Season 2, Episode 4

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This is a transcript of one episode of the Samsung Developers Podcast, hosted by and produced by Tony Morelan. A listing of all podcast transcripts can be found here.


Tony Morelan
Senior Developer Evangelist, Samsung Developers

Instagram - Twitter - LinkedIn


Olga Gabay
Zeru Studio


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NOTE: Transcripts are provided by an automated service and reviewed by the Samsung Developers web team. Inaccuracies from the transcription process do occur, so please refer to the audio if you are in doubt about the transcript.


Tony Morelan 00:01

Hey, I'm Tony Morelan. And this is Pow! the Samsung Developers podcast where we chat with innovators using Samsung technologies, award winning app developers and designers, as well as insiders working on the latest Samsung tools.

Welcome to season two, Episode Four. On today's show, I interview Olga Gabay. Olga is a 2020 Best of Galaxy Store Award winner for her phone UI theme design, Dark Warrior. In just a few years, her design style for capturing emotion in her themes, has helped her become one of the top developers on Galaxy Store. Not only do we talk about her approach to design, the impact of COVID, but also the challenges related to using licensed imagery. Enjoy.

I am super excited to have on the podcast with me today. Olga Gabay. Welcome to the podcast, Olga.

Olga Gabay 00:50

Thank you.

Tony Morelan 00:52

I absolutely love your work. Your designs always evoke such emotion. You know, when I see your themes, I often think of them as like movie posters, or even like video game covers. They all seem to like tell a story. That being said, though, when they look at your full library of work, it's quite a variety of styles. Who is Olga Gabay?

Olga Gabay 01:15

Well, basically, I'm a graphic designer, I started to do this middle of 90s. By now it's like, almost 26 years of experience. So throughout all these years, what I collected, I mean, like, ideas, experiences I just brought up now in my themes, and I still keep experimenting. So actually, sometimes people they don't believe all my works are by the same designer, because there is a variety of styles. Actually, I'm not really happy with that, because I'm more jealous to people who can produce all their works in just one style. Something when you can say this designer has some unique face some unique style, and I don't have it, I want to try these and that and that, you know, like everything, a little bit of everything.

Tony Morelan 02:03

Yeah, when I think of Olga Gabay, I definitely do think of those that that certain style that I had mentioned, where it really does capture emotion. But as I'm scanning through your collection, I see this wide variety. And I think I can relate to that a lot. Because even in my watch face designing that I was doing. I remember before I worked at Samsung, I had someone at Samsung, give me a little advice and say, you know, you should pick a style, you should pick a direction and then build on that brand. And I couldn't do it. I was just I would do something that was very artistic, or I do something that's very mechanical. And I guess that's just that's how I work. But that's what I can relate to that for sure. Interesting that you said that you started designing back in the 90s. That's about the time that I did, too. We get the joy of working. When Adobe was doing all those early releases of Photoshop and Illustrator, we got to be a part of that. So is that true? were you working in Photoshop back in the in the early days?

Olga Gabay 03:02

Oh, yes, absolutely. So I believe my first Photoshop Ah, that was a version of 2.5 I think okay. And yes, that's so it was a lot of fun back then. Because, you know, like when they introduced this layer system? Oh, yes. I was like, Wow, now you can put things on different layers. That was so exciting.

Tony Morelan 03:21

Yeah, I remember that. I remember even like multiple undo’s. When I first started, I think it was Photoshop, you know, 1.2, we didn't even have multiple undo. It was one undo. And that was there was no history. You couldn't go back. That was everything was on one layer. But you know what that made us pay attention that much more closely to the work that we were doing? Did you study design in school? Is this, you know, a career path that you started out

Olga Gabay 03:51

early on? Yeah, I will start in just the college. But back then in the college, we didn't study any computers. So we were doing everything that old fashioned ways like with paper paints, pencils, glues that sort Nothing much. Yes.

Tony Morelan 04:05

And you know what's great about that, and you can tell me if you have the same sort of theory on that. I often tell when I'm when I'm teaching classes in schools, you need to grab a pencil and paper to do your initial copying, that if you dive right into a computer program, you're limiting your freedom to design so I always say those first comp designs, you should really grab pencil and paper. Did you have the same approach to design?

