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How one freelance designer used Dribbble to build a global product studio

Founder and CEO of Pixelmatters André Oliveira joins us today to share his journey from freelance designer to global digital product studio. Read on to hear André’s inspiring story and best advice for making the most out of Dribbble.

Olá folks! I’m André Oliveira
, designer and Founder & CEO of Pixelmatters—a digital product studio based in Porto, Portugal.

I’m here to tell you about my journey from just a guy working in his living room to building a team of 30+ talented folks creating top-notch products for companies all over the world. Hopefully, I can inspire you to get your own business off the ground.

This journey certainly hasn’t been linear. There were many ups-and-downs and lessons learned along the way. Dribbble definitely played an important role in writing some notable chapters of this story.

Started from a flat, now we’re here

By October 2013, Pixelmatters was a one-man-show with me as the main and “only” character.

I was unemployed after leaving my previous company, and after an unsuccessful attempt to raise capital for my dream-product, I started looking for some UX/UI design gigs online. I was then joined by a friend and we managed to get our first office… or, in other words, a more professional bedroom.

Two months later, by late 2013 / early 2014, “Pixelmatters” was officially born. It was at this point in time that we actively started posting Shots on Dribbble.

The name Pixelmatters comes from the belief in doing things right, that small details matter—the smallest detail can make or break a design. To this day, we still apply the same pixel-perfect philosophy into everything we do, whether it’s designing a product, writing clean code, finding the best angle for a photo, or communicating with our clients. Every pixel matters, so does every detail.

The name Pixelmatters comes from the belief in doing things right, that small details matter—the smallest detail can make or break a design.

One year later, by the end of 2014, we were a team of five people working inside the founder’s house. Fast forward to early 2015, we moved to our first proper office in downtown Porto, officializing ourselves as a company rather than a bunch of folks working at an apartment. We even made a video about it!

We’re not really sure when we launched our first website, but when we did, we made sure we had the most heartfelt headline ever:

If you think bacon is delicious, wait until you see our work. ❤️

The headline was a hit. New clients and new gigs kept on knocking at our door and everybody mentioned our hungry headline. Then, due to the crazy growth and incoming requests, you guessed it: we went on a two year’ Dribbble hiatus.

In 2018, by the time we turned 5 years old, not only were we doing design work but we also developed the stuff we were designing, which helped us grow to a team of 30+ designers, developers, project managers, and strategists.

Today, we like to believe we are one of the fastest-growing digital studios in Portugal. And as shared on Twitter, Dribbble was surely an important ingredient in getting us here.

Dribbble: Our “not so secret” sauce to go global

The world’s best community for creatives to share, grow, and get hired—that’s Dribbble’s commitment to design, and that’s exactly what it has allowed Pixelmatters to do—share our work, grow globally, and position ourselves in the international design scene.

Above all, it granted us exposure and the possibility of being hired by some of the amazing companies we’ve worked with so far. But getting here wasn’t all roses and daisies. We’ve learned a lot since sharing our first Shot in 2013:.

Medical/health App Flat UI Profile v3 dashboard diary flat health health app ios ios app iphone app medical medical app mobile mobile app profile ui

Medical/health App Flat UI Profile v3

by André Oliveira for Pixelmatters

A new approach for the profile screen. @Shaun Moynihan, hope you like it! :) Meanwhile, you can always follow me on Twitter and/or on Behance.

View on Dribbble

Lessons learned on Dribbble

  • Even on Dribbble, the journey is more important than the final result. Process is in everything we do at Pixelmatters, and design is no different. Product design to us is way more than the final result. It’s a complete path of discovery, research, design, and evaluation of our own processes, optimized to each client and project.
There’s so much value in sharing the daily struggles, the big decisions, and ultimately, the journey to get there.

So, why not show the blood, sweat, and tears behind every project we’ve worked on, instead of simply sharing the final result? It’s almost like an open office party where everyone is invited to know every detail of your work and processes, and even take some inspiration for their own business. There’s so much value in sharing the daily struggles, the big decisions, and ultimately, the journey to get there.

CBDcity • Wireframe cbd cbd logo ecommerce ecommerce business ecommerce design ecommerce shop online shopping shopify uiux webdesign wireframe
Shot Link

CBDcity • Wireframe

by Pixelmatters for Pixelmatters

Hey there! 👋 Today we are sharing some mid-fidelity wireframes we did for our most recent project - CBDcity's eCommerce Website, which helped us define an online experience tailored to user's motivations. When customers can't easily navigate an online ...

View on Dribbble

  • Your personality should always shine through. Showing off your own personality or style is challenging for any designer, especially when sharing client work which has its own brand guidelines and defined style guides. We never changed the designs themselves, but made sure the way they were shared was faithful to our brand and way of communicating.
  • By showing your unique personality, you get to connect with clients and partners that believe in what you believe in. Over the years, we’ve found many of our clients and partners on Dribbble because of that. Two examples are Abaca
, now connecting entrepreneurs with investors, and Rubrik, that recently turned their first in-person event, Rubrik Forward
, into an online event, connecting a community from the comfort of their own homes.
It’s OK not to be popular. We never chose to share one design over another just because it would be more popular.
  • It’s OK not to be popular. We never chose to share one design over another just because it would be more popular or it would “fit in” with what was popular at the time. We just shared what we thought would bring value to Dribbble’s community, and our own followers.
  • We learned the “do’s”…
  1. Keep the main subject of the Shot front and center. This is the first place people will look.
  2. Always let the work shine through; less is more.
  3. Show off your work with a purpose, not just for the sake of…“showing off”.
Rubrik Forward Digital Summit • Sessions Page cloud cloud management conference design digital event event website forward marketing pixelmatters rubrik security speakers summit ui webdesign website work

Rubrik Forward Digital Summit • Sessions Page

by Pixelmatters for Pixelmatters

Hey everyone! 👋 Today we are sharing another shot of our most recent collaboration with Rubrik for their Rubrik Forward Digital Summit, the online cloud data management conference of the year! And in a time where collaboration, community, and agility a...

View on Dribbble

You can take this away

Since starting out in 2013, Pixelmatters has evolved and changed significantly, and that’s easily noticeable on our Dribbble profile. Nonetheless, the core idea of doing things right, because “every pixel matters” remains intact.

Summing things up, these are takeaways we’d like you to leave with:

  • Start small and grow as you get your customers, taking it one step at a time. From office to office, from 2 to 5 people, to 40.
  • Be yourself, even on Dribbble. Do not adjust your voice or brand to the platform. Put your heart and personality into everything you share.
  • The journey is what matters, more than the outcome. Show your process before the final result of your designs. Most of the value lies in the hard work.
  • Be global, locally. If you’re based out of a small country like Portugal and looking to grow your business globally, Dribbble can be the platform for you, just like it was and still is for us.

If we managed to use a digital platform to connect with the world, where good work is valued regardless of your culture, language barriers, or distances, you can do it too. Go for it!

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