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Dribbble Interview: Haraldur Thorleifsson on bridging the gap between functional and emotional design

Haraldur Thorleifsson is the founder and CEO at Ueno. In a new video, he shares how Dribbble played a role in building his design agency, what the team at Ueno looks for when they’re hiring designers, and what inspires their team. He also shares his thoughts on the importance of bridging the gap between functional and emotional design.

What do you look for in designers?

When we look for in design candidates is usually, as a starting point, a very strong portfolio or collection of work. We try and understand their thought process. Making sure that they fit into the way we want to work or at least open to working the way we work. But also, willing to push back when there are better ways of doing things. We want people that are very thoughtful that are very detail oriented but focus on the craft as well as the work. So that everything they make has a purpose and then gets carried through and is executed to a very high standard.

We want people that are very thoughtful that are very detail oriented but focus on the craft as well as the work.

What impact has Dribbble had on you?

It was my first time ever trying to create some sort of following around my work and creating a place that I could both interact with designers as well as find clients. That ballooned pretty fast. I didn’t have any type of social media before Dribbble. Really with Dribbble, I sort of started to see how that could be used and leverage to build up a company like this. So without Dribbble, I think the company would not have sort of started in the way that it started.

What inspires the team at Ueno?

Things that really inspire me about the work we do can be pretty much anything. But it’s usually when we’re doing something that’s new. Either to us as an agency or sometimes completely new. So, trying to find ways of looking at whatever the project is and sometimes the projects are not the shiny flashy things. But still making sure that there is something in them that is truly new to us, new to the worlds, new to the team. It adds value to the world. Oftentimes these are long drawn out projects. You have to make sure you have inspiration somewhere inside of you—to honestly want to see the work through.

Why is design important?

I think design has a lot to say to the world and help the world be easier to understand, easier to navigate, to help people accomplish tasks a lot easier than they could in the past. There’s a place for some inspiration and delight and design that it’s not purely functional. It doesn’t serve a specific purpose other than making people smile or making them have some sort of emotion. When you can bridge that gap and when you can actually have something that’s functional and emotional—that’s really where design is.

Follow Haraldur on Dribbble, on Twitter, and at

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