What’s up everyone, my name is Alex Flores. I’m a designer born and raised in Little Village and am the Co-owner of SCRL.
Let’s take it back to the beginning, when did you first start getting involved with coding/design?
I have a background in graphic design. I went to U of I and I was in a typography class and for our final project, we had to create a website. Everybody was using the HTML/CSS template, not really changing too much, but for some reason, I wanted to go a little bit harder than everybody else. I wanted to learn about coding so that my website would look different than the rest of the class. When I showed my final project, the class really enjoyed how it turned out. After class, my professor pulled me to the side and asked if I wanted to be more of a web designer. She told me that I could make a career out of it.
Following college, what was the first app you created?
I had created a few concept designs for apps while in college, but none were coded. For my Senior thesis, I had created a watch app, before the iWatch came out. The concept was using your phone to take photos of anything around you and using Bluetooth to sync your watch face depending on the pictures you take. That project ended up landing me a job in New York for a watch company called Nooka. I didn’t do any coding there, mostly graphic design. I did a cool collab with Cartoon Network, where I designed a watch for BMO from Adventure Time.
What caused you to leave NY and come back to Chicago
I moved back to Chicago to work for Bucketfeet. I was doing graphic design and web design. I also, came back to get my masters at SAIC. While at Bucketfeet, I wasn’t doing any coding. However, I was creating a lot digitally, either for the web or for the phone. When I attended SAIC, I knew what I wanted to do and that was more geared towards coding (apps/websites). At SAIC is when I started to build an app portfolio. Following my masters, I landed a job at GE and started doing UI/UX design.
Now, let’s fast forward to where we are today. How does SCRL Gallery come about?
With GE, I travel a lot. And at the time, I was in Atlanta, and I saw that Instagram had an update where you can add multiple pictures to a post. I had this crazy idea while I was at Wish. I took a bunch of photos at the store and figured I would combine these photos where they all look together. I didn’t want to just upload 10 pictures like everyone was doing. I wanted them to connect (to show a story) and show them I’m a designer. After I posted that set to Instagram, I got around 10-15 dm’s on people asking me how I created this post. I showed some how to create it in Photoshop. One of my friends, Roger, (shoutout Tino), asked me how I created this post and I showed him how to do it. Tino pushed me to consider creating a business out of this concept, and then it clicked that I could create an app out of this. I took some time to figure out ways to execute because I really wanted to create an app. After that, I was doing a lot of prototypes, without coding though. One time I posted it as my story and Matt Boy White asked if I was creating an app and I was like yeah I am. Matt really helped me out as well. He helped a lot with branding. Also, during that time I sat down with my homie Anthony Hoang, who is the co-founder of SCRL. Anthony is an iOS developer and coded the whole app! When we sat down, we laid down a roadmap and set deadlines for Phase 1 – 4, and so far we have accomplished our deadlines. We have executed very well.
A few weeks back you had an event at The Annex. How did that turn out?
MattBoyWhite reached out to me and told me that I should have an event at The Annex. The event was amazing. I had a lot of help from my homies. Eric, Sami, and Sylvia really helped put together the event.
This gallery going on in a museum in San Francisco called The Color Factory inspired the event. Anthony suggested we do something similar to what they’re doing. The Color Factory had crazy balloons, vibrant walls, and we saw everybody taking pictures of the gallery. Our idea was to create an experience where people would take out their iPhones by our installations and then use the app.
We had three installations. The most popular one was the bubblegum pink backdrop. Another installation we had a whole bunch of plants where we wanted people to take photos in front of the plans. The third installation was a bunch of balloons in front of a wall. Sylvia and Angel really helped out setting these installations up. There’s one isolated room at The Annex and in that room, we called it the publishing room. In this room, we wanted to showcase some of the people who had been using the app. We chose work from Julian Gilliam, Bianca, and DTS. Within this room, people were able to get a sense of what they were able to create in the app. The vibes were right. Super thankful for the Dj’s, Freddy Phatz, King Marie, and MattboyWhite that came through and killed it. After the event, Thursday and Friday we had the highest downloads of the app. That was our whole purpose for the event. We wanted to create awareness.
After the launch of SCRL, what have you learned? And what’s the biggest challenge you think?
I think the best thing I saw is seeing creative people use it differently than how I use it or expected. I didn’t necessarily intend for it to be used in that way, but it opened my eyes to new possibilities for the app. We have noted a few trends on how people are using the app and want to cater to that with V2.
Expanding outside of Chicago is a bit of a challenge right now. We want to get in tune with the local influencers in Toronto, LA, New York, and Mexico City. That’s our focus for 2018.
Video content seems to be the most engaging on Instagram. Do you guys ever look to integrate video into the app??
That’s forsure in the timeline. We are definitely working on integrating that now. Video can really help the way people tell their stories within the app. Also, video will also help us push the app further.
Do you ever get worried about Instagram copying your idea?
I think about it a lot, but I don’t want it to distract me from pushing it as far as it could go. I think the app has a lot of potential right now.