NET|March 2019

We speak to a London studio that’s graduated from websites through apps to design systems and that loves nothing more than a good design sprint.

Founded in 2013 by Brunel University graduates Sam Lester and James Keal, Inktrap ( is a London-based design studio that prides itself on making beautiful, practical and impactful digital products, from initial concept to front-end development. Over the past five years, it’s shifted its focus from websites to apps and on to design systems for the web, picking up a strong client roster and growing from a two-person team to a staff of six, a number that’s set to increase soon.

Let’s meet the team – comprising Sam Lester, co-founder; James Keal, cofounder; Rachel Brockbank, digital product designer; Liz Hamburger, digital product designer; and Joe Thom, frontend developer – to find out more.

Hi there! Could you tell us a bit about Inktrap and how it came together?

SL: Hello! James and I started the company over five years ago, during our final year at Brunel University. We were essentially freelancing together at the start – my previous agency experience and James’ strong design process seemed to be a good match.

We started off doing marketing websites but soon got into apps. This led to us working with a bunch of different tech startups to help design and build their web or app MVPs. We learnt a lot really quickly as we were doing a bit of everything, from simple prototypes and marketing sites to full design and build of apps and back-end systems.

A few years ago we decided to shift our focus away from app development to creating design systems for the web. This has allowed us to do more of what we truly enjoy – designing interfaces and implementing them in the browser.

Tell us a bit about your studio principles.

SL: We’ve always been pretty clear about wanting to run the business in a way that focuses on the user and product, not just what the client asks us to do.

One of our defining moments came in our first six months. We were short on new business and things were looking pretty bleak but we were sent a brief for an app project. We read through it and realised that what the client had asked for didn’t make sense for the product.

The choice we had was to do the work as it was requested or pitch something totally different that would be much better for the product and the client. The odds were against us that the client would like our approach and not landing the project would likely mean the end of the business. We decided to stick to our principles and the project ended up being our first app design and build. It was featured on the App Store and in national newspapers, kickstarting our work with tech startups.

We strive to be the studio that clients choose when they want the best for their users, not just someone to use Sketch for them. Over the past few years we’ve also expanded and solidified our principles and put them in pride-of-place on our website ( so new clients can see what we’re all about.

Design sprints are a big part of your process. What makes them work for you?

JK: We love design sprints! They’ve been a core part of our design process for years now and we’ve used them to solve all kinds of problems.


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March 2019