Ixonos created a Generation Y news service for Al-Jazeera
Ixonos rose and shone together with Nokia. Now the company creates digital services: the news service AJ+ created for Al Jazeera America by Ixonos was ranked as one of the world’s best designed digital news products.
The motto of the creative technology company Ixonos* is ”dream, design, deliver”. Head of design Sami Paihonen thinks this is what makes Ixonos special; everything from start to finish is created inside the same four walls.
“The concepts we create, we can also deliver. It’s common for design and actual delivery to come from different companies, and problems might rise when the design isn’t fit for the technology. We are known for how “Ixonos gets it done”.”
The same spirit was present in the making of television company Al Jazeera America’s mobile news service AJ+. Paihonen tells that Al Jazeera wanted to catch the attention of 18–30-year-olds. Ixonos walked into a meeting and suggested they focus on the whole Generation Y.
“We emphasised that it’s not only a matter of age, but a generation living in a digitised world. We wanted to create a frame that listens to the formats of the digital world.”
The service was chosen as one of the 10 finalists for the World’s Best-Designed Digital News Product award by the international Society of News Design. Other finalists included names such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Harvard Law Review. Facebook was announced the winner, but all finalists were thanked for having “made indelible marks in the ever evolving nature of news”.
AJ+ was also nominated for The Webby Awards this year. The annual competition is organised by International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.
Al-Jazeera reaching out to new audiences
Al Jazeera America reaches out to new audiences with short and sharp video news in which the presenters aren’t wearing formal suits. Paihonen describes that AJ+ aims at being exciting, rapid, and clear, but at the same time it offers in-depth accounts on topics the readers get interested in.
“For Finns reliability is a part of our DNA. We deliver what we promise, and team members can trust each other and just focus on doing their best with their own part,” says Ixonos’ Head of Design Sami Paihonen.
Ixonos wanted to give AJ+ a go, because it isn’t common to create services for completely new types of audiences. Ixonos sent a demo to the competition and got the job.
For Paihonen, it was hard to not get enthusiastic about the contents Al Jazeera had created.
“Honest, high-quality journalism, but with a twinkle in the eye and focus completely on mobile.”
Paihonen points out that contents are best presented when the user interface and technological sides of the service are made with care and diligence to run smoothly. When the invisible pieces of the puzzle function, the audience can focus on the actual service, which in the case of AJ+ is journalism.
Ixonos has the capacity to take all aspects into account due to its multiprofessional team. Creating technology often includes processes even customers themselves aren’t familiar with.
Yet still Paihonen would never say Ixonos helps out its customers. Rather, he sees Ixonos as an extension of them.
“Our customers are capable professionals. We just complete their expertise.”
Everything based on trust
Ixonos was founded in 1994 when several smaller software companies decided to merge. At the time Nokia was their biggest customer by a huge margin, and together with it Ixonos grew exponentially. According to Paihonen, at the best of times the company employed over a thousand people.
Currently Ixonos has around 300 employees.
“With and after Nokia we learned so much that now we’re on a healthy base. Many of those involved in the ecosystem of Nokia went down, but we just struggled on.”
In Finland Ixonos is known for the bad news brought about by the turmoil of Nokia. Paihonen says that although the direction is now different, good things are coming. Big projects are being planned, but they’re not public yet.
“We’ve had to dig up our Finnish sisu.”
Finnishness is present in the working culture of Ixonos. Many of the employees are foreigners, but they too have learned the Finnish punctuality and reliability.”
“For Finns reliability is a part of our DNA. We deliver what we promise, and team members can trust each other and just focus on doing their best with their own part.”
The portion of international projects is growing rapidly. New locations are being scanned all the time, but investments aren’t made lightly.
The majority of employees work in Finland. In San Francisco, Ixonos has a team of thirty; in London, a team of ten. The plan is to grow bigger, but at a sustainable pace.
Text: Anne Salomäki
*Part of Digitalist Group since 2017
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