Olga Gabay 04:30

Yes, I agree with that. But I used to do it for many years. But you know, in all my themes now, I never did even a single time because I was always like under the pressure of to make my collection and then I just lost this habit. So nowadays, I just go straight but of course I do draft It's not like I create the image of the wallpaper as it's supposed to be. First, I'm just composing everything with low resolution images and just doing some marks with an image. Electronic pen. Sure. So with my tablet, you know, so it's still drafting, but electronically. Gotcha. I

Tony Morelan 05:06

see. I see. Yeah, I'm not surprised when I see your work. I do see a lot of, I'll call it collaging. So it looks like you're compiling different imagery and bringing it together to make a new scene. So I could definitely see where you do rounds of, of comping and revisions to finally get to that final design.

Olga Gabay 05:25

Yeah, exactly.

Tony Morelan 05:26

Let me back up just a little bit. And tell me where are you originally from?

Olga Gabay 05:31

So, I came from Russia from Moscow. I moved to Canada 20 years ago, in the Greater Toronto Area, as life is more quiet here. Nice. I'm

Tony Morelan 05:39

sure it's a little a little cold, where you are at least this time of year up in Canada. Your name is Olga Gabay. But tell me do you have a company name? Is there a brand name behind Olga?

Olga Gabay 05:50

Yes, my company name is zero studio. But because it's a small studio, and I'm the only designer there two other people they do some routine things not related to the designing. So I often go under my own name. I know it's sometimes it creates a little mess. But my name in the theme store is more a result of registration. So I could not put the company name. That's the problem. Now I can change it.

Tony Morelan 06:15

Yeah, once you start building your collection, it can be a little difficult to halfway through to want to change course and switch the brand name because you lose the history. And the download recording of it. Yeah, I understand your situation on that. Tell me about how you first learned about Samsung and designing themes.

Olga Gabay 06:34

Oh, actually, that's a little bit funny story, because I was just exploring things on my phone, some new features, some settings, you know what I can do? And I came across the theme store. And the very first thing I realized there that it's not all these themes, they're not created by Samsung Electronics itself, I mean by the local people. So there are all different designers from all over the world. And when I found that out at home, I can do the same, I need to give it a try. So then I just googled how to create themes for Samsung Galaxy phones. And that brought me to the page where everyone can register for the program. Sure.

Tony Morelan 07:14

So how many years ago was that?

Olga Gabay 07:16

Sorry, something years ago? First, it took me about two months to create my portfolio actually, then the review? You know, it's a long process.

Tony Morelan 07:23

Yes, the review team gets a lot of applications. Yes, I know. Super excited that you were selected and that you've become one of the top designers for Samsung is theme designing? Is this your full-time job? Or do you do other design projects.

Olga Gabay 07:39

Currently, it's my full-time job, I was so excited to be accepted, I just started creating one thing after another at first it was mostly wallpapers, then themes, you know, you also need to do a lot of other things like searching for the images that you are going to use. Sometimes it takes a lot of time to find the appropriate images that you want to use in the in the other thing is social media promotion, takes tons of time, yes, registering the application, all these keywords, translating them in other languages and verifying the language because you cannot simply put like translate from English to Chinese. Yeah, you need to check if your translation is correct. So the context is still the same. And yes, it takes a lot of time.

Tony Morelan 08:22

So that's interesting what you said as far as translating for different languages, because I know that you have that opportunity when you're publishing your app to go in, in what's called add a language, if you don't add a language than English is just the default language for your theme. Meaning that regardless of what country a user is, in, when they actually look at your theme for sale, they're having to read it in English. So you are taking that extra step and correct where you are selecting to add a language and then putting in translation so that users from around the world will actually see your text in their native language, correct?

Olga Gabay 08:56

Yeah, because I found out that many users, they do their search with their local language. On the other hand, there are one major issue. First of all, you cannot translate in all the languages, you can select the few most common ones. Yes. And the second issue, as I just mentioned, it's you need to be sure that the context is correct. Because you know, like Google translator or university context, sometimes they still can be misleading you cannot always trust them. So then how do you gain confidence that what you're translating is correct. Well, I only have issues with Chinese Korean language and you know, Chinese language is mandatory there because if you don't have Chinese translation, your product won't be on the Chinese market. Yes, Korean language again, due to the huge amount of buyers in Korea. So all I can do is just put the translation of the Google and check if the image is matching the word so if the result will be similar to what I expect to see. So in Chinese I recently translated the word pink color, okay, but the Chinese it to be translated as a cream Oh, and that's something you don't want to do. Because when you put this translation in that image search, you receive exactly the cream like cakes and Oh, interesting. Yeah, or for instance, the word spring, it will give you spring like a piece of metal.

