Inspired Interview: Mills of UsTwo – The Studio of Dreams

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Well either you know mills™ as the man behind the ever fresh and popular MouthOff™ iPhone app, either as the co-owner of ustwo™ (the studio of dreams™), either as the first Inspired Magazine advertiser (thanks mate!) or as @millsustwo, one of the most honest and ferocious tweeters out there. A user with a special thing for coining and trademark all kinds of new words™

Before let him answer the questions, I should tell you he’s a no-nonsense, to the point guy, running a very quirky and approachable studio of 47 creative people, working. ustwo™ is a digital UX design company based in London and Malmö. Driven by its mission to ‘make products smile’, ustwo™ creates beautiful, user-friendly interfaces across the mobile, consumer electronics, medical and financial sectors. They used to be just two as the name suggests but have been amassing a team of the ‘best in show’ over the last 5 years and this year has seen the emergence of ustwo™ as a brand through there steady release of self initiated iPhone apps.

Inspired I was born and bread in London’s Streatham, but it didn’t take long for my parents to realise it wasn’t the type of place you want your little one running around in the streets, Moved to Tundbridge Wells for 12 years, where I met @sinxustwo my best mate and design partner.  Now living in a little big house in Clapham, the city of the ‘family’ with my wife and little one.

Mills Born and bread in London’s Streatham. Now living in a little big house in Clapham, the city of the ‘family’.

Inspired You have a bunch of projects you’re working on right now. Which are the most important to you?

Mills The studio of dreams™ works on a range of projects, all of which contribute to the success of the ‘design family’. My particular focus in maintaining and nurturing the team and environment we work in. Growing a design studio capable of delivering client solutions is one thing. But it’s the exposure of the studio to the world that is the key to its real success. And this year we realized this more than ever. So what did we do? Well to start we have committed around £150k into the iPhone App area, building a quality iFocussed™ team, proportioning it over the first 12 months of the ‘new app age’, giving us the confidence to say NO to paid projects that the chosen developers would have been on. Thus the iPhelopers™ were born, and were able to concentrate on the one and only: iApps™

The beauty of iApps™ is that we can contain all parts of the projects in the studio. We control the process, we control the budget, we control the direction. We are in control of making the app that may rocket sky high!

To date we have made Steppin™ and MouthOff™ and are currently working on inkstrumental™ with long time friend Jon Burgerman.


The issue we saw was that apps were taking too long to make, we needed to have a constant stream of quality apps. We got frustrated by not being able to talk about fresh apps, needed something to talk about prior to Inkstrumental™. Nothing better than producing quick turnaround projects. Pulling that crack team together over a beer one night. Simple task, we need something cool, something addictive, something that showcases quick thinking. We only produce what can be done in a 2 day period. Bottom line is that it has to go to Apple on hour 48.


So we created .™, the worlds first ‘48hourApp’, Concept. Design. Development. Marketing concept. All produced in the space of 48 hours. The name of the game is survival. It’s simple (so are we!!). You are .™. Blue circles are food. Red triangles are death. .™ starves and shrinks without food. Red death makes .™ hungrier. The gameplay is simple, and the name even more so, the name is the character.. and nothing better than trademarking a .!

What particular inspires me about .™ is that we have spent longer on creating the two ‘promo videos’ than the app itself. But what we have learnt is that the promotion is more key than the App itself. We created a Good and Bad trailer. See below

Inspired What did you want to be when you were little?

Mills Funny enough I don’t think I ever set out to be a designer, it was always in my family so it was almost a given that this would be the area I would go into. One of my early ‘career’ aims was in fact to be a a fighter pilot!, going so far as setting up a cockpit in my bedroom that I slept in. But once I realized you had to work hard and study to do this, I realized it was a no goer. I always liked being with people, talking and knowing what was going on, so although I trained to be a designer, I knew that my ability to understand design didn’t mean I had to be the designer. I take more pride in seeing others around me create while I maintain the culture and ustwo™ brand.

Inspired Tell us on fast-forward how’s your typical work day

Mills Running a studio is obviously not a 9-5 (infact no designer is 9/5!) So I get up at 5:45, get on tube, answer mails/watch video podcasts/read paper on tube. Grab a coffee at apostophe, get into studio for 7. Sit in front of computer/oversee/direct/meet/liase/organise for the next 13 hours and then go home.

Inspired The best creative journeys start when you’re …

Mills I’d probably say they come out at times when you have the most constraints. Open briefs are often more restrictive than free. So I like to be up against a wall with seemingly no way out before I unleash the mind.

Inspired Could you share us a few recent inspiration sources?

