John and Dave Peele

2 comments | Posted: 26 February 06 in Interviews, by Yannick Lyn Fatt

Rockbeatspaper is a design consultancy founded by John and Dave Peele. We have seen some of their wonderful work featured here at Godbit and I thought it would be wonderful to find out a bit more about them and what they do.

Yannick:

John and Dave, it is certainly a pleasure to be interviewing you both. Could you give us the story behind the name Rockbeatspaper?

John:

Hehe, that is something that we get asked a bunch. As Dave and I were in the beginning stages of formally structuring and naming the company we had one thought in mind the whole time: “Web design… the way it should be”. I had been in the industry for almost 8 years at the time and I had seen a lot of great stuff and a lot of no-so-great stuff being done. We weren’t banging anyone else’s way of approaching web design, it was just that we wanted to stay focused on being true to ourselves and our clients and not repeating the mistakes of the past in a rush to start our company. So then we asked each other what were some things that were one way but that should really be another way, ie Jumbo Shrimp. Out of the blue we kinda both blurted out “rock paper scissors”, but then realized that it didn’t match our criteria, so we skipped it. Then it came back up again in conversation after about a 1000 other concepts crashed-n-burned. Yada, yada, yada, an hour later we said Rockbeatspaper. In reality rock does not beat paper, paper beats rock. But that is not how it “should” be. So there you have it, rock SHOULD beat paper. I mean c’mon… rock is going to punch right through that flimsy sheet of paper. Total domination.

Dave:

When John and I were talking about forming our company, we were thinking about what would distinguish us from the majority of the competition and we kept coming back to simply doing web design “The Way It Should Be” done. So that actually became our tagline on our business cards and our first site. We threw out the name Rockbeatspaper during a brainstorming session and we could not forget it. We know that rock doesn’t beat paper, but we think it should!! So it comes back to the fact that we are different because we believe in doing things the way they should be done. It also sticks in new clients’ minds when they come across us and is always a conversation starter.

Yannick:

LOL I agree with you both, rock should beat paper but I guess the game wouldn’t quite work the way it should if it was that was the case. On your website you mention that “Rockbeatspaper is a relationship-driven design consultancy…” How important would you say it is to build a strong relationship with your clients?

John:

Everything we do is hinged on our relationships with our clients, our peers and each other. We want to model our beliefs through our actions as opposed to talking the talk and then walking a different way. If your clients get the feeling that you are not going to be around when things get hairy then they are much less likely to engage you in the first place. Clients want to know that you are on THEIR team and not some fly-by-night operation. We also want to be doing repeat business with our clients, so that means that we better know them and how their business operates. It allows us to go in and make recommendations for improvements that they might not have even been considering. No template designer is going to be able to offer that kind of service.

Dave:

We feel that is very important in this industry to build a relationship with your clients. Too many web design firms have that “complete your project and move on” feel to them, and we did not want that. We feel that building a relationship with our clients is important to truly understanding their business needs and goals, which is necessary in helping them accomplish their goals. We want customers to know that we are dedicated to the success of their business and will be there for them in the future.

It is also good to build a relationship with our clients in order to live our lives in front of them. Not all our clients are Christians and we believe it is important to be a positive influence on people whenever you get the chance. If we could be a part of leading someone to Christ by doing business with them, then that is worth all the money in the world!

Yannick:

Natalie Jost recently wrote a series (Part 1 and Part 2) on sharing our faith with our clients titled “Faith and Freelance.” Have you been able to do that much with your Non-Christian clients? And if so what have been some of their responses?

John:

Opportunities to verbally share our faith have not come up, yet. But I believe Natalie’s observations are totally on point. Dave and I have always agreed to a conscious decision not to mask or shy away from our love for our Father. And at the same time we have agreed that we would not wave the “we are a Christian company, so we’re special” flag. We don’t like that label, Christian company. Just like Natalie’s opening statement about a spiritual life, we don’t believe that we are businessmen from 9-5 and then Christians for the rest of the time. So yes, we absolutely strive to live out our faith in front of our clients, we strive for integrity, we do what we say, we strive for an honest and fair pricing structure, etc. We don’t wear cross necklaces or t-shirts that say “God’s Gym: Bench Press This” (not that there’s anything wrong with that…for all my Seinfeld peeps). We look like normal guys that serve an un-normal God. We are very obvious in our portfolio listing that we do a lot of work for churches and their ministries, and we have received some comments relating to that fact. “Do you do work for anyone other than churches?” “Do you do work for ‘businesses’?” As if… And it is in those moments that we do have an opportunity to share why we do so much work for churches. We’ll keep you posted on our progress with this.

Dave:

Great articles!!! We have not went straight to any of our clients and said “Let me tell you about Jesus”, but we are very open about our faith and are determined to live our Christian lives in front of our clients no matter what the cost. As I said earlier, I personally feel like one of the best methods of witnessing to people, is to simply live your life in front of them. Let people see the “pep” in your life, they will wonder what causes you to be that way, and often times they will come to you and ask. Then half the battle is over and you tell them what Jesus has done for them.