Tony Morelan 10:14

Yes, like a bouncing spring. Okay. So I see what you're doing. So you're taking the translated words, and then sort of cross referencing them in Google to just make sure that they are pulling up imagery that matches it. So you know that yeah, that it has translated it correctly? Yeah. So let me go back and ask you, you had said that the name of your company is zero studios, that that's spelled ZE are you? Is that correct?

Olga Gabay 10:39

Yes. Correct.

Tony Morelan 10:39

Yeah. How did you come up with that name? Is there a meaning behind that?

Olga Gabay 10:42

already internet years, I use the name zero as my nickname. And it means a sky in Basque language. I just wanted to have a nickname something related to Sky. I don't know why it was just kind of mode. And then I just borrowed my own nickname to name the studio, because, you know, it's actually was quite quick decision. I just needed to use something funny.

Tony Morelan 11:05

So you had mentioned that there are a few other people that work with you, but they don't do design? Where are they assisting you?

Olga Gabay 11:10

Yep. The Social Media Marketing, because you know, it's a routine job when you need to repeatedly for instance, copy paste tags, yes, like scheduled posts, when you need to follow people, but it takes a lot of time. So that's why I need to save. And the second person is making this some registrations and updates, updating applications. For instance, recently, I needed to change prices. And because different countries, different abilities to pay, right, so we cannot put the same price for United States, for India and for I don't know, like Africa, for instance. Right? We need to adjust them accordingly. So like, depending on how much people can afford, every product should be changed manually.

Tony Morelan 11:56

Yeah. So you're coming up with a custom pricing approach, depending on different countries?

Olga Gabay 12:02

Yeah, that's an incredibly difficult job. What I could do is just to hire someone to change his prices.

Tony Morelan 12:09

I see. I see. So we've talked a lot about themes, but are you designing also, wallpapers, AOD? icons? Yes,

Olga Gabay 12:17

I designed everything. So all four section like themes, wallpapers, say, always on display images and icons. And because I have a huge amount of wallpapers, and LDS, that creates actually a big number of products in my store. So exactly, it would be 1650, something like this.

Tony Morelan 12:40

Wow. So I can see where you would need help with this managing.

Olga Gabay 12:46

So yeah, exactly. Because if it was just a few hundreds of them, it was fine. But you know, well, okay, there are also a lot of free products. But still, there are still hundreds of products to be changed manually.

Tony Morelan 13:00

So let's talk about that for a moment. Because that always is a good topic of discussion. And that is this whole free approach. So give me your insight, you know, how are you utilizing the ability to offer free wallpapers free themes?

Olga Gabay 13:14

Well, I will say my approach is just to take into account the people who cannot pay for the products, of course, it's mostly wallpapers again, simply because you know, it takes just a little job to do them because some wallpapers I create from scratch, but still majority are modified stock images. So you just recall or in them like recomposing them, but just a little, you know, it's not like really a long, difficult work. But I have approximately 10% of my themes are free. And some of them, it took many, many hours to create. And still I was willing to release them for free. Because like I said, the people who cannot buy mostly this, it's a conscious that don't have access to the paid content in the store. Because we have a huge section of this country's especially in Africa, Asia, like small island countries, they don't have an atoll, right?

Tony Morelan 14:06

Yes, that's a great approach. I mean, I often tell designers that you know, you can utilize the free aspect of the galaxy store, but you do need to limit it so that you don't want to just be giving away all of your content, where you know, your fanbase is just expecting to get free. I mean, you can use it as a way to broaden your brand. But so you said at about 10% of your apps are free, meaning that the remaining 90% are paid, correct?

Olga Gabay 14:34

Yes, but it's only related to themes for wallpapers and LDS, the percentage of free content is higher, okay. It can be up to 30% because you know, it's kind of compromise if the person cannot or don't want a want to buy the theme, at least maybe this person can be satisfied with just the wallpaper.

Tony Morelan 14:55

So let's talk about your imagery, because I think that is one thing that stands out the most I mean, you do this this collaging. You've talked a bit about how sometimes you're utilizing your own photography, but you also are licensing stock photography. Yes. Tell me a little bit about that approach.

