When you lose the Passion for what you do, you lose the Drive. When you lose the Drive, everything else crumbles. Stay Passionate. Stay Humble. Never stop learning. Always be willing admit when you're wrong.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
Rally Interactive started in 2011 as a partnership between Ben Cline (the designer), Wes Pearce (the hacker), and Thomas Cooke (the hustler). In early 2012, we hired Adam Luptak as a Sr. Developer. For the purpose of this interview, we thought we'd mix it up a little, and take turns with the question-answering. Hope that's ok.
What do you do for inspiration?
Ben: I don't have a rigid method for finding inspiration. Exercise allows the mind to wander in a relaxed state which is great for creativity. Think like a child and question everything. Ask "Why?" Listen and think through other people's ideas even if you don't initially agree with them. You may realize they were actually right and you were wrong. Give up on trying to be completely original. Instead, force yourself to take concepts you find inspiring and change them. In the process of borrowing other ideas and changing them, you might stumble upon a new way of looking at the problem.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
Ben: I think I can speak on behalf of 'The Hacker' and 'The Hustler' that starting our own company has been one our biggest achievements to date. Rally is less than a year and a half old and we've already formed many great memories working with great people on great projects. The drive and passion to make unique and useful interactive experiences are what get us excited every morning.
How many hours do you work each week?
Wes: It varies week to week depending on deadlines. During crunch time we'll work 80 hours a week. Other times there isn't much going on, and we definitely don't hang around the office.
How do you relax or unwind?
Ben: Ski, bike, or travel. The most important thing is to get away from the computer and enjoy the world around you.
What's the longest you've ever stayed up working on a project?
Ben: I've pulled all-nighters before. They are never fun and should be avoided at all costs.
Adam: Was once in the office for 30+ hours straight. It's a terrible idea: there's a diminishing-returns thing that kicks in with a vengeance after about 12 hours, so we try to manage our deadlines and pace ourselves so we don't feel the need for Herculean last-minute efforts.
How many projects does your company juggle at any one time?
Wes: There's always some juggling involved, but we typically focus on one project at a time. That's partly because we're small, and partly because we're obsessive. It's risky–we have to choose our projects carefully–but it works for us.
In terms of software, is there anything new you have been playing with lately or that has impressed you?
Ben: The Paper app for iPad. The FiftyThree team took something (drawing / painting / sketching) that people have been doing for thousands of years and built a near flawless mobile app for it.
Adam: It's not real new, but Strava sticks out for me as an app/platform that is brilliant, and was hard to imagine just a few years ago. Tap a button to start recording, go for a bike ride like you normally would, and just stop the recording to get stats and compare your ride against other people on the same paths – it's great.
Who is your target audience?
Ben: Anyone who uses or wants to use a digital product on any platform to help them enhance their lives.
When dealing with major clients, how difficult is it to meet the needs of such wide target audiences?
Wes: You need an idea that appeals to a wide target audience to begin with. No amount of tacked-on features or flashy animations will compensate for a poor concept. We try to educate our clients and help them understand that a narrow set of features executed well is the ticket to success.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
Adam: As a twelve-year-old, I built a fan site for a computer game series. Loads of animated GIFs, different fonts, all styling hardcoded into the HTML. Still online? Oh hell no.
Are there things you do OUTSIDE of work to ensure that you are in the right mindset to be creative and/or successful in whatever you are doing?
Thomas: it's imperative to us that we we do things not just outside of work, but OUTSIDE. That's one of the reasons we are based in Utah. Everyone at Rally has an active lifestyle, whether that is cycling, skiing/snowboarding, fishing, whatever. It's not so important that we do all these things together, but just to get out on a regular basis; together, individually, or with our families. The hard part is making sure everyone remembers why we are doing this. Work to live, not live to work.
Looking 10 years in to the future, how far can websites go?
Wes: the traditional website built for desktop users is almost an afterthought already. Mobile websites will begin to take better advantage of the hardware they're using, and I expect mobile web applications and native applications to become fairly indistinguishable.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
Adam: Yes, but not in the way we know it. Flash's place as the advertising world's favorite tool is arguable already gone. Web video, which I think was really responsible for Flash's ubiquity, is already moving swiftly away from Flash, and will continue to if standards bodies can come up with better ways for rights-holders to protect their content. However, the more niche markets - particularly casual game development - will continue to rely on plug-ins like Flash and Unity for some time.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
Adam: Yes, but it's a major disadvantage. I was fortunate enough to graduate from the New Media Design & Imaging program at Rochester Institute of Technology, and the sheer amount of exposure to technology and creative rigor that it provided was invaluable. That being said, communities like dribbble.com allow folks who are really driven to network, follow killer work, and improve their game.
If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?
Adam: Surround yourself with people who are better than you. If you're a big fish in a small pond, there's not much room left to grow. Never be satisfied; never think that it couldn't be better. Polish polish polish.
How difficult do you find employing the right people in a world where everyone calls themselves a web designer?
Wes: Everyone is pinched for talent right now. The pressure to 'staff up' for a lucrative project is overwhelming sometimes, but we're dedicated to preserving our culture and the quality of our work.
What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?
Thomas: It would be different for all us, and it would depend a little bit on where we were going, I suppose. A motorcycle is not a bad way to get out and see the world. You notice different stuff when you are exposed to elements on a motorcycle. My BMW F800 GS is pretty close to being my ultimate vehicle.
Adam: Not really a dream vehicle, but we love our bicycles at Rally. Tastes differ — road, mountain, cross. We're super fortunate to be able to get from the office to up in the canyons on our bikes in 15 minutes.
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
Thomas: Our company is really just getting started, although we have all been in the digital agency world for a while. One of the most effective ways to get new clients is to always do the best work possible. Make the next project better than the last one. That's what seems to bring the inquiries in. And avoiding potential new clients who want marginal work is huge too. They are out there.
How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?
Wes: We follow our peers in the industry on twitter and dribbble, and it seems like we're always hearing about the next awesome thing that way.
There must be a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?
Ben: Our dream project would be actually building some digital products for ourselves. It seems to be a trend for creative studios to have this same vision. However, the product-based thought process is inherent in the work we create for clients. Our focus isn't trying to create the next big digital campaign but rather build useful, intuitive, and innovative products for our clients.
What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?
Ben: I actually purchased a new road bike. It's a Specialized Tarmac Pro. Meanwhile, my car has been collecting dust with a dead battery for the past month. I've got my priorities straight.
Adam: Not a single item, but a single purchase: I just finished my first Ironman last weekend (Ironman St. George), so I dropped a pretty penny on Ironman gear the day after.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
Ben: When you lose the Passion for what you do, you lose the Drive. When you lose the Drive, everything else crumbles. Stay Passionate. Stay Humble. Never stop learning. Always be willing admit when you're wrong.
It has been a privilege, thanks very much
Thomas, Ben, Wes and Adam: Thanks for the opportunity!