By thelaegotist / / It’s been quite a journey from the land of fire and ice to the land of surf and sun, and Icelandic agency Ueno is expanding on its own terms. When Design Director Halli Thorleifsson founded the full-service agency in 2014, Ueno was a one-man operation run out of an apartment. Ueno’s first dedicated office was a couple of desks tucked away in a massive Reykjavik office, which it soon outgrew. Within a year, Ueno had found its true home in a beautiful building that afforded Thorleifsson views of the city that he’d never seen before as a native. This became the template for how Ueno would manage future expansion—first to San Francisco, then to New York and now to Los Angeles: Get a foot in the door and build business while looking for a permanent residence. The agency recently hired Senior Designer Justin Greene as the sole employee of its L.A. office, which is in, naturally, the heart of Silicon Beach: El Segundo. The LA Egotist spoke with Halli and Justin to get the inside scoop on the LA office. TLAE: Why did Ueno decide to open an LA office? HT: Our work process is extremely collaborative. Being in the same location as our clients has a big impact on the quality of our work. LA was a no-brainer next step for us. A lot of our clients have offices in the LA area, and we also wanted to expand our market to include companies we can’t reach through our SF or NYC offices. TLAE: Who are your clients and what work has been produced from the LA office? HT: We have many tech clients such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Samsung, Uber, and more. But, we’ve also been adding different types of clients over the last couple of years such as ESPN, Red Bull, Verizon, and others. The LA office has been working with some of these as well as Credit Karma and Visa. TLAE: What are Ueno’s ambitions in LA? HT: We’ve had pretty great success with our other U.S. offices. The SF office has grown very fast these last two years, and our NYC office built up great momentum this year. We are hoping LA will be similar. Our strengths lie in brand, marketing and product design, and we believe we can offer something unique to our current and future LA clients. TLAE: What is your background? JG: My background is the full spectrum of design: print, web, illustration, mobile, and product. It’s all I’ve ever really known and wanted to do. TLAE: How long have you been with Ueno? JG: I joined Ueno in April of 2017, so I’m still a “Nueno.” TLAE: Why did you choose to work at Ueno? JG: For me, the choice to join Ueno was a no-brainer. To be given the opportunity to be a part of such a great family of people is an amazing experience. The culture here, the clients we work with, the genuine respect for design— these were the main, obvious factors. It’s pretty much the holy grail for any designer. I’m still in awe and humbled every day to be in a place where I’m still learning at this stage of my career. TLAE: How would you describe the LA creative community? How does it differ from others you’ve worked in? JG: I love the LA creative community. It encompasses many different avenues, genres, industries and styles. That’s why I was so drawn to it. As an LA transplant five years ago from Phoenix, Arizona, it was exciting to be here after being in an area that had such a narrow view of design. Not to dig on Arizona—it’s where I established my career—I just think my journey within the industry had larger plans. Los Angeles, for me, exudes design. You can pretty much find amazing examples around every corner. It’s living, breathing. Los Angeles, I love Los Angeles.
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