Noise Studio is a creative studio at the intersection of design, technology and sport. In this feature, we sat down with their Managing Director, Ida Bjerga, to hear their story.
Why did you decide to kick start Noise Studio?
Noise Studio is a creative studio at the intersection of design, technology and sport. It all began when Santiago (Design Director), Felipe (Art Director) and I (Managing Director) used to work together in a large software factory for several years.
During that period, we worked on business development, digital strategy, branding and technical design (UX, UI) for a range of different verticals (FinTech, HealthTech, E-commerce etc.).
We constantly had to change mindsets for the projects and a lot of the time we worked with clients on missions we couldn’t feel intense empathy for. After many years of working at that software factory, we decided to start Noise as an act of pure passion as we are a bunch of sports enthusiasts and athletes ourselves.
The verticals we work with today are mainly fitness, sports, outdoors, wellness and mental wellbeing, always with the mission to get people to spend more time outdoors and being active. We feel an insane pleasure of being able to align our main interests: digital design, the outdoors and sports - and to work on projects with people that inspire us.
Tell me a little bit about your career in design and sports outside of Noise Studio?
Basically, we started out as a team of three sports- and outdoor enthusiasts and co-founders specializing in branding, graphic design, creative campaigns and UX UI for mobile and web.
● Santiago (Design Director) is a lover of the ocean and the waves, and he surfs like a crazy guy. He is also our design director and makes us design better and better every day. He has seven years of UX UI experience from the tech industry and from co-founding an electric skateboard a few years ago. With a focus on nature, culture, surf and the environment, Santiago’s work is powerful and creative.
● Felipe (Art Director) is an ex-rugby player and a classical fanatic football enthusiast, in addition to being a designer and illustrator. Combining digital design with free-hand illustration and typography, his style creates an aesthetic that is both inspiring and charming. Felipe is also the guy to talk to about what your product should have and do. He’s the creative force at Noise and knowledgeable about all the steps of making a digital product.
● I, Ida (Managing Director), am the boss behind every move of Noise. I have a Masters degree in Applied Economics and Finance and extensive experience in consulting startups in the tech environment - on concept definition, ideation, product strategy and business development, Additionally, I am a classic Norwegian that enjoys skiing, hiking, mountains, the outdoors, surfing, and kitesurfing.
Besides the co-founding team, the amount of people involved with Noise has increased and our creative production capabilities have grown over the years. Today we are involved in a wide range of art direction work, such as web and mobile design (UX UI), graphic design, brand development, product/packaging design, motion graphics, animations, photography and videography.
We have a team of powerful and skilful creatives from different fields and backgrounds (who all practice sports and extreme sports) that come together and do great things.
How do you believe quality design enables sports and sports tech organizations to grow and further reach the people they aim to?
It is an exciting time as the sport and physical activity sector continues to evolve and innovate to keep up with the digital expectation of its consumers. However, in the industry, design is still undervalued and underutilized.
Other sectors, such as fin-tech and health tech are more advanced on branding, quality of design and the entire user experience - and we hope to encourage and achieve the same for the sports, outdoors and physical activity sector.
Today, entrepreneurs and organizations tend to ask us to “create something beautiful”. However, we don’t think about brand and design as “beautiful” or “good”, we believe it should communicate, be functional and of value for the end-user.
We believe that exceptional design and user experience are essential to enable fitness, sports and sports tech organizations to grow.
This is due to a number of factors including higher expectations from the end-users and design’s ability to be used as a strategic advance.
Another very important aspect is that SportsTech is heavily dominated by IoT and physical devices, making the role of the designer more complex as we have to design for both the digital and physical experience.
Is it just limited to reaching people, or does it enable organizations to achieve more than that?
Design is more than just reaching users - it’s about solving problems, telling stories, creating relationships and enabling communication.
We see a lot of early-stage startups and founders going directly to development, and forgetting about strategy, brand development and design.
In essence, it’s like attempting to build a building, without any architects.
It’s highly recommended and valuable to spend some time to understand your digital strategy and brand before you dive into your visual identity and start designing and developing. A sophisticated, strategic design approach will put you ahead of the competition.
We usually divide the process into three phases: digital strategy, branding and UX UI mobile & web design.
● We use the term “digital strategy” for the effort, research, and planning that goes behind the digital initiative(s). Basically, it’s all about getting to the bottom of what problem you are actually solving, the user you are solving it for and the business goals you are trying to achieve. Setting up a strategy and a digital roadmap is key to ensure that the technology and digital initiatives implemented to support the business objectives and provide a better experience for the end-user.
