Interview with Designers: Rally Interactive
I’m sure you have seen Rally Interactive’s amazing work on one inspiration glary if not another. Their work has provided me personally with so much inspiration and motivation, I had to get to know their way of going about design. And that is exactly what I did in this interview.
Please enjoy the wonderful insight that the tree founders – Thomas Cooke, Ben Cline and Wes Pearce – shared with me about how they see the design world.
Please tell us a bit about what Rally Interactive is all about.
Rally Interactive is all about building great digital products. We really can’t say more than that, or it starts to get messy and sound like some sort of manifesto! But we don’t have a manifesto. We just tell people we are a product development studio, not a production house.
- Thomas Cooke -
Why did you decide to start this firm?
There are a few reasons why we started Rally about 2 and a half years ago. Ben, Wes, and myself had been working together at a small shop doing a lot of agency production jobs. We enjoyed working together, but didn’t always enjoy the work. Late nights are always a given in this industry, but when we found ourselves putting in huge hours making things that really didn’t serve any purpose other than to sell more soft drinks and bags of chips, and line the pockets of someone else, we felt we could team up to accomplish more. It’s a pretty classic tale in the business, and it starts with us trying different things for more or less selfish reasons.
- Ben Cline -
What makes Rally interactive unique?
I think what makes us unique is our desire to stay small and focused. A lot of people have been asking us lately why we don’t grow and build a bigger team to take on more projects. We’re still experimenting with how we can grow responsibly, but it’s not an endgame of ours to build a big agency. It’s still about building great products.
How do all three of your different expertise help shape Rally Interactive’ success?
Early on, when Rally was pretty much just the three founders, we borrowed a description of the ideal digital team that Ben had stumbled on in a Quora article, which said something to the effect that you need a Designer, a Hacker, and a Hustler, and not much more than that. Ben was the designer, Wes was the Hacker, and Thomas was the Hustler. It worked pretty well for a while. We’ve grown a little tired of that, but I think it sums up the formula pretty well. Now we are more focused on working with our small but growing team and building a culture.
- Wes Pearce -
What has been the biggest challenge in making Rally Interactive happen?
It’s almost impossible to pinpoint the biggest challenge in starting Rally. There have been countless little big challenges along the way. Rally Interactive is a technology company and therefore needs to be constantly evolving. Rally hasn’t “happened” yet. It is still “happening”.
Your company has worked with big name clients?
How exciting was that? It has been exciting to work with some big brands like National Geographic. I remember Wes saying how gratifying it was after the National Parks by National Geographic iOS app launched to hear his parents say it was a product they could relate to. He didn’t have to explain what it was. Personally, when I always have Nat Geo magazines all over my house, or my daughter brings home a Nat Geo book about animals from the school library, these are constant little reminders of how fortunate we have been to work with them.
What is the philosophy at Rally Interactive?
We don’t have one philosophy, but a set of guiding principles, things we’ve picked up along the way. Don’t be jerks is one of them.
What types of projects do you enjoy working the most?
We’ve worked on all kinds of projects since we opened our doors; websites, social apps, mobile apps. Each one has had its own unique challenges and rewards. But if we had to say what we have enjoyed the most, at least lately, it’s iOS projects. Our team likes iOS because the environment is tightly controlled in terms of devices and capabilities, and because UIKit is extremely well architected, in our opinion.
Which is your definition of a great client?
A great client is also a brave client. Brave clients hire us to do great work, even if that means stepping outside of their comfort zone and allowing us to take calculated risks in delivering a product that is smart and useful. Brave clients trust our decision making. They know that great projects require open communication, criticism, and collaboration between teams. Lastly, brave clients understand that creating exceptional work requires a healthy budget and a comfortable timeline. – Ben Cline
What kind of things can we see in the future?
From a developer’s perspective, we think in the future we’ll see WebGL picking up more and more steam, now that Microsoft has announced support for WebGL in IE11. This will allow for some really fun 3D stuff that you can do in native apps, but not so much on the mobile web. In contrast to this, we keep hearing and seeing signs of a “flattening” of the web, and strong indicators that Apple will lead the charge when they unveil the new iOS.
The flat style we’re seeing is becoming more prevalent for a variety of reasons. There are several technological advantages to it. Solid colors and straight lines can reduce filesize and improve animation performance. It’s also a very challenging aesthetic from an interaction design perspective, since you have less to engage the user with visually. Overall I think the “flat” of today is a more sophisticated flat than we’ve seen previously, and I hope it’ll stick around.
How rewarding has having your own firm proven to be?
I remember a quote somewhere that says nothing easy is worth doing. Well, getting Rally off the ground has not been easy, so I guess it was worth doing. The rewarding part is the learning process, and we are always learning.
What communication and collaboration tools do you find the most helpful?
Basecamp is our go-to collaboration tool for all of our projects.
What is the one thing you wish you’ve done differently about creating your own firm?
We’ve all made a few mistakes and not every project always realizes its full potential, but we can’t think of anything monumental we would go back and change.
What advice do you have for people thinking about starting their own studio?
There are no shortcuts. Once and a while, you’ll catch a lucky break on a project that helps you grow or gives your studio exposure. However, for the most part, you have to create your own luck. Always remember that developing a great relationship with a client is as important as the work you do for them.