25th October 2021 |
Studio Cribs: 3 Sided Cube

3 Sided Cube is a mobile app agency by the seaside, working on projects worldwide. Founded by Duncan Cook after quitting his job, done with humdrum life of the generic corporate world and had a dream. Their passion is fuelled by making social impact on a huge scale. Helping organisations around the globe save the world one app at a time. They live for the moments when their work drives change using the very latest technology. Since 2009, the 3 Sided Cube gang of clever people have been at the forefront of digital because of their great ability to solve problems.

They released their first app, an eyesight testing platform and it soon became the worlds #1 medical app for over a year. From that point they were selected by their first clients, high street retailer Boots and humanitarian charity British Red Cross, it turns out they weren't the only ones who think technology can be used for good!

Fast forward a few years and Duncan almost self-combusted when he was invited to The White House to speak about their work on disaster preparedness and emergency alerting apps. Now, over a decade later 3 Sided Cube is proud to pioneer disruptive technology, partner with incredible organisations across the world and aid their client’s to achieve their goals.

3 Sided Cube exists to push digital innovation and work on things we are passionate about. They don’t believe in a secret sauce, magic formulas or have a standard process when it comes to delivering projects.


What are the day to day workings of the studio?

It’s a healthy dose of organised chaos. We always have a variety of projects on the go, and the mix of work and skillset mean that no two days are really the same.

We book end the week with Standup on a Monday where everyone gets to hear what everyone else is up to and Happy Half Hour on a Friday when the guys get to present to the rest of the team on a subject, like a project, or some news, or a new process or personal innovation project that they’ve worked on.

What makes you unique as a studio?

I could trot out the same old stuff that everyone does about passion (we are), creativity (we are), user-centric (we do) but I think what does set us apart is that we deliver.

If we aren’t delivering impact we are wasting our time. And time is definitely finite, it’s not a commodity you want to be wasting.


How do you feel 'Tech-for-good' could be promoted more widely?

I don’t think “Tech-for-good” is necessarily the thing that needs promoting. It’s “for-good” that needs elevation . If enough people are trying to do good then we can make a real positive impact in the world. Initiatives such as B-Corps and Social Enterprises are a step in the right direction. But currently, the rewards for the not-for-good sector wildly outweigh the for-good. That’s changing. But not fast enough.

Have you considered the way product design and tech could be created to accommodate neurological disorders/learning disabilities?

Recently in one of our design sprints, we looked at a card game based application to help parents  keep children entertained in a mindful way. We looked at developing the child’s profile to include spectrum disorders and then presenting the cards in different ways. Like reducing animation etc. 

I think that this really plays into the more general accessibility guidelines. These are set at the OS level, and developers need to be more mindful of how they represent these in their applications. I feel like the mobile world is way behind the web on this stuff. But both could do a lot more.  


What is the hierarchy of the studio like?

We definitely have job titles. And there is a hierarchy. And we are very collaborative. You need to think carefully about where it is worth innovating. I’m never convinced that structure is a wise place to do it.

We use process and hierarchy to make sure that people don’t have to think about “how” to do their job. It means that they can get on with the task of the “why” and the “what” they are doing. It means they can focus on where the real value is, which is in focusing their talent on the product they are creating.

It’s really easy for people to become distracted by continually thinking about how they are doing something. Changing the tools they are using, and the process they are following takes up valuable energy that should be focussed on creating the very best product that we can.

So we have people in the Ops team who are specifically tasked with understanding “Gumption Traps”. And managing the change required to remove them.

Do you ever work on studio projects within the team? If so how do you treat them. What’s the process?

We do. And we treat it like a client project. Importantly we have one of the management team as the stakeholder. This ensures that it gets the shielding required to make sure it isn’t constantly kicked to the curb for client work.


Do you have a project you regret?

How much time have you got? I’ve been working in agencies for over 15 years now, so there are plenty. Mainly the ones I regret are around how they were delivered. 

I’ve only had one that I worked on where I had an ethical issue. In a previous role, I oversaw a project that was introducing tobacco to a new territory. To be honest it was an interesting challenge from a purely creative point of view as there is a myriad of rules and regulations that you need to be aware of. But ultimately it was an unpleasant thing to be involved with, and probably one of the key reasons that I made the change to work in the for good sector. 


What has been your personal favourite project to date within 3 Sided Cube?

Oh wow, this is like having to pick your favourite child! I am proud of all of them, but I think the Ignite work we are doing at the moment is the current favourite. 

Proactively campaigning to help fix a problem in the world has been a really interesting challenge. And working in a completely different way is a great way to get out of your comfort zone, and fight for the impact we want to achieve.

Is there anything you’re currently doing which you feel other studios could learn from, or even creatives in general.

Generally, it’s having a really clear vision and mission. It makes EVERYTHING so much easier. I know everyone says that but it’s true.

We believe that technology is the number one factor in disruptive change. From the first time we picked up a stick and used it to dig in the ground, to the first time we sat on a chair, to the first time we sent an email. Technology makes the difference. BUT technology is agnostic. You can use it to build a missile or feed the world. That’s a choice you make.

We choose to use it for good. Because if we can make a difference, we want it to be for better. And that is what guides everything that we do.

In terms of creativity specifically, I believe the number one indicator is a breadth of experience. Get out there and experience whatever you can. And it’s never been easier. We can find and connect with a world of experiences from the device in your pocket. But it’s also never been easier to live in an echo chamber. Don’t do that. See how the other half lives. Walk a mile in their shoes.

Creativity is so often about joining the dots. The more dots you have the more complete picture you can create.


What piece of advice could you give about successfully running your own studio?

Trust. Trust that people want to do the very best job they can. Your job is to give them the opportunities, tools and environment that they can do that in. 


Find out more about 3 Sided Cube by visiting their website.


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