● Then we look at “branding”. To generate the desired brand image, the brand has to be holistic and embedded in an appropriate context. A brand is a lot more than just a logo and a colour palette. In essence, it’s your relationship with your customers, is how you communicate to the world who you are, how you differentiate yourself from the competition, and how you position yourself in the market. By building a foundation and understanding who your brand is, what it stands for and who you’re trying to communicate with, you can make more effective design choices.
● As for “UX UI design’ we have a quite simple and rational way of working. We don’t believe crazy interactions and animations will make an app or a platform better. The digital product needs to be legible, and the user needs to understand what actions to perform and which flow to follow. Excessive UI will kill the legibility; therefore, we prioritize an exceptional user experience with meaningful UI over visually pretty UI. The digital product needs to work, be useful and provide value to the user, and the UI needs to emphasize that and make the entire experience excellent.
How does Noise studio stand out in a space that includes several options for customers? (what makes you unique?)
Noise is a creative studio at the intersection of sport, design and technology.
But what makes us different from other creative studios? We believe it comes down to three things:
1. We nerd obsessively on the Sports Tech, Fit Tech and Outdoors scene and work with people and brands we admire and feel fortunate working with. It is what we love doing and are passionate about.
2. We are very small and specialized - which means we can move quickly, skip the traditional route and experiment. We are young and used to coming up against more established people. We punch way above our weight.
3. We are hired because we think in ways that others don’t and for our creativity.
The way we stand out is to stay true to who we are as people and to do what feels right for us.
We prefer diving into the unknown over sticking to what’s familiar and comfortable and we trust our gut.
What are some of the challenges you have faced in founding Noise Studio?
From the beginning, Noise has been a 100% remote studio and our team is scattered all over the world: Bali, Buenos Aires, Copenhagen and Sydney (for now). We work with clients located in 20 different locations.
Working together across such distances has its disadvantages and advantages.
One disadvantage that is an advantage at the same time is that communication must be much more precise and thorough. Another interesting challenge, but at the same time advantage, is that different locations bring different approaches and cultural influences together, as well as different ways of working and living.
Finally, daily conversations with people on several continents and time zones also bring some challenges to it. Nevertheless, we founded the studio to be 100% remote based on a dream of creating an environment that helps us do great work.
An environment that makes us productive and that is good for our creative minds. For us, spending the majority of the day on our desk within four walls, is not the source of great inspiration or design. Our teams enjoy working near the beach or in the mountains, enveloped in the soft sounds and cool breezes from the natural environment.
Where we get fueled with positive and inspiring vibes, that make us more productive, happier and inspired. And even though it’s not all sunshine and flowers and remote collaboration is never perfect, at the end of the day, we are just honoured and grateful that we get to work and surround ourselves with people that fuel us with positive and inspiring vibes.
It creates this magical feeling of being in a dream you never really want to end.
Do you feel there are sufficient numbers of female founders in the sports space?
I think this is a difficult question to answer. How do you define “a sufficient number?” I believe in gender and race equality, equal rights and equal opportunities for all.
As far as I know, I think the general number of women in Sports Tech is below 20% and the number of female founders is even lower. It would be interesting to hear a man’s opinion on this question “does he feel there is a sufficient number of female founders in the sports space?”.
Have you, personally, ever found it difficult or challenging to be a woman within this space? Why/why not?
Another difficult question. I have not known anything else and this is the only reality I have experienced.
Therefore, I find it hard to say whether it’s been particularly difficult or challenging due to my gender, or if I would have more or fewer opportunities or ease with more women in the industry.
However, I have noted the following experience: The first year of Noise, February 2019, I flew to ISPO Munich by myself to participate in one of the world’s leading sports fairs. As a result of a “hot tip”, I received from a friend of mine.
Before the conference, I had sent a bunch of outreach emails and had confirmed 30 business meetings - of which 29 would be with men that had over a decade of experience from the industry.
For four days, I introduced Noise and myself, with constant nerves, anxiety, stomach ache, nausea and high pulse.
I even hid in the bathroom from time to time to shed a few tears and calm my nerves. At the same time, I had a lot of fun, got inspired and felt very proud of myself.
Was that due to gender or for being new in the industry? I don’t know.
Another note if we look at Noise, in the period of January 2019 to June 31, 2020, we’ve been involved in around 30 design and technical projects spread across 20 countries, 4 continents, in addition to me participating in between 100-200 introductory calls.
