Over the past ten years we’ve built a deep understanding of digital media, and we have helped numerous clients transform their promise into reality.
Examples include BBC iPlayer, which we first concepted in 2005 and then brought to mobile in 2008: a truly definitive project for the media landscape. Or Yahoo! Go, a mobile project streets ahead of the competition in its day. And Nokia Maps, the definitive mobile mapping service available in 80 countries.
But it wasn’t always easy. People often ask us what kind of an agency we wanted to be, and how we got where we are now. So looking back over ten years, here’s a little history of Fjord.
When Fjord was founded in October 2001, the whole industry was struggling to recover from the dot com crash. Few people were interested in breaking new ground, and they were tough times. Like any good startup in the UK, we were based in a cave-like office in Camden.
Fjord’s first project was a real-time, cutting edge mobile solution that matched up horse racing jockeys and trainers. Our second project, You’re the Manager, tried something similar for football and was even more ambitious. We had discovered that online financial communities were making more accurate predictions than financial analysts. Why not do the same for football, and give the fans the power to pick their team for real?
A professional football club and Channel 4 agreed and joined us for a major series. But both projects were stopped by nervous sports authorities – which only made us more convinced that we were onto something big.
At Fjord we knew our people were building a deep understanding of digital media, and a willingness to step forward into the unknown. The best example from those days was Flirtomatic, invented in 2002 and nurtured internally before winning investment in 2005, Flirtomatic is now one of the world’s top mobile and online flirting destinations.
At a time when social networking wasn’t even a buzzword, Fjord was taking the lead with new and inventive ways to connect people. Orange Communities was a mobile relationship mapping service that we developed in 2002. We also created and launched Lifeblog, a Nokia social initiative, elements of which, are in many services today.
We soon moved from Camden into Soho and then opened an office in Helsinki. They were joined in 2007 by an office in Berlin.
The industry catches up
In 2006 and 2007 the industry began to recover – or you could almost say, catch up with us. We grasped more opportunities to push at the leading edge.
Nokia commissioned us to develop new ideas for their music service – a two-year project that involved us in several ground-breaking concepts including something culminating in Comes with Music.
We worked for the BBC on a project called Way of life, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Darwin. We encouraged the BBC to engage young people via gaming, the content of which was validated by the professor who sat on the same seat as Darwin himself.
All of our projects since 2001 have been cross platform. Today this is beyond the screen. Digital was then and still is exciting and constantly finding new ground. But it’s only in the last two years that the opportunities have been translated into truly global services.
From 2009, as life became truly ‘mobile’ and ‘service design’ needs were more in demand across other sectors, we began truly defining sectors.
In 2009 we opened an office in Madrid where our first major client was Telefonica. We grew very quickly when we won the BBVA account, one of the world’s biggest banks. We have worked with them on iPhone and iPad products, both inside Spain and beyond.
Our BBVA work is not only recognised globally but has led to collaborating with many other banks and financial services, such asBankinter in Spain, Garanti in Turkey, Mastercard in the UK and Citi in the US, where we opened an office in New York shortly after the Madrid office opened.
We opened the Fjord Stockholm office in June 2011. One of our key clients is Bonnier, for whom we redesigned the News+ service. It has been hailed as a benchmark for bringing publishers to the iPad and has lead to work across the world in this sector, for example Bild in Germany and the London Metro.
Global work has supported our own global expansion, and we now have seven offices around the world, including our recent launch in San Francisco. It feels like a long journey since the first days in Camden but we’ve never lost our motivation for coming into work:
To design things that people find useful, that break new ground and to make a real difference.
All Fjordians at our annual meeting in September, we’ve grown in 10 years
I hope you enjoyed our story. There will be some more activity happening for the rest of October to celebrate our 10th birthday, starting from today. Follow us using #Fjord10 on Twitter.