2020 - What a Year!

This year might go down in the history books as an extremely turbulent one for both, the global economy and our society. But as with so many things in life, the good and the bad come together. That’s why we would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the struggles and celebrate the wins that this past year has brought us.

For us at Human Deluxe, the first quarter of 2020 was quite a rollercoaster. In February, we were still celebrating Katja’s 30th birthday with lots of Gin and tonics, dancing, and hugs - just to find ourselves in the middle of a national lockdown some weeks later. Nico had warned us about the emerging pandemic since December last year, but we only realized its true impact when we were no longer allowed to put our heads together in our cozy Berlin studio. The first lockdown forced us to stress-test our remote setup and deal with unforeseen challenges ranging from unstable internet connections to nagging kids in the background. And to make things worse, all of our event-related projects got canceled, so we started wondering what the pandemic would mean for the future of Human Deluxe.

Most importantly, everyone made it through the year healthy (three weeks to go, so knocking on wood here). When looking back, it was probably even one of the most creative and productive years ever. I still remember a conversation we had back in spring, raising the question of whether we should lean back and “wait till it’s over” or double down in order to innovate our business. Luckily we were all on the same page and decided on the latter - and the hard work paid off. Old and new clients appreciated the fact that we did keep the lights on, and we completed a record number of 41 projects in 2020 which allowed us to decline any government subsidies and leave them for those who would actually need them. We got to appreciate the fact that we’re a young business in tech - inventive, nimble, and fast - which gave us an edge, and we experienced that in a remote world everything is possible.

In April, we launched our Human Deluxe Toolbox to share our comprehensive knowledge about remote productivity and collaboration, including all tools and templates that we had used with overseas clients - and are now using with those ones next door. We built a massive community with hundreds of businesses and designers using our resources to drive real business outcomes around the world. Until today, there is no week without requests to edit or share our content. We also participated in Germany’s biggest hackathon “Wir vs Virus” and mentored teams until the finals. Inspired by all that entrepreneurial energy, we eventually built and launched our first own product - but more about that later.

Special times require special actions, and 2020 has definitely released some unforeseen superpowers. Check out our top 3 highlights below:

Helping the German Government Build a Digital Germany

We had the honor of working with the German government’s digital heroes a.k.a. DigitalService4Germany. And let me tell you, these folks are incredible. We first saw them when they pulled together a hackathon with 43,000 participants overnight to take aim at coronavirus (and gave Stewart Butterfield a sleepless night).

A few weeks later, DigitalService4Germany (back then with a different name) reached out for help. This special group making federal services as easily usable and accessible as the digital products we use in our everyday lives, needed and equally special brand and website - fast. We ran a naming workshop and kicked off a fast-track project to deliver their website in less than two weeks. Ready for a digital Germany!

Mitigating the Climate Crisis with Carbonfuture

Have you ever heard of biochar? Honestly, we had not until we got to work with Carbonfuture. From their talented team of scientists and product leaders we understood that organic materials like biochar can safely store carbon - and, in the process, remove CO2 from the atmosphere. It blew our minds.

After reading their whitepaper and lots of articles, we felt ready to contribute to this important mission. We created the Carbonfuture brand story, website, and visual identity. While the Carbonfuture team continually assured us that the topic wasn’t complex, we spent nights and weekends trying to wrap our heads around C-sinks and pyrolysis. Successfully. The project outcome is a good mix of simple, stylish, and meaningful. Take a look at the website!

Female Empowerment with the Human Deluxe Leadership Program

After we successfully grew our community of fellow designers (thank you for advocating for us, Jake Knapp!), we wondered if it was time to tackle the business side of the world. Why not share our design tools and entrepreneurial insights with everyone? We decided to start by addressing 51% of the global population - women.

The result was a successful product launch: an empowering Leadership Program that helps women build the confidence and skill set to be a leader and move mountains with their work. In two cohorts, we worked with amazing participants from 14 different countries and great companies like Google, Amazon, Zalando, P&G, SAP etc. With a Net Promoter Score of 9.2 and countless success stories of taking on new leadership roles and accelerating development plans, we feel like this is only the beginning. Stay tuned!

Big shoutout to everyone who has worked with us or cheered from the sidelines. We love you all and look forward to continuing this journey with you next year!