On a quick headcount, I would say 98% of our clients and their team members are men, and I can only remember having spoken to two women on my introductory calls.
Is there enough being done in the wider Nordic community to promote diversity and women in sports, particularly on the entrepreneurship side of things?
Although I can’t claim to be able to represent the wider Nordic community, I am confident it is never enough and there can always be done more to achieve gender and race equality and diversity.
At Nordic Sports Tech, we consciously work for an equal focus and promotion of all gender founders. In our marketing efforts and on our organized panels, we deliberately try to invite and promote equal representation.
In addition, to put an extra focus on female entrepreneurship in FitTech and SportsTech, we are working on creating an overview of female founders, speakers and we were planning an event, “Girls in Sports Tech Are Awesome”, together with Girls Are Awesome.
The event was supposed to be in May 2020, but then Covid-19 happened. Finally, Nordic Sports Tech is 50% female-founded, our advisor is female, and Jakob is actively participating in the Women in Sports Tech organization and is a WiST advocate
You also co-founded Nordic Sports Tech, tell me a little bit about that in regards to Noise Studio?
Back in 2018, I was based in San Francisco to open an office for the software factory I worked for at the time.
I was amazed by the casual after office scene and the ease of networking in the city. The same year, I decided to move back home to Copenhagen to start Noise Studio. Back home, I wanted to continue to network and meet up with entrepreneurs and founders with a similar interest.
However, I couldn’t find any events, groups, or opportunities to do so. I searched in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, but I couldn’t find anything.
A contact of mine introduced me to Jakob (co-founder of Nordic Sports Tech) and I learned he was on the same mission as me. We started talking and decided to start Nordic Sports Tech together to create a space for networking and casual meetups in the Nordics.
We officially founded Nordic Sports Tech in March 2019 with the aim to foster, empower and connect the sports tech scene in the Nordics. We did this by promoting the ecosystem on various media and our newsletters; representing the community at seven national and international technology- and sports events; organizing twelve meetups in Copenhagen, Helsinki, Malmö, and Stockholm; and by creating one single place where people could meet and chat about all things Sports Tech: our online slack community.
Today, Nordic Sports Tech is the #1 Sports Tech community in the Nordics with over 335 members divided among the five countries, 150 which are at founder, partner, or CXO position. The management team has grown from two initial founders to a fully-distributed team of five with Noise Studio as a digital and design partner.
Our goal will always be to continuously help, connect, network and fast-track Nordic startups, founders and companies at the intersection of sports and technology.
What can we expect from Noise Studio in the future?
As sports, fitness and outdoor designers, our primary purpose is to put meaningful work into the world by helping our clients make it easier for the end-users to be regularly active and outdoors.
On the product side, we want to continue to create digital products that shape how people become and stay active and work on products that raise the levels of participation in physical activity and sports.
Additionally, we would like to be involved in outdoor projects and with organizations that encourage people to go outdoors and help users to make better decisions in nature.
On the industry side, we believe there is a tremendous opportunity to advance the fitness-, sports- and outdoor industry in terms of branding, digital design (UX UI) and digital products to satisfy the digital expectation of the end-user.
We want to continue to put the focus on the importance of thought UX UI and support the industry through our digital strategy and design services.
On a studio level, our team is growing - which is fun! Besides that, we’d love to get involved in creative productions and experiment with new styles.
What would you say to young women who want to get involved in the sports space, particularly from an entrepreneurship perspective?
I’d wish you’d asked me “what would you say to young entrepreneurs..” and not attached the question to a specific gender.
I believe it’s important that all genders can give and receive advice from all genders.
About entrepreneurship, I think the book “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara has a fantastic quote: “..it’s like being in this fantastic landscape.
You think it’s one thing, a forest, and then suddenly it changes, and it’s a meadow or a jungle, or cliffs of ice. And they’re all beautiful, but they’re strange as well, and you don’t have a map, and you don’t understand how you got from one terrain to the next so abruptly, and you don’t know when the next transition will arrive, and you don’t have any of the equipment you need.
And so you keep walking through and trying to adjust as you go, but you don’t really know what you’re doing, and often you make mistakes, bad mistakes. That’s sometimes what it feels like…”
Entrepreneurship is a jungle. It’s tough, hard, fantastic, fun and exhausting. Be imperfect. Be bold. Be persistent. Don’t give up.