Olga Gabay 15:13

Again, in the very beginning, I was only using my own images. And it was actually helpful because when I was creating my portfolio, I didn't want any conflict in situations, but the review team, so they wouldn't say, okay, like, we're not sure if this image is ever belong to you. So I made sure I use only my own images just to show my capabilities, so that I can use my own photography or my own artworks. But of course, later on, I started to utilize stock images simply because it's impossible for one person again, to create everything on their own right? Because you cannot be illustrators 3d designer, videographer and everything. So I started introducing stock images. And the most difficult part, as we all know, you know, it's is licensing because first of all, there is no clear border between modified image and non-modified image. Because of course, if you're doing a complex collage, that's obvious, but if you change just a little, you cannot always say for sure whether it's good to be using the theme or not, that's actually the open question. And I know that many designers, they keep asking it. So my approach is to use different stocks for that the photobank that has soft agreement likes kind of, oh, you can, you can use it, but just make sure you modify the just a little and the amount of your downloads is not too high, it just doesn't exceed certain number. But there are also some stocks with harder restrictions, then you want to make sure you don't go with this image. Aziz,

Tony Morelan 16:41

you had mentioned that when you first apply to become a themes designer that you made certain that all of the artwork shown in your comp designs, was truly your own artwork. And I just want to mention that yes, that is a requirement that for those that are applying to become a themes designer, you must use 100% all original artwork, you cannot use stock imagery. And just to repeat, when you are publishing themes. If you are using stock photography, you must you must make sure that you have the proper license in place for distributing certain imagery like that. Great to see that you are making that an important asset to your theme. Thank you. So let's talk a bit about your workflow and the software you use to create your themes and wallpapers. What's your what's your first step?

Olga Gabay 17:28

Okay, first step, I need to get some inspiration. Normally, I don't need to do anything special for it. Because in your normal life, when you observe some scenes or 3d or you're watching nice landscapes on Instagram, or some other people art works on Pinterest, you already like I use you see it and you think oh, here is some inspiration for a new theme. And most often I get an influence from the music that I listen to that actually a majority of my themes, they based on the picture that that I create in my head by listening to something to some music, that's very interesting.

Tony Morelan 18:05

I love hearing that. It's funny, because when I see a lot of your theme designs, they inspire an emotion and that emotion can definitely be conveyed, you know, through music so interesting that it's kind of reverse in the same state. What music you're inspired by at that moment is what helps you in your mind, think of what would that theme be?

Olga Gabay 18:26

Yes, exactly. So you can actually see this picture in your head while you see hear the sound. And even I have a few themes that started with a ringtone. So I don't know if you noticed, I have many of my themes, actually majority of my themes. They have customized sounds, yes. And here's the thing, some of the themes. It's when I hear that beautiful piece on there in the sound bank, and I like wow, that's a perfect ringtone. Now, I need to make a picture for this ringtone. That's funny, but you know, it's like that the old way reverse way to do things. But yes, it's also a source of inspiration.

Tony Morelan 19:06

So that's really interesting that you say that because this past year, you actually won the Best of Galaxy Store Award for Best Innovative Theme. And when I saw your theme nominated, that's what stood out. When I heard the ring tones. I thought wow, this is really capturing the essence of the theme titled dark warrior. So let's talk a little bit about that. How did you first learn that you were winning? The Best Innovative Theme for Best of Galaxy Store Awards? 2020.

Olga Gabay 19:35

Yes, I will justify it and I didn't expect that to be honest.

Tony Morelan 19:40

So have you leveraged? You know, the fact that you won this award?

Olga Gabay 19:44

Well, it just inspired me to create more themes of that would contain something different or for that I reserved the store market regularly just to check what other designers do and trying to figure out what they didn't Try to apply in their themes. So something that can be sort of unique element, we all want to be unique and something right because we want to be distinct, not just fluid, the store with the same kind of themes.

Tony Morelan 20:15

Yes. So what was unique with this year's award show was that because of the pandemic, we were not able to have an in-person event. So then everything was online. For those of you that haven't seen it, go check out on YouTube, we have our best of galaxy store awards for 2020. Olga wins the best innovative theme Award for her theme, dark warrior. I actually had the honor of helping Olga create the trailer video, when we announce who won the award and what it was for. We play a quick little 32nd clips to help the viewers see what this theme was, that was a blast for me to take your theme and the essence that you've created and tried to bring that to film, I was able to, you know, have some fun doing some voiceover work, I had a colleague of mine help with myself, where we both did the voice that is heard overlaid on top of the video and doing the motion behind it. So I actually had a blast working on that trailer for your dark warrior theme.

Olga Gabay 21:14

And it was a fantastic job of you actually, because I was I was like so much surprised. And it was really amazing, you know?