Yannick:

Your team is small, 2 people strong. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages you have found of working in such a small team? And would you recommend it?

John:

2 people strong… That sounds funny when I say it. I think the advantages are obvious for us: we are quick to respond to client requests, we are the account managers and the ones building the sites so there are no communication delays, we don’t have a lot of overhead so that keeps our prices down, decisions get made quickly and we don’t have to worry about office politics. The disadvantages are that we are sometimes perceived as a “small” operation unable to handle larger corporate accounts. A kind of mixed blessing is that we can’t do a huge amount of work at one time. Our ability to shoulder multiple projects is sometimes limiting, but we have found ways to work that to our advantage. We take on fewer “quality” jobs as opposed to taking a quantity approach.

And yes, I would recommend it. If you are considering starting a business, I believe it is really the only way to do it unless you have a rich uncle willing to fund you for the first year.

Dave:

The advantages are being very nimble and able to act quickly. This especially comes in handy when going after new business and getting projects completed in a timely manner. We make decisions very quickly and move forward. Not much “analysis paralysis” to overcome with only 2 people making decisions.

The main disadvantage is becoming very busy and our development schedule becoming overwhelming. There are only so many hours in the week between 2 married men (1 with kids), and we find ourselves pushing it to the max very often. We do have a network of freelance designers and developers that we tap into from time to time and will probably be expanding our full-time staff within the next year if things keep progressing like they have.

We would recommend a small team when starting a company because it just seems to make things easier. Not a lot of egos to get in the way of the main business goals. Everyone must have clearly defined roles and you must know when and be willing to expand in order to grow your business.

Yannick:

We have about 5 people on our team where I work and I can definitely identify with some of the advantages and disadvantages you have both mentioned. RBP has done some fantastic websites. I’m especially fond of one in particular. Tell us about what went into the redesign of Christian City Church Greensboro.

John:

I am actually connected to Greensboro as a member. Our Pastor’s vision for the new site was to capture what was happening on the inside and bring that to the world outside. He wanted life, vibrancy and pictures! Lots of pictures of normal, everyday looking people, not poorly taken candids of the congregation. RBP wanted the site to be a destination, a place that people would enjoy visiting again and again. So we became very content focused and wanted the design to get out of the way and let that happen. So we calmed the colors down and simplified the layout from the previous site. Putting the times and directions up front has been a huge hit, and direct access to audio and video has also made many people come back for more. RBP is very pleased with the end product, not because of it’s design or programming, but because it is actually getting used to bring people into God’s house.

Dave:

I think the Greensboro site is one of our best examples of great user interface design. When the church came to us wanting a redesign, we used the opportunity to really address how the site was used by members and visitors. We left “no stone unturned” in planning for the redesign and the result was a great informational resource.

Yannick:

It is definitely apparent that a lot of careful planning and attention to detail went into it. Well done! Your own website recently went through a redesign, what were the goals for the redesign and what made you decide to take out the paintbrush and splash some colour?

John:

Our first site was a one-pager that had a grayscale palette. It was done in response to just forming the company and the need to put a site up quickly. But we were still very happy with the result. We try to NEVER release work that we are not happy with. The first year flew by and the site remained the same. So when we finally made the time to redesign it we said that we wanted it to be more of an information source and let people have a peek behind the curtain with the introduction of a blog. Blogging is hard by the way. We are working hard to adjust to the mindset of being authors as opposed to readers of other blogs.

The color was my idea. I honestly wanted it to stick out like a sore thumb. It is easy sometimes to look at what others are doing and use that as your design departure point. But for the new site I wanted to produce something that I hadn’t personally seen anywhere else. I wanted it to be unmistakable and bold, maybe even a bit “wrong”. I think I nailed it, but it will get changed soon. Gotta love that CSS

Dave:

We had a simple one-page site to begin with that we loved, but grew out of. With our redesign, we wanted to give people more information about us and our services. It was important to better showcase our work and get our opinions out to people, while welcoming theirs, within our blog.

The splash of color came from wanting to do something completely opposite of what we previously had!!!

Yannick:

It certainly was quite a change from the old and I definitely liked the colours chosen. John you are the designer, do you have any tips for those of us who are aspiring designers? Dave you are the code warrior, do you have any tips for aspiring programmers?

John:

My number one tip is to draw your inspiration for web design from everywhere but the web. Music, art, photography and furniture as my sources of inspiration. Then I try to combine what I get from those places and combine them with the interface designs that I see on the web. Get away from your computer! Our God is very creative and He has given us countless sources for inspiration. Learn to tap into creation as a source and draw from the greatest Designer that the universe has ever known.

Dave:

For aspiring programmers, get very comfortable with the basics – XHTML, CSS, PHP, MySql, etc. Be a “sponge” and soak up as much knowledge as possible about new techniques and new programming languages coming to the forefront, like Rails and Ruby. You will never reach the point where you have learned everything about programming.

