Today dops.digital is a global design laboratory based in Lviv, Western Ukraine.
In 4 years we've worked with VISA, FIFA, BBDO, and about a hundred more customers from all backgrounds. They are true industry leaders, and our designs help them look the part.
We build exciting brand wrapping (both digital design and actual packaging concepts). Our products received CSS Design Awards, Site of the Day, and 15 acknowledgments on Behance in almost every digital design category.
But that is what we came to be, starting from the humble beginning and going every step of the journey. Let me welcome you to the express tour through it.
Year 2016, Andrew Dopilko is working in a SaaS company as a designer for a US customer. At daytime, he builds an intuitive and user-friendly interface, that brings an element of gamification to the extremely monotonous process: picking natural gas and power providers.
At night, he becomes...
No-no, scratch that out.
On other daytime, he strives for professional growth and ends up at design courses, where he meets Daniel Korenowskiy. Fate didn't mistake bringing them together to work on assignments. After many discussions on design trends, creative solutions, and own ambitions, these guys realize they want to work together.
But what about the main project? As many of them do, it came to an end, leaving Andrew on the corporate bench employment. Meanwhile, his future partner started experimenting with daring design concepts. The idea became a decision, then grew into a passion: get independent, create the product, deliver to customer... a delightful digital brand. And the passion turned into a landing page presenting a collaborative portfolio of the duo. Simple as that.
The first addition to the crew was a freelance programmer, who could recreate the imaginative designs with the code. And truth be told, it wasn't a one-shot, one-hit at the first time – it took us five attempts to find the right one.
At this point, I am saying "us", as my name is on the company logo, and Daniel is my partner. I'm that other guy, Andrew – nice to meet you!
While Daniel focused on creating design concepts, I, having a few languages more under the belt, concentrated on communications with potential clients. And clients we had!
Some of them spotted our young studio on the Google Ads, the others were SaaS companies looking to hire me – they were happy to find more than a solo designer and offloaded huge projects to dops.digital as a vendor.
Each satisfied customer led to another entry on Behance, audience growth, and even some recognition in the design industry. In less than 3 months dops.digital wasn't a no-name anymore.
It was the time to move on from a small office room to space where ideas could breathe and grow. In January 2017 we leased 52 sq.m. and started adding developers and creatives to the team.
Fast-forward several months, we caught the word on the street that a huge marketing company was giving out several design projects on tender conditions. Great news, time to start something fresh! But how do you win a tender?
Oh, there were so many more questions down the line. What is a commercial proposition? How do you estimate price for a limited time offering, the project that would normally be done in a dozen of weeks, but has to be completed under a month?
Answers were found amidst a challenging crunch time: each bid had to be presented in a 24 to 48 hour time window. Finally (on the fifth attempt) the odds did turn in our favor.
Seems like number five already became lucky in this story!
And so a team of ten (more or less lumberjack) dudes won a tender to design a website presenting a new women's personal hygiene line. Needless to say, shortly we learned A to Z about these products.
And what did we do after finishing the project? Got confident and jumped head first into winning another tender challenge.
Finding your true price line
Turned out that a "competitive" budget doesn't mean "the cheapest you can find". Before tenders brought in the time challenge, we charged the clients based on the "maximum effect at minimum investment" model – woefully underselling the offered skills. For these new customers, time and execution were of the essence, which finally let us set the price fair and square.
Really, really paying personal attention to each client
Before you get to start the project, before you even sign the contract, what can really make you distinguishable from other contestants? For dops.digital it was attention, which translated to going an extra mile. Learning all you can about the prospect's industry, researching strengths and opportunities in the existing brand, finding a gem that gives leverage among their competition. And bringing all that to the pitch.
Documentation? Yes, and a thorough one.
What might seem obvious to the veterans of the design industry, for the new generation often comes as a surprise. Before the creative juices get flowing and ideas will take over a whiteboard, someone has to write down the estimates, specs, timelines, expenses... not really a design part, but important to a customer and vital to installing a fruitful partnership.
Meanwhile, the story gets into the third and last tender, the one involving a World Cup.
In case you've never been to a tender pitch, I'll paint you a picture from the eyewitness's experience.
In a little more than a day after the project is published for betting, the competing participants meet with the customer in a video conference. One after one they present documents or spreadsheets containing their version of the project plan. And then a facilitator calls out dops.digital.
Our short introduction is followed by a short video with a mockup walkthrough. User interaction, dialog with a consumer, and call to action – it's not a final product yet, but all eyes are on it. It feels alive.
VISA, BBDO and FIFA representatives are unanimously delighted and award the contract to dops.digital. Huzzah!
But to actually win we now have to go live in two months with an overwhelming design and reliable payment system connected to the website. From there on it is insane tempo: working weekend shifts, finding and onboarding back end vendor contract, implementing new API, and continuously testing, double-checking and triple-checking.
In 8 weeks after the launch, the website receives
2 400 000 sessions from
1 300 000 unique users, and ends up in
140 000 registered accounts.
Ask any marketer – that's a solid 11% conversion from an insanely intense traffic.
And it made FIFA, BBDO, and VISA good money. It was a solid budget upgrade for dops.digital as well.
And the rest of the story?
We moved the company into a x6 larger office in the old factory building, which was revived and renovated by numerous tenants. Occupying 320 sq.m. led to designing a modern, spacious office, which led to bringing a lot more new people to the team.
After finishing the tender stage on a high note, our sales focus shifted to enhancing presence on design platforms and scaling to provide new services: identity, branding, packaging design. Customers from US, UK, and Canada were pouring in from Clutch reviews.
These projects were followed by happy moments, when the Awwwards committee recognized our hard work and talent with three awards at once for a Beans agency website: Honorable Mention, Site of the day і Mobile Excelence.
New case studies brought Site of the Day, Graphic Design, and Adobe Illustrator awards. At this moment we start to feel a little bit glorified – just the right amount to stay confident, though.
Unlike the tenders, we never pursued the awards in the first place. We get a lot of evidence that recognition comes when we let ourselves explore and experiment – up to the point where Daniel, who turned Creative Director in a record time, says he won't follow a trend if it is a viral thing but will deliver a fresh angle instead (and he does).
From the discussion over coffee, from the small office room, to this day we keep dreaming. We want to grow a real community on our social media pages. We visualize opening an outstanding design school for people who are not afraid to get truly creative in the design industry. We dream about working with clients who trust us and projects that challenge us – this last one came true, and the rest are definitely going to follow.
Do you want to become a part of the story?
Drop us a word at firstname.lastname@example.org or come over to visit, if you happen to be in Lviv.
Best of everything,