An interview with Bill Kenney

By Ed Vinicombe on Oct 2nd, 2013

What is the design scene like in Georgia? Are there many opportunities for aspiring designers?

That's a good question. When I moved here I was under the impression that the design scene here would be flooded due to the large art school. In actuality most of the students end up leaving Savannah after graduation so the scene is pretty small at the moment but I have definitely seen some growth over the past couple years. There are more and more companies like ourselves that are now grounded here in beautiful Savannah and looking to acquire talent / bring talent in and build a strong design presence here. I am really excited to see how we can influence the scene over the next couple years. I would say that the opportunities here may not be as vast as if you lived in California or New York but if you are talented and have a good head on your shoulders there are definitely opportunities. There is something to be said for a small and up and coming scene like we have in Savannah. In some ways it can actually be easier to stumble across great opportunities.

Hey Bill, for those who are unaware would you care to introduce yourself?

I am that crazy bald guy that holds down the fort at Focus Lab in Savannah, Ga. I moved to Savannah about 7 years ago to pursue my Masters Degree at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Ironically I never started the program but started our business instead which turned out to be a great move. So now as the Art Director and Partner at Focus Lab I work with a team of amazing designers and developers. We are up to 9 team members now which is crazy to think about since just two years ago when we moved into our office it was just my business partner and myself. We specialize in Branding, UI/UX and Web Development (specifically Expression Engine).

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The work you're doing over at FocusLab looks great! One particular project I am following on Dribbble is Open Couch. Could you take us through some of your inspiration for the project & when can we see this live?

Thanks for the kind words! We are very passionate to the point of obsessive over the work we create and it is always great to hear some appreciation for the hours of work put in. Ah, the Open Coach project. The route of most of my conversations these days! Open Coach was a great project that came to us at the beginning of this year. Unfortunately the project is under still under NDA until launch so I am not at liberty to the features and such. As far as the inspiration for this project it came from a massive collection of images to form a variety of mood folders. As with most of our design work we try and find the perfect balance of clean white space and a well balanced hierarchy of content. We are true believers in the power of a good mood board and even a mood folder to constantly refer to. Open Coach is a great example of that on a large scale. It challenged us to stay true to our design aesthetic will delivering and wide array of content to the user at every turn. We are extremely happy with how it turned out and can't wait for it to hit the streets. As far as when it hits the streets - we can't say.

Do you find you have much time to do much freelance in between the full time work?

I actually don't look to do any freelance work. Our goal is to build the company and create an amazing culture and workplace for our team so everything funnels through Focus Lab. My spare time is used for down time and enjoying things like poker, the gun range and various physical activities.

What has been your favourite project you have worked on this year?

Hmmmm, tough question. We have a very intentional qualification process before we take on any project and because of this I pretty much love every project we take on. It is also hard because you love each project for different reasons, as if you had a flock of children!
At the moment we are working on a project for the makers of Helpspot called Snappy. This project is stealing the show at the moment and we are super excited for it to hit the streets and see the reaction from the community.

When starting a new project what is the first thing you do?

First thing we do is interrogate the client as much as possible, in a good way. We start off with a questionnaire that covers high-level things such as money and how do you differ from your competitors & what is the desired persona of your new brand. What is the most important application of the brand? We follow that up with a kick off meeting that introduces the entire team, covers the process start to finish and opens the door for any follow questions before we even move into mood boards. This allows everyone to be clear from the very start and avoid any surprises as we move forward into the project.

Where do you go for inspiration when starting a new piece of work?

Gathering inspiration for a new project consists of trolling endlessly over sites like Dribbble, Designspiration etc. We do a fairly lengthy process of image gathering and organizing to set different tones and then distill that down to a final mood that we will work from as we dive into the project.

Designers you would recommend checking out?

Oh gosh, there are to many and for various styles. I would have to say some of my favs are Sean Farrell, Eric Hoffman, Josh Hemsley, Tim Boalaars, Scott Hill, Shaun Moynihan, Nick Slater and so many more. Here is a link to my specific lists on Dribbble All Star Teams if you will.

Design essentials? (e.g. hardware, software)

Essentials would have to be my 13 inch macbook, sketchbook, Ps, Ai, my Bose QC15 headphones and a Guinness. I obviously work with more than that at the office but if I was stranded on a deserted Island I could still preform at a high level with these 5 items.Hey Bill, for those who are unaware would you care to introduce yourself?

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