Juan Sanabria and Mateo Zlatar – Co-Founders of GuideOne

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Juan Sanabria - Co-Founder of GuideOne

Ideas flow freely and we are full of them! However, when it comes to using technology to tell stories, you have to first get a deep understanding of the content and the audience you’re working with. Then you have to look at the technology side and think, “what is the best possible way to create a meaningful experience? What are the tools and tricks that will get you there.”

Juan Sanabria is the Co-Founder of GuideOne and Director of Product Innovation and Development. Juan holds a Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) in Design & Technology from Parsons School of Design, New York and graduated with highest honors from Brandeis University, Boston, where he received an undergraduate degree in Fine Arts and a minor in Education.

Before enrolling as a student at Parsons, Juan spent two years teaching Computer-Aided Design, Video and Ceramics at Concord Carlisle High School, Concord. He also spent several years doing freelance design work for a number of animation and design studios, including Eyeball, Union Editorial, truTV, and Sci Fi Channel (now Syfy). While at Parsons, Juan met his business partner Mateo Zlatar. In 2005, they started Sourcelab, a design firm specializing in interactive museum and cultural heritage projects. Five years later, GuideOne was launched to create mobile visitor guides and kiosk apps for museums, cultural institutions and brands.

Juan has a wealth of experience in UX design, motion graphic design and a passion for teaching others about the arts. When he’s not busy researching the latest mobile technology, he can be found teaching advanced ceramics or on the beach kiteboarding.

Mateo Zlatar is a Co-Founder of GuideOne and the head Creative Director. He’s both a designer and an artist who creates experimental music and visual arts, on the side. Mateo holds a Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) in Design & Technology from Parsons School of Design, New York and an undergraduate degree in Graphic Design from Universidad Católica De Valparaíso, Chile.

Prior to pursuing his MFA, Mateo spent five years as an Art Director in advertising agencies such as DDB, Saatchi & Saatchi, and Y & R. During his career, he earned numerous awards in local and international festivals, including a Silver Medal at the Cannes International Festival. Mateo left the advertising industry to enroll in Parsons School of Design, where he graduated with honors. Mateo spent the next five years working as a freelance designer and consultant for global brands, including America Online, Deutsch Interactive, Imaginary Forces, New School University and James Sanders Architect.

While studying at Parsons, Mateo met Juan Sanabria with whom he joined forces to create Sourcelab, a design firm specializing in interactive museum and cultural heritage projects. Amidst content management, graphic and experience design, and technical engineering, Mateo and Juan were so intrigued by the potential within mobile design projects that they were inspired to create a company focused solely on apps and kiosks.

In 2010, GuideOne was launched to create mobile visitor guides and kiosk apps for museums, cultural institutions and brands. Mateo currently leads user experience and creative direction at GuideOne.

What are you working on right now?

We are adding the final touches on an iPad app for the Smithsonian travelling exhibition “Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey” which allows people to create their own versions of Romare Bearden collages. Bearden was a prolific American artist whose Odyssey series created an artistic bridge between classical mythology and African American culture. The iPad app presents the original collages and allows users to drag and drop shapes into a thematic canvas where they can compose their own versions including sounds and text. The app is a companion activity to the exhibition. It is easy and fun to use, and allows people to share their creations in an online gallery and on their social networks.

Where did the idea for GuideOne come from?

We have been working on interactive projects for cultural institutions since 2005 as Sourcelab, doing websites, kiosks, installations and motion graphics. By the time the first iPhone came out, we immediately saw the potential of using mobile computing to augment visitor experiences. We had to do a lot of research and learn new tools to figure out a way to provide a simple way for institutions to manage their content; in 2010, we launched GuideOne.

How do you make money?

We are a 1-stop shop service that provides institutions with everything they need to provide their visitors with successful mobile interpretation and digital activities. We provide strategy, design, hardware, media production, content management, etc.

What does your typical day look like?

We ride our bikes to our studio, prepare fresh coffee and discuss the status of our various projects. We set up a plan for the day and the week. Then each one of us dives into their multiple tasks, including getting acquainted with content from our clients, designing interfaces or dealing with client communications. At lunchtime, we re-group to look at what’s going on in the world of design and technology and share ideas and findings. During the afternoon we typically spend time with our developers discussing different approaches to implementation of ideas, brainstorming interface details, prototyping interactions or in workshops where we use a whiteboard to plot ideas and solutions to design or technical problems. Sometimes the development stretches long into the night and we try to make sure we’re available with our developers to answer questions and keep the process moving.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Ideas flow freely and we are full of them! However, when it comes to using technology to tell stories, you have to first get a deep understanding of the content and the audience you’re working with. Then you have to look at the technology side and think, “what is the best possible way to create a meaningful experience? What are the tools and tricks that will get you there.”

Once we have identified a specific mechanism or metaphor, we sketch; we draw and create images that represent the concept and we prototype so that we can talk about them in a visual tangible way.

There is also another aspect of it where the client may have an idea and, if we think it’s a good one, we typically interpret the idea in a different way to make it even better. It basically comes down to experience; knowing your tools and materials very well.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I am fascinated by how the web seems to be learning from what native applications have brought to the world of communications and digital experiences and its becoming more fluid, fast and enjoyable. HTML5, open GL and other new technologies will certainly transform the current panorama of the web.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

My worst job so far has been to sit in an office all day long applying design templates to contents. I was hired as a creative but my work was simply mechanic, I felt like a robot and was bored to death.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I think one of the key aspects of any business is to surround yourself with good, capable people, and, even though we have been lucky to find great collaborators, they come and go very fast. If I could rewind, I would have secured a few good collaborators with full-time status so we could develop a longer and more productive relationship.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I think is critically important to be able to periodically ask yourself: “Where am I? Where are we going?”

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

When we launched GuideOne, we created a museum app audio player template. We thought museums would purchase it because it was very easy to use and it would give them control of their tour systems. While museums were enthusiastic, many did not fully understand how the underlying system worked and we wound up spending a lot of effort educating museums about the benefits. Its taken time, but we persisted and upgraded our product and now museums have started to take notice and better understand what we offer. Part of this has been a cultural shift as more and more individuals own smart phones and they understand the benefits in their everyday lives.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Today I was thinking about Wikipedia, and how wonderful it is. Now, what if someone would be able to use its data but in a completely different design, one that would feel more like an interactive magazine, very discoverable and graphical. Would you pay for that?

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

This may be super contingent now but I seriously think we should http://www.demandaplan.org/

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I can fly with my head in my pillow.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

Basecamp, Skype and The Noun Project.
Basecamp helps us to organize all our client and development communications in one place. Emails, to-do lists, calendar, files and more, its all in one place. It is not perfect, but it works for us.
Skype is also a great tool for sharing screens and brainstorm. For example with developers and designers we sometimes keep it open for hours and it feels like we are on the same room. Even though is not the same as being in the same room, is the closest to that.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Visual Miscellaneum” from informationisbeautiful.net, because stats can be inspiring and fun to understand.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

@artsy keeps us inspired with great info about what’s going on in the world of art
@behance does the same but in the realm of design, great quality projects across mediums: print, interactive, etc.
@99u highlights real-world best practices for making ideas happen, including lots of productivity tips.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

My 19 month-old son navigating my iPhone. Seems like he knows what he is doing!

Who is your hero, and why?

Saul Bass was a well-known designer of movie titles and he used his original graphic language to develop new ways to tell a story and make the opening titles and credits an important part of a film. We admire his fresh thinking and decision to break the mold for what most people thought movie titles should be.

Connect:

http://guideonemobile.com
GuideOne on Twitter: @guideonemobile

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