Mills My inspirations are coming from a range of sources and areas. I’m inspired by design, business and people in general. Recently I’ve been using the time on the tube on my way in to watch video podcasts, and I have found itsnicethat talks a great watch. Because App development is very much about the App promotion as it is development I have been fascinated by anything that can help me understand marketing, or what it takes to make a success of a product. I recently listened (using the iPhone yet again!) to Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘The Tipping Point‘ which goes some way to understanding why and how something gets popular.

Inspired What magazines do you like?

Mills I don’t go out of my way to read magazines these days, so although it already a cliched phrase, I have to say I find most of my information and inspiration directly from Twitter these days. The ease at which I can receive information I like in my hand makes it the ultimate magazine. I also love the sharing nature of it, If I see something in a mag I can’t easily share…

Inspired Is there anything on TV worth watching?

Mills These days the only TV I consume is TV created to numb the brain, so none is worth highlighting. Although its obvious to say, the Web and iPhone is slowly becoming the bedrock of viewing consumption, and this is where I am now getting my ‘intelligent’ viewing pleasure from.

Inspired Could you tell us three of your favorite artists/personalities that you would like others to discover?


  • Westlife (but I don’t advise as its only for the elite) – Garth Marenghi – Matt Polls
  • it has to be long time friend Jon Burgerman, his work is truly ‘individual’ and he is someone we wanted to collaborate with on inkstrumental™, our new sound toy. see video of our new collaboration below

Inspried What websites do you usually visit to get some visual inspiration?

Mills I don’t get that much time to spend on the web, so I rely on combination of ustwobies™ sharing their ‘visual webseeings’, and tweeters sharing visual beauty. I am also particularly inspired by the ongoing ‘visual commentary @mr_bingo puts out on twitter, it’s a level beyond the norm.  When it comes to app inspiration, I’m particularly  into sights like which is set up to showcase early interactive projects before they become reality.

Inspired Mac or PC?

Mills MAC, it’s the same old story with me. I love my mac, I use it for 13 hours per day and that means I need to love it.

Inspired Which of your dreams do you want to come true?

Mills On a personal level, I’d like to see the continued success of our studio. See it developing into unchartered digital areas such as gaming and entertainment (there are other areas but these are my personal ‘wishes’). More immediately I’d like to see one of our new apps hitting the big time, showing us a solid return on the 150k we have sunk into this growing area. The App arena is a truly exciting space to be involved in. It’s turner our design studio from a client focussed service studio to a studio who are also working on personal studio projects with a mix of creative and sales objectives. This adds a new element of excitement and reality.

Inspired Do you have any secret idea or formula that you would like to share with the Inspired Magazine readers?

Mills Never ever give up, even when you think its over. Work very hard, you soon realise that nothing comes to you without a fight. The world isn’t set up to give, if you want it, get out and sort it. You’ll always be surprised that things can happen if you try. Get up early, life’s too short so I personally advising working as many hours as you can, each hour brings you closer to that success we all crave.

Inspired What’s the most eccentric thing on your wish list?

Mills The normal thing to say would be 911 Turbo, the pack of 12 unique pugs running freely on a farm, and the 10 bedroom house with the swimming pool in the bedroom, and although I wouldn’t say no to such extravagance, I’m realistic. So I’d like to be part of a studio that people want to be part of. The extravagance would then be that we are in a position to push our work out successfully to the world via a ‘perfect team of ustwobies™’ covering, concept design, development, animation, marketing and PR.

Inspired Make some random predictions

Mills I could make them completely random, but then I have no power to control the reality. I am into reality, so i’ll predict some random activities you will see our studio partake in. I hope they come true!.

1. ustwo™ create a very successful iPhone app that changes the way users/developers understand app sales.

2. ustwo™ move into the medical arena releasing an interface that not only changes lives for the better but showcases a full flash lite® user interface via the flash® platform.

3. ustwo™ finally update their website, thus reflecting what we actually do to the world!.

4. Flash Applications hit the apple app store without them knowing they are flash compiles!

Inspired Is there anything you would like to add?

Mills I love the ustwo™ the studio of dreams™ family so much.


Inspired Before you go, please recommend a book and a movie

Mills District 9 is quality, so I’d go and see that if you haven’t. When it comes to books, I’m a keen advocator of Audiobooks, so i’d recommend the two that I have listened to, one being the previously mentioned The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell and his follow up book, Outliers: the Story of Success both are very insightful and open the eyes to how and why people and products are successful.

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Mills is well known within the iPhone app industry with his refreshingly honest and open approach being well received by developers, gamers and fans alike :)