July 28th, 2014 | by REBECCA TURLEY Features | Posted In: Startup of the Week

Startup of the Week: Ziba Design

zibaZiba Design's tablet magazine

Founder: Sohrab Vossoughi
Year founded: 1984
Location: 1044 NW 9th Ave.
Valued at: Declined to say

Ziba Design isn’t exactly a tech startup: It’s been working with Fortune 500 companies since 1984 to make their customers want to use their products more. It rethought Heinz ketchup bottles, created a device to make brain surgery simpler for neurosurgeons, and put coffee and couches in Umpqua banks.

But Ziba is now causing a stir in the tech world—with a virtual magazine.

The stories in Ziba’s magazine, Design for the Service Economy, usually focus on one product or service to analyze the field of "service design."

A recent article discusses the Nest Thermostat, which connects to smart phones and boasts a user-friendly wall unit. A photo of the circular thermostat is the background behind the teaser, “Good service experience, like great cuisine, is made from ingredients we already have.” The article moves fluidly from a discussion of smart products in general, to Nest, to the culinary “umami revolution.” An image of miso soup ingredients breaks up the text.

It’s a peek into the sort of interdisciplinary thinking Ziba has a knack for.

The magazine can only be viewed on Flipboard, an app for reading news on phones or tablets. It takes articles from Ziba’s Tumblr and Medium blogs, and outside sources to create a collection of thoughts on service design.

“Blogs feel like work,” says editor Carl Alviani. 

Kathleen Mazzocco, PR consultant, adds, “Flipboard is designed in such a way that it has a lean-back experience.” Mazzocco came up with the idea for the magazine.

Getting into publishing might seem like an odd move for a design agency. But Alviani says the articles help clients understand service design, and how it can improve their companies.

Alviani lights up when he talks about “service design,” but it can sound like tech jargon to the uninitiated. To explain the phrase, he asks, “How do you create a great service?” His answer, “The way it’s built and designed, along with the service. It’s both.”

But he went silent the second he realized a new magazine post had gone up. It’s from Ziba’s Tumblr, and is titled “Seven Quotes on the Future of Sharing, From Airbnb’s CEO.” It has a photo of the executive, a brief introduction and quote, and a link to the full article, found on Venture Beat.

“This is so important,” he says, staring intently at Mazzocco’s MacBook screen.

And others think so too. After seven weeks, the magazine has about 600 subscribers and 65 articles — steady progress for writing with such a particular focus.

 
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