Ueno 2016 : A year in review

Time is a relentless bastard. It just keeps going. No stops, no pauses, no cool slow motion even (for the sake of the point we are making we are going to ignore the whole Theory of Relativity and whatnot).

Anyway, as we were saying. Time. It’s a fucker. It just goes on and on. And so, we as humans try to tame it. We put up little stop signs and say right!, that’s one year gone then. This is the date that means that the end of this year has come for some reason. And we conjure meaning from the meaningless, because that’s what being human is.

Which leaves us here. At the end of a another year. And somehow that means something. And since some people use this time to reflect on the year that’s passing, we decided to play along. So we went back and looked through what we did this year and wrote it all down. Well, most of it. It will seem like all of it but believe me, there were some things we took out. Just not a lot.

Which takes us to the next point. Listen, we’re honestly not sure that you’ll enjoy this. It’s a lot of things, facts, events, that are probably only interesting to us at Ueno. And not even to all of us, mostly just those of us that are me. It’s mostly bragging. And we’re too lazy to be humble about it. But if you are interested we’re going to get going now.

A new Ueno

2016 was the year we rebranded ourselves. Or, more accurately, we branded ourselves, since we never really had any branding.

We did a lot of the work in-house (since this is kind of what we do you know), but we also brought in some of our friends to help us make it even more awesome. People and companies like Mathery, Patswerk, Anna Hurley, Timo Kuilder, Moniker, Troy Stains, Jeremiah Warren, Danny Jones, Velvet Spectrum, Stephen Kelleher, Martin Azambuja, Elise, Jason Travis, Rafa, Markus Magnusson, Guillaume Kurkdjian and many more.

As a result we have a new brand that we’ve been slowly rolling out and will continue to roll out in the coming months. You can read more on the new Ueno here.

Our people

It’s a cliché but we’re softies so let’s just say it; we wouldn’t be anything without our people. We’d just be a bunch of great looking offices and a nice brand. I mean, that’s not nothing, it’s still something, the offices are really very nice (you’ll see below) and our brand stuff is super cool.

But the people help fill up the offices, and they carry the branded items around and show them to other people, so the people are definitely a nice to have. Yes, we can unequivocally say that our people are easily in the top seven to eight of our most important things.

Here is a video with some of our people. Just look at them, aren’t they cute? At least top seven, right? Or eight.

And we added some new people this year. Twenty to be sort of exact. We call them Nuenos and there’s nothing you can do about that. We said hello to Robbin, Geir, Arnar, Monika, Baldur, Justine, Adrien, Jonathan, Elliott, Robin, Greyson, Óli, Gene, Steph, Jenny, Birkir, Bjarni, Marco and Andrea.

But it wasn’t all hellos, we did also have to say some goodbyes and some tears were shed. Al, Ben, Anthony and Chad all left Ueno. But we keep in touch. They stop by sometimes or hit us up on Slack and we reminisce about the good ol’ days. And it’s not awkward or anything — as long as they don’t talk about their fancy new jobs and we do our best and try not to passively aggressively mention the cool new projects they’ve missed out on.

And then there were our lovely interns. Meghan spent six months with us designing in Iceland. Héðinn spent the summer coding there too. And Dac Davy and Maxime designed and coded during their six monts in SF. They even wrote a bit about it.

Non-cult time

Most people spend more time with their work colleagues than their families and friends. So we’ve done our best to hire people that are better than your families and friends. People that you want to spend all your work time with. And all your non-work time.

And to keep our cult, I mean, not cult … what’s that word I’m looking for? People that do everything together all the time and never see or talk to anyone else? Anyway, I can’t remember, so lets just call it non-cult time for now. And we have a lot of fun with our non-cult time. For instance? Glad you asked.

Palm Springs

For our first ever yearly retreat we went to Palm Springs. Now, that might sound great but someone forgot to check, and as it turns out, Palm Springs in June is literally like going to the middle of the desert during sun season.

But we survived. And people from our three offices got together, a lot of them for the first time, and we sang karaoke, did some hippie stuff in Joshua Tree, broke out of a panic room, ate some great food, climbed some wall, went up a mountain, came down a mountain etc. But we mostly just stayed in the pool because honestly it was just really, really hot.

Ueno events

We also did a lot of smaller events together in a non-cult way. This year we, amongst other things, took a baking class, a wine class, a pottery class, tried archery, kettlebelled, meditated together, went skydiving, sang some super in-tune karaoke, went out to a lot of restaurants, went go-carting and so on.

We have a lot of expats working with us so we also started a movie night in our SF office where people show movies from their homes. So far we’ve seen awesome movies from exotic places like New Zealand, Paris, and of course, Michigan.

SF chatty hour

We put our Friday SF chatty hour on hiatus late this year. We had some amazing guest speakers and it was (almost) always fun, but running a weekly chat with a speaker was a bit much. So we paused it.

We did really enjoy them though and we want to bring them back but maybe once a month? I don’t know. Something like that should be doable. We’ll keep you posted. Or not. We’ll see.


We did more than just hire people and take them go-carting. We also worked on some things, some really great things for clients big and small, clients like Facebook, Lonely Planet, Medium, Reuters TV, Red Bull, Google, Dropbox, Articulate, Flux, Proxy, Tekion, Timeline, Síminn, Zero, Verve, Mux, Vessel, Skydio, Jelly, Boosted Boards, Uninterrupted, Credit Karma, Kuna, Prescribe Wellness, Uber, Apple and many more.

We did a lot of different types of things with these people. We kept launching new platforms for Reuters TV, so people can stay informed about the news, helped the world travel better with Lonely Planet, created a whole suite of e-learning software with Articulate, created a new human driven search engine with Jelly, helped Red Bull showcase the amazing video content they have, created the coolest looking debit cards you’ll ever see with Zero and helped Uber be super fancy.

We could keep going but we can see you are getting bored so we’ll stop. You can call us (maybe?) if you want to know more.

New offices

We moved around quite a bit in 2016. Our SF office went from Market st to Mission st, in NYC we moved one block north on Broadway and we added a new floor to our office in Iceland.

With that came a lot of new furniture. Mostly white furniture.


To be honest though, we’re a bit scared of what’s coming. The next four years will be unpresidented. But we’ve decided to fight the good fight and help the people that are the most vulnerable.

Bueno is the way we give back to our communities. In 2016 we did this in many ways, sometimes by sponsoring podcasts and events like Heroine, Design Details, Creative Mornings, the Techies Project and AlterConf.

We also donated about 400 hours in design and dev time to nonprofits that are doing great work, people like Code2040, KidMob and La Cocina. We donated to worthy causes like JOIN and in early 2017 we will be announcing a $25k donation we are making to some people that really need it.

Onwards and upwards

And that’s it. That’s all the things. Well, not all the things but a lot of the things. Most of the things. Actually! We forgot to talk about some awards we won. So this is us telling you we won a lot of awards.

Before we leave, there are some things to look forward to. We’ll turn three years old this coming February, so we’ll do something fun then we guess. And then we’re planning a company retreat in August in Iceland, that should be fine, if you like those sorts of things. And we’re sure something else will happen.

Aaaanyhoo, time to get going. We’ve kept you long enough. But just to end this on a positive note: Even though it’s just a arbitrary date, new years are like new beginnings. A time to start anew, a clean slate, an empty canvas, just staring back at you, daring you to draw something on it, but you can’t, you have no more ideas left, you are washed up, over, done, kaput.

Ok. Bye!
Haraldur Thorleifsson
Design Director at Ueno.

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Ueno is a digital agency with offices in San Francisco, New York and Reykjavik, Iceland. Find out more about us on www.ueno.co.