Tony Morelan 21:22

Yeah, so that was definitely go check out the video on YouTube, you can jump ahead to when Olga wins the award and take a look at that. It really it was definitely a highlight for me working on that on the theme boards project. So let's go back even a little bit further. You actually came out to SDC19 to San Jose, correct?

Olga Gabay 21:44

Yes, correct.

Tony Morelan 21:45

Yeah, that's when I first met you. So tell me about that experience? What was that like to fly down to San Jose and get to meet not only the people at Samsung, but I'm sure you had the opportunity to meet a lot of the other developers that were there at the event.

Olga Gabay 21:58

Actually, I can tell straight It was my best experience of this year, as the best event I ever attended the last few years probably or even more, it was actually very exciting. Because not only I could meet people in the real life, make new connections. But I learned a lot. I attended your seminar on designing watch face.

Tony Morelan 22:19

So the seminar that you're referring to was that the one that I had the comedian up on stage with me, and we were working with the audience. Yeah. Yeah, that was a lot of fun. Yeah, we actually brought in a professional comedian. And together, we were able to get the audience to help us Inspire to create a watch this. And that was a quite a fun event.

Olga Gabay 22:41

Yeah, absolutely.

Tony Morelan 22:44

Unfortunately, this year, we were not able to have a live event because of the pandemic. Can you tell me how the pandemic has affected you in your work?

Olga Gabay 22:53

Honestly, it wasn't affected at all, because I just keep doing my things. And even my sales were not affected. Surprisingly, you know, I actually was I was prepared for the worst, but it didn't happen. And I would say it, it was rather beneficial, because I spent more time staying home. And that gave me opportunity to learn more, you know, now I can see I improve my skills. Because if not, I would probably spend this time more thinking outside with people like this. That's true.

Tony Morelan 23:27

And you know what, you're not the first developer who has told me that, you know, due to the pandemic, more people were on their devices, they were at home, we saw a definite uptick in the use of devices, which meant that more people were downloading themes and wallpapers, but likewise, more developers were stuck at home and so they had more time to really work on their marketing their designs just really building their brand so we did see some success stories come out of this you know, unfortunate pandemic that we've all been in. So what is in the future for Olga Gabay and Zero Studios.

Olga Gabay 24:11

So I'm planning to introduce in more of my own artwork like the same as I did in the very beginning, and to be unique.

Tony Morelan 24:18

So let's talk about some of the other designers so who out there in the Samsung Galaxy store inspires you

Olga Gabay 24:24

I will say the theme designers are a Sebastian Ward cabbage and air design.

Tony Morelan 24:29

Yes, both are great designers. If you want to find them on the Galaxy store Sebastian Wolodkiewicz is SW designs. That's the letter S and the letter W. And Aire Designs is spelled A i r e designs. Yeah, I love all of their themes.

Olga Gabay 24:45

In my opinion. That's how that perfect theme should look like in terms of interface and usability. So something that looks comfortable for the eyes with good looking icons. And what I love about these two designers, they always have good choice of colors. Other icons are clear, readable. They don't use color combination that

Tony Morelan 25:04

hurt your eyes. When I teach classes, I remind the students if it takes somebody, you know, a few seconds to actually figure out what that icon is, then you failed. So yeah, so color, simplicity, when it comes to icons, those are all extremely important. So when you're not designing themes, what do you like to do for fun?

Olga Gabay 25:24

First of all, I prefer to spend time outside, especially, and the nature and I stick to the active lifestyle. So I love all kinds of alternative workouts that can be performed outside of the gyms, and also, it's traveling and mostly traveling. So I have visited many different countries and cities, and I love to do travel photography. And then I also sell some disk images on photo banks. And that's kind of, I will say, hobby or side hustle, what I enjoyed. That's great. That's great. So not only are you utilizing stock imagery by purchasing the license to use them in your work, but you also are taking your photos and putting them out there for other people to you. So

Tony Morelan 26:07

that that's great. Yes, exactly. Well, Olga, thank you very much for being on the podcast. I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with me. It's been, it's been a lot of fun.

Olga Gabay 26:17

Thank you very much to me for this opportunity. I really enjoyed this chat.

Closing 26:21

Looking to start creating for Samsung, download the latest tools to code your next app, or get software for designing apps without coding at all. Sell your apps to the world on the Samsung Galaxy store. Check out today and start your journey with Samsung.

The POW! podcast is brought to you by the Samsung Developer Program and produced by Tony Morelan.