For those interested in making a career out of it, make sure it is something you enjoy and are passionate about. I imagine that my job would be horrible if I did not enjoy making things work. So as with most things, love what you do!!

Yannick:

Thanks for the tips. Indeed God is the greatest designer in the universe and I agree that doing something you aren’t passionate about surely isn’t going to be fun. You have a new service called ““Shrink Wrap”:http://www.tidypackage.com/.” What gave you guys the idea to do this? And how has it been going so far?

John:

We had so many clients coming to us saying that they could produce the design files, but didn’t know, or didn’t want to learn, where to begin building the site. So we saw the opportunity to get a little niche going and service these traditional “print” designers who wanted to offer websites to their clients. We wanted to package everything up and take all the guesswork out of the process, hence the name. That way they could just engage us and then know everything would be taken care of. We even fixed the price so that they would not have to get a formal estimate from us. So we build everything from their template files and even give them a Textpattern installation and training for managing the site in the future. It is starting to get recognition. So tell all your friends to come and get Shrinkwrap-ped! * end shameless plug *

Dave:

We wanted to offer a service to designers that want to offer web design to their clients, but don’t have the time or energy to learn any programming. So we decided to take the hard stuff out of the equation and offer a portion of our services for fixed prices allowing designers to be able to quote to their clients quickly without even contacting us. Let them do what they are good at, while we do what we are good at.

We have not been able to market it how we would like, but we are getting the word out and everyone is very excited about the opportunity this new service offers them. We have already completed a few projects within this service, so things are going good with it.

Yannick:

Would you mind sharing your testimonies?

John:

Love to… I was very successful in this business early on. New wife, new house, new Lexus, the works. I was chasing money and materialism like some sort of junkie. I was definitely into keeping up with the Jones’ (who are they anyway?). I had grown up in church somewhat, but I was totally clueless on who Jesus really was. I believed in God, but I had never even realized the sacrifice that He had made for me. So when I got let go from my last job (I was moonlighting on the side to make even more money than I was already getting paid!) I began to take a serious look at my life up until that point. I had always told myself that God loves me and I can come to Him anytime. I kept waiting for the time when I had my “act together” because I thought that I had to be a good boy before I could get saved. I thought that salvation was 50% me and 50% God.

Only after losing my job and hitting rock bottom was I able to realize the truth of God’s love, what Jesus had done for me and that there was nothing that I could do to make God love me any more or any less. So a friend invited me to a new church that had just started in the area. It was a “contemporary” non-denominational church with a band and a projector with the words and used drama to play out spiritual object lessons. I had never experienced anything like it before. Who knew that being a Christian could be so exciting and yet so real at the same time. It was amazing, I began falling in love with Jesus and soon gave my life to him. I knew that He could give the strength to live that I had spent years trying to find on my own. Grace became real to me and redemption took on a whole new meaning. Now, learning to live my life for someone and something bigger than myself is the biggest adventure I have ever known.

Dave:

Thanks to my family, I was taught about God and Jesus at an early age. I always believed what I was taught, but never really understood what it required of me. I did not spend a lot of time in church in my early years and found myself wrestling with “religion” and the difference between what I saw “church folk” say and do. Because of this, I created a gap between myself, God and what he had for me.

I did my fair share of wrong things in my life, but always considered myself to be a “good” person. After college in 2001, I got connected with a great church and begin to understand that being a Christian was not about “religion”, but was about a relationship with God and Jesus. It became clear to me then that being a “good” person was not going to cut it and that I had to live up to God’s standard in order to receive everything that he desired for me in my life.

I realized that it was Jesus who had carried me through everything I had faced in life and gave my life to God at that point. I am still very early in my walk, but it has completely changed my life and God has been so wonderful to me.

Yannick:

Anything else you would like to add before we close? World Cup predictions maybe?

John:

Just want to say thanks for the opportunity to speak with you guys, I have taken up enough space already! World cup?! Yeah, Dave and I both have grown up playing soccer and I am with him… USA – 2, Brazil – 1

Dave:

No, I think that is it.
USA 2 – Brazil 1

Yannick:

Thank you both for doing this interview. May the Lord Bless you and your families and bring great success to you in the future.

Discuss This Topic

  1. 1 Nathan Smith

    John: Before hearing the explanation of your company name, I always pictured it as a sort of youth / vitality vs. corporate mentality. Meaning, Rock music beats Paper-pushing. Of course, I realized the reference to the rock, paper, scissor game too. Anyway, I love your work and the name, great stuff!

     
  2. 2 John Peele

    Nathan: Yeah, I wish we had some cool counter-culture background story for our name. We did say to each other once that maybe Jesus could be the “Rock” in our name and “paper” could be something evil or bad, but that seemed a bit overzealous. What do ya think about that angle?

     

Comments closed after 2 weeks.