How two creatives built a multinational web design agency.
The story of PixoLabo.
We are people creating websites, developing brands, and building e-commerce stores for people like you. This is our story.
We are the little agency that could.
Lots of caffeine
A dash of attitude
A pinch of luck
Combine ingredients in a large studio, mix well and simmer until creative sparks fly.
It took blood, sweat, and tears. Still, we followed our dream and turned a small freelance design studio into a multinational WordPress web design agency working with global businesses and product brands. Along the way we made a lot of friends, and learned a lot about ourselves, and the creative world all around us. Ganbatte, ne!
Our Story Starts with Four Cats
It all started more or less as a joke. A Japanese and a German photographer and designer walked into a bar. (No, that's not it!) We lived with our four cats in Seattle in the 1990s. We did freelance photography and design jobs for friends and neighbors to earn extra money.
We discussed a name for our little startup one day and settled on Hungry Cats Imagine. As in, "hungry cats imagine you hiring us so we can earn money to feed them!" The name was an immediate hit. Our friends and clients loved it! Our felines felt a bit more ambivalent about it.
Timing and a Bit of Luck
It's now or never
Fast forward to 2004. We just moved into a beautiful (and huge) loft in Seattle's Pioneer Square district. Plenty of room for our photo studio and design agency. We even named our new business after it: Studio 5.
Then one of us got laid off from a big creative agency. Well, the timing seemed right to start our agency. And we could rely on each other's support. "You did what?! Are you out of your friggin mind?!" Well, we got our first big client and never looked back.
Who the hell is Studio 5?
Our first big design project was the design of a new property brochure for a hotel in our neighborhood. The project included taking pictures of local attractions and businesses. It seemed like a great way to meet potential new clients.
Our client suggested that we donate an item for the annual holiday raffle. Great idea! Let's do it! We came up with what we thought was a great design package and eagerly awaited it being raffled off. But we were not well known at the time. The first words from the MC when she announced our item were, "Who the hell is Studio 5?"
A chance meeting
One day we ran into our upstairs neighbor at the local print shop. Previously we passed each other on the stairs but never talked much. He needed a CD cover designed, which the print shop could not do. Eager for business, we offered our services. What we thought was simply a quick job was the start of something big!
It turned out that our neighbor was a big shot in the marketing world. The chance meeting in the print shop led to working on projects for Nike, Quiksilver Roxy, and Pony International! And the start of a unique and lasting friendship. Thank you, Richard!
The Growing Years
Expanding our skills
Initially, we focused on product and location photography and graphic design for print applications. But that did not last long. Our growing list of clients meant providing new and additional services.
For many of our clients, we became their trusted go-to resource for all their creative needs. Soon we managed their projects, developed partnerships with vendors and service providers, and expanded our reach. Press checks at 6 AM and creating brand style guides became routine.
The coffee shop days
We often met with our clients in coffee shops at a mutually convenient location, preferably with easy freeway access and plenty of parking during these early days. Being flexible and willing to meet clients at or near their location made it more convenient for them, which led to more business for us.
Wearing big boy pants
Over time we grew into a small but innovative professional web design agency from our humble beginnings. Our service offerings quickly expanded to include web design and development services. As a result, we attracted a more extensive and diverse range of clients. And soon, we began to work with clients from across the US and beyond.
As our clients asked us to help them with different aspects of their creative projects, we also had to expand our service offerings. We did everything from copywriting and content editing to website hosting and support and even social media marketing and search engine optimization.
Reorganizing and Refocusing
Time to refocus
Being a big agency was fun and exciting, up to a point. But soon, we were so busy managing teams and projects that we had little time to focus on what mattered to us, great design! As a result, much of what we did had nothing to do with creativity.
Instead of offering all services in-house, we focused strictly on web design and development, including related services such as web hosting and SEO. Everything else we outsourced to specialized service providers. The results included better service for our clients and more fun for us!
A new type of agency
Over the years, we faced many challenges and exciting opportunities. And as a result, we had to reinvent ourselves a few times. For example, when another creative agency nearby had a similar name, we decided to rebrand. This allowed us to stand out in our market as a unique, innovative agency.
Being a big agency never appealed to us. Designing 500 websites that all looked the same was not for us. Nor did we want to work with every type of brand or business. So instead, we carefully selected the clients we work with and created elegant solutions tailored to their audience and expectations.
In 2018 our founders moved to Japan and established a second studio in addition to our team in Seattle. Most Japanese businesses have outdated websites in modern and advanced countries. Being multilingual gave us the advantage of introducing Japanese brands to audiences in North America and Europe.
We formed a strategic partnership with a European design agency two years later to expand our reach. Today our web design agency works with clients in the US and Canada, SE Asia, and Europe. And we are not done yet! The story continues...
We invite you to help us write the next chapters of our story!
Your partner for your online presence.
Our desire to produce good work runs deep – that’s what lets us handle every project with fresh energy and enthusiasm. While we share our knowledge and experience, we try hard to understand your business and needs. We are united with you in the drive to get the best from your project – think of us as extra team members with all the skills you need.