide people the more creative they could be, and growing that texture library was going to be a very important asset to the experience of the app in general. But the idea in going forward is really to have the users contribute their own textures, so they’re not only contributing to making their own art, but contributing to the community of creators.
UI: What’s it like setting up a social networking app? How do people find you?
TS: Right now, it’s very organic. We haven’t made a big market push at the moment. We’re growing steadily, and we don’t want just to get a bunch of users that stepped into the app right away. We’re focusing on putting the pieces in place for people to create and share awesome art. Our job is to make it as easiest as possible for them to do that. The plan right now is to grow naturally. We want users to tell their friends about the app because they like using the app, not necessarily because they were brought in through other less qualitative sources. We look at it growing from the inside out as opposed to the other way around.
U: How could you tell that you folks would make a good team? What productivity tools do you use?
TS: I’ve worked with Kyle at another startup company called CX. We knew we had a pretty good rapport there, we had worked on a on some other side apps in the past. Suzy is our marketing person, and her and Kyle had met at another start-up meetup group of some sort. We all got together and started formulating the idea of this app.
As far as working together, I think it really works well. There’s a very clear understanding that any criticism is completely acceptable, so it’s refreshing to be working in a place that people aren’t talking about your work because they don’t like it, it’s all constructive. Communication is super key.
UI: What productivity tools do you use?
TS: We use a lot of collaboration apps, like group.me. It can alert you quite often if someone is using it like an instant messenger. If Kyle and I are having a conversation through it, Suzy’s phone is going to blow up at dinner as well, so we take it offline sometimes. We use googledocs, e-mail…we also meet at coffee shops and use pen and paper. You can’t go wrong with that.
UI: What apps do you consider benchmarks for photo editing?
UI: Do you have any advice you wish you knew before started making this app?
TS: It’s all a work in progress, but from what I’ve found so far is believing in what you do, be open to change, but really sticking to that core belief. Things might not work out necessarily the way you think at first, but if you have that core to always fall back on, to use as a motivator, I think that’s important. Sometimes you have to draw some clear lines and you know it’s going to either bug some people or alienate some people, but you fall back on believing what you’re doing, and you believe what you’re doing is a passion of yours. You’re doing it for the sake of itself, not the outcome.
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