Interview by Stefan Schuster
Photos by Ueno

January 03, 2019

We found our favorite description of Ueno while researching the agency online: "Such Ueno. Very digital. Much agency. Ueno is a full-service, first-rate, all-singing, all-dancing, fast-growing, flame-haired, bull-chested, fun-loving, not-quite-bourgeois, not-quite-bohemian agency, busy designing and building beautiful digital products, brands, and experiences." This one says it all, right? No need to write anything new, right? 😉

Ueno was founded in 2014 by Haraldur (Halli) Thorleifsson, an Icelandic graphic designer, who has since made a name for himself and his full-service agency. When Thorleifsson started Ueno, It was a one-man show, run out of his apartment in Iceland — until he could graduate to a couple of desks tucked in the back of a massive Reykjavik office. Within four short years, Thorleifsson has built Ueno into a thriving, digitally driven design agency with 50 employees and offices in San Francisco, New York, Reykjavik and Los Angeles. Ueno is known for creating jaw-dropping work for their clients, like Apple, Dropbox, Fitbit, Google, Uber and Visa.

We had a chat with Steph Jeong, a Product Designer at Ueno.

Steph Jeong

Steph Jeong

Product Designer

Who are you? What is your job at Ueno?

My name is Steph, and I am a product designer at Ueno. My job is to solve design problems. I've been mostly working on digital products and tools. 

“I chose Ueno particularly because I realized I would be the least experienced designer to join.”

What inspired you to join Ueno?

While I was in school, I interned at a big company, and I freelanced at a startup. The big company gave me an experience to work under an existing structure and focus on the details. The startup experience was more fast-paced and designing the bigger structure.

While both were amazing experiences, I felt that I still lacked a breadth of project experiences to go into either of those. So I chose to go to an agency. I chose Ueno particularly because I realized I would be the worst designer to join. This meant that I only had way up. 

What do you tell your family and friends about Ueno and what you do?

I tell my family and friends that I’m a designer for anything digital, and that Ueno is a digital agency where we work with clients like Facebook, Samsung, Uber, etc.

Could you show us an outstanding project you worked on in the past few month?

We did a styleguide for Bluevine, which is a company with a B2B tool that lends money to small businesses to pay off their invoices. We create a visual system for their product and also created a style guide to help their future designers to understand the system easily.

How and when does the day in the office start? And when and how does it end?

It really depends on the person, but normally people come in around 9 – 10AM, and sometimes people get together to eat breakfast together. The day ends around 5 – 7PM.

What opportunities are there for employees to learn new things?

We have a $1000 learning stipend every year, and last year for Christmas, every employee got a full access to Masterclass. We also get $2500 stipend for conferences as well. During work hours, you can also learn new skills when you don’t have client work.

How does the recruitment process at Ueno look like?

We have a full-time person that handles recruiting. But, our founder Halli also checks every submission online to make sure we don’t miss anything.

“The biggest mistake is thinking that you have to be perfect — you don’t have to know all the answers.”

What are the biggest mistakes you see people make when applying for a job at Ueno?

The biggest mistake is thinking that you have to be perfect — you don’t have to know all the answers. You just have to be open to learn.

What personal characteristics do you look for in an exceptional candidate?

Someone who’s humble and easy to talk to.

Why are you better at your job than your competitors?

Because we’re good at figuring things out. We come from a humble place, and we will work like an embedded design team and figure things out together with our clients.

What would you like to tell us about Ueno that is not written down in your job descriptions?

Our CEO is our social media intern. I promise we’re more fun than how we look online!!!

Open positions at Ueno:


Thank you, Steph!