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Category Archives: design

They say you can’t please all of the people all of the time. When we designed flook we made a concious decision that it would not look like any other app in the app store. We knew that this meant some people would not like flook. So be it, the rest of you love it all the more.

Step forward Mr Smith* of Birmingham who just sent us this mail out of the blue:

This is not intended to be negative but your Flook app on the iPhone is the most incoherent app I have ever experienced.

Your choice of language is incomprehensive and the location-aware content is almost non-existent.

How did you manage to get seedcorn funding for this?

What have I missed?

Mr. Smith


We’re all for customer service, user feedback and  being nice but getting insults out of the blue is never nice. Mr Smith didn’t like the reply.

Hi Ian,

The use of the phrase “This is not intended to be negative…” as an introduction to this mail is surely much more incomprehensible that flookspeak.


Apparently, that “confirms everything he was thinking”. Good job too I say.

* I changed his name to “Smith” to give him some anonymity sadly he actually is called Smith so it didn’t work.


One thing we missed out from the site when we launched it was support for mobile browsers. Last week, we shut Tristan in a room with only a copy of “CSS for dummies” and here’s the result.

We are feeling very un-Mondayish today, even though it is in fact Monday, the 15th of February. In fact, we’re feeling positively “Friday at the start of a long weekend”! That’s because the kind people at the Mobile Premier Awards, organized by dotopen, have just this minute awarded us the “Best Startup in Mobile Experience”, out of 115 other entries in that category!

This award was sponsored by MEX, whose founder Marek Pawlowski said:

“Investing in truly user-centered design is essential for a successful mobile service and goes far beyond creating a pretty UI for your app. Flook has embedded great user experience in the heart of its product through clever interaction flow, interesting visual metaphors, customer involvement and attention to detail. It is a deserving winner of this Award and a great example for other start-ups to invest in user experience from an early stage.”

All our robots wholeheartedly agree with Marek’s words. They’d like to point out that user experience was the initial inspiration for flook, when we thought that swiping cards would be a much more mobile-friendly interface for location-based discovery than maps and pins.

We’d like to thank dotopen and MEX for choosing flook, and Andy Chung of Eden Ventures for accepting the award on our behalf.

Jane of the silly hats did (and does) much of the design work on flook, but we’d be very remiss if we didn’t also thank Nick Healey of Slash Design and Pete Borlace of pbdesignsolutions for their massive contributions. Nick is our user experience guru and is a real person not a robot called Robert. Pete is our graphic designer and he dreamt up our rainbow of robots. I’m not sure if he really does wear tin hats.

A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

The Second Law of Robotics

One year ago today, we initiated a competition to develop a logo for flook at 99 Designs.

Here’s the brief:

We’re making an iPhone app and a web site. We need a product logo to be used on both products, and an iPhone application launch icon (probably similar to the icon, at least in colour choices). This is a teaser project to find someone very clever and talented to work on the whole project with us – so bear the whole in mind when you work on the icon & logo!

Bonus points for anyone who drops in a quick png of how the website might look :-)*

The first three entries looked like this:

One thing the sharp-eyed might have noticed (and this blog is only read by very sharp-eyed people) is that flook wasn’t flook then, it was Groove. It hadn’t really been Groove for very long either. In January of last year, flook was called Graffitti. We abandoned that name because not even grammar-bot could spell grafitti reliably three times in a row.

You can see all of the entries on the competition page at 99 designs.

The winning entry was from Pete Borlace:

You can still see some elements of this design in the current flook logo. The strong colours and the glyphs – they migrated from the logo to the background though. In the end, we didn’t like the turquoise gradient – mainly because turquoise is even more difficult to spell than ‘graffiti’. We did use similar colours to one of Pete’s other entries:

Of course, soon afterwards, the still mewling Groove was murdered in the night by our lawyers because Microsoft told us that even though there were rumors that they we’re killing their location browser project, they were going to keep hold of

So, Pete’s real prize was six weeks in the logo mines building a new flook logo including all the best bits of the Groove logo but none of the letters. Those six weeks went on for a very very long time indeed:

There are 8 more pages like that.

I think what we ended up with is pretty special. The high level design goal was “not Web 2.0 blues and helvetica, not like anything else in the app store”.

* nobody fell for that blatant request for free work sadly.