The other week it was announced that seven members of The Astonishing Tribe have left BlackBerry to start TOPP, a new digital design studio in Malmö. The team has had an interesting history, starting TAT in 2003 after getting to know each other in the demo scene. Initially they focused on movie production for music videos and animations before they realized that money was in software and mobile software. After designing for a number of companies, three years ago TAT was acquired by Blackberry where they became Blackberry Sweden. There they focused on innovative design and UX, such as the PlayBook document sharing and other cool innovations for BlackBerry.
Today you can see TAT’s innovations in almost half a billion devices. The company has a solid technical talent paired with design, but, "Most importantly, TAT has had an innovation process nailed how to bring up ideas and make them into something valuable and easy to communicate,” says Anders Larsson, CTO at TOPP.
Now after leaving BlackBerry, one of the differences between TOPP and TAT is that they are now expanding beyond mobile, and are looking for projects outside the mobile space. "We think many of the things we've done in mobile is leaking into other areas. Android is getting adopted in other paces. Touch screens are everywhere. So we think we have a lot to bring [to new areas],” says Larsson.
"We think that mobile isn't the most mature business, but if you look at home appliances and consumer electronics, then there is a lot of stuff that could be done but isn't done. If these companies knew how to use these software and cloud services, then we could see much better products than there are out there.”
For instance, I don’t know how my life would be better if my fridge could connect to my phone, but clearly by putting smart people like the folks at TOPP on the problem could create the next generation of refrigeration. For example. Or more realistically, a suite of beautiful products that connect and add value to each other, something that appliance manufacturers have barely explored.
Today they’re working on a number of different projects, like with automobiles Samsung’s experience with Android. They say their experiences are ranging from a very foundational level, to more targeted experiences.
The time at BlackBerry will be proven valuable for the company, showing them how to implement ideas into larger companies, which have slower or perhaps more political processes for implementing ideas, than a more agile startup. "We try to package our offering so we solve the design problem but also shape it so it has a fruitful life,” says Larsson. We’ll hopefully be hearing more from them in the future.