In our 6th Overtime episode, Dan chats with Bill Kenney, co-founder and creative director of Focus Lab, a strategic, creative studio based out of Savannah, Georgia. In this episode, Bill shares the story of how he discovered his love for design and how Focus Lab got started.
He also shares how consistently posting to Dribbble helped Focus Lab earn nearly 1 million dollars in yearly revenue, how get your clients on board with sharing your design process on Dribbble, and how to feel about negative feedback from the designers on the internet who don’t like your work.
Dan also asks Bill about a few of his Dribbble shots. Hear the stories behind BeGLAD Branding Process, Assembly, and The New 500px.
Links Mentioned in Overtime
- Focus Lab
- Focus Lab on Dribbble
- Bill Kenney on Dribbble
- Bill Kenney on Twitter
- How Showing Our Work Intentionally Has Led to Making Millions on Medium
- Sidecar: Use coupon code “welovedribbble” for 40% off anything
- Proposals Made Easy by Focus Lab
Dan Cederholm: Hello, everyone, and welcome to Overtime. This is Dribbble’s audio companion, and this is Episode 6. Today we are interviewing Bill Kenney of Focus Lab. He’s the creative director and co-founder of Focus Lab. They’re an amazing agency based out of Savannah, Georgia and have been longtime Dribbble members as a team, and Bill has been a longtime Dribbble member. It’s really great.
We had a great conversation about his path from birth to the creation of Focus Lab as a powerhouse in the industry, and how Dribbble fit into that, and we also went behind-the-scenes of some of the shots he shared. A lot of interesting things in here. Hope you guys enjoy it. Remember to rate and/or review us on iTunes, and enjoy this Episode 6 with Bill Kenney.
Welcome to Overtime, Bill Kenney. Thank you for joining us today.
Bill Kenney: Thank you, Dan. I’m really, really excited to be here. I think it’s a longtime in the making that me and you need to talk.
Dan: Absolutely. You’ve been on Dribbble for a long time and we’ve enjoyed watching the growth of you and Focus Lab, and the success you guys have had. We’re big fans, so we were really looking forward to talking to. Now we’re finally doing it.
Bill: How far we’ve come. Not to jump too far ahead, but when I think about yes, we’ve been on Dribbble for a long time, we were not even part of the early birds, if you will, even though I think my first shot was late 2011 or ‘12. We were still not the first group of people. It was big enough where it already had some legs, and that’s the gravity and attraction. I got sucked over to that and was like I need to be in that.
Dan: We’re glad you did that. 2011 is still a long time. That’s why it feels like you guys have been there since the beginning and have covered a lot of ground over that time period. Just the growth of what you guys have built has been pretty awesome to watch. For those who might not know and might not be interested…
Bill: They might not, that’s fair.
Dan: If they’re listening they better be interested, and they will be after we’re done here. This is going to be incredible. Just tell us, I know you reside in New Jersey, correct?
Bill: Yes. I’m here not but I took a bit of a jumbled path here. Not military style, like the other people who move around a bunch. I wouldn’t say I moved around a bunch as a child, but I was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, which is near you.
Dan: It’s the next town over from me.
Bill: Famous for bad reasons, I believe, at this point. My family was on the north shore near you. In second grade specifically, I started my second grade on Martha’s Vineyard. My dad was very young and got a job at the water department leading the water department. He was the superintendent. He still talks about I don’t know how I got that job. He was like 27. It was a good job and an opportunity to move out to Martha’s Vineyard, which more people know now than they did then.
I spent my childhood on Martha’s Vineyard, which was awesome, looking back on it. I think when you’re there as a kid you feel like you’re stuck on a rock because you kind of are. You don’t have malls. You don’t have McDonald’s. You don’t have any of that. There’s no chain restaurants, no nothing. It’s all mom and pop.
Now that I’m older I realize that’s so great. Wouldn’t we all be lucky to live in that bubble. So I grew up on Martha’s Vineyard. You do not have to be rich to live on Martha’s Vineyard. A lot of rich people have vacation houses there. I think that’s probably one of the bigger misconceptions.
Dan: Yeah, James Taylor and Carly Simon and probably a lot of other people.
Bill: The Kennedys and Obama goes over, so everyone thinks wow, you must come from a lot of money. No, it’s actually very blue collar and a bunch of fishermen, and like my dad working for the town.
Dan: It’s a diverse place.
Bill: Absolutely, so it’s a total mesh of all the people. Then the tourists come over and there’s your influx of real money. I grew up there. I decided when I went to college I had no idea what I wanted to do. But I needed to “get away” from the rock that grew up on. So I went to University of Tampa. I went far south. We had vacationed in Florida a good bit as a family growing up.
Dan: That’s a cultural shift there.
Bill: Big time, but even Florida, and Tampa specifically where I went to the University of Tampa, it’s a small school. It’s pretty much the northeast, is the demographic at the school. It’s not like a big Florida school.
Dan: Specifically, the west coast of Florida is New England transplants.
Bill: So I did that. I realized early on there that I needed to be an art major. I fought that for a while. I’d always drawn, always been an artist, in a way, but I thought it was this floosy hobby. I never thought that was going to be a career by any means. Not even when I started college, I figured I’d have to do something else, something real world.
I did terrible in college. I did pretty terrible in high school, honestly. It wasn’t for me. When I switched to an art major at the University of Tampa, I absolutely excelled, to the point where it was straight A’s. I enjoyed every class. I stayed after hours. I became friends with teachers. I was just kind of that annoying guy that does good in all the art classes. Maybe even the majority of people in those classes, that was still an elective for them in college. But for me, that was my thing. I was totally in my element.
Dan: When you’re an art major there, can you take most art classes? Obviously you take other bachelor arts classes to.
Bill: You’ve still got to go through the motions. It’s pretty easy. I guess it’s easy for me to say in hindsight too, but one math class, like college algebra. You have to cross off a couple things, your basics, and then you can get into the core of your design classes after that.
I grounded my way through those and got to my art classes. That was it. Basically, that’s the big transition for me, again, because I was a terrible student. If you had asked anybody in high school who is likely not to succeed, I think a lot of people would have pointed at me, honest to God. I just kind of wanted to skateboard and not go to class and stuff. It wasn’t for me. It doesn’t mean I was a bad kid. I was if you looked at my report cards and how I showed up late to classes and all that, but it just wasn’t my thing, and now I realize that. I was born to do this. I was a creative.
Dan: Isn’t that cool to find that finally? I kind of have a similar path too. I didn’t know I was into design, even though I was all along, until much later. In fact, the web helped me. I was going to ask you, in terms of that timing, was the web involved in that at all, or was it more from a fine-art graphic-design background that you had there at the school?
Bill: I would say more fine art. That was my degree. It was a fine-art degree, so it was a lot of painting classes, drawing, sculpture, all that stuff. It wasn’t until late junior, into senior year where I really got behind a computer. But I have always been drawn to computers in general.
I think I’ve got that, like we all do now that blend of we love technology and we love design, and they meet now because of the world we live in. But back then, I was never into development, never learned HTML beyond the stupid basics that most people that do what we would do now even understand. I wasn’t sucked in through web. It was more of I just had a passion to make things, to look at things, to say wow, that looks beautiful, whether it be packaging, whether it be anything, logos. I just seemed to be drawn to that stuff.
Now I can reflect back and think about oh, skateboarding probably had a bit of an influence. There’s awesome vibes that come through, when you think about artwork on skateboards, sticker swag and all that.
Dan: I was into that too. That totally helped me immensely get into graphic design. The branding is fantastic.
Bill: It’s what they care about. They go after it. But we didn’t know, as young skateboarders. You’re just like wow, that looks rad. I want to buy those boards. Now I realize it’s because I actually liked it on a deeper level.
Dan: It’s totally cool to have those influences that you’re not really even sure that you had until later, and look back and go oh, yeah. For me too, it was music packaging, album covers and stuff. Just remembering I always paid attention to typography and photography with design. Like you, I didn’t think of it as a career possibility.
Bill: It’s so weird. You can go totally nostalgic. This is an extreme here, but you think about I was always drawn to storm troopers, loved Star Wars. Why is that? Maybe it’s color. Maybe I loved the fact they were pure white and black, just what they were wearing. All these things now, I think it’s less of the I liked the “pew-pew” it was so great from every level, even from a design perspective. I still want to have that crap in my office, like behind me is Star Wars figures and Boba Fett posters.
Dan: It’s another admiration of creativity, right?
Dan: Like film and design. Film is great because it has visual and graphic design and sound and music. It’s got all those things together, which is amazing. That’s interesting about the storm troopers. I think I agree with you. That was a lot of the attraction. When you’re a kid and you buy the action figures, it’s like the real personification of that, that you can own and use.
Bill: Now that I am older and have more money I buy them all now.
Dan: Again, that’s the thing. You probably had them and now you have to buy them again.
Bill: Exactly. I went on a bit of a buying spree beginning of the year. I started going on eBay and realized I can get the original Obi Wan. I can find that dude on eBay and spent 30 bucks, but then after a couple months I’m like all right, I need to chill out on this. I’ve gone too far.
Dan: The market must be insane for that.
Bill: It is now because of the new movie. I got nostalgic at the wrong time. Everything is so expensive now.
Dan: I wish I’d held onto all that stuff. I re-bought an NES system last year. My son was into it, so wait a minute I had this, and I had 100 games back in 1988 or whatever. It’s funny, re-buying it it’s still worth it.
Now you’ve gone to University of Tampa and done the art program there. What happens next? It’d be cool to hear the origin of Focus Lab, but I’m sure there were things in between there that brought you that direction.
Bill: Here’s what I did. I graduated from University at Tampa. I was dating a girl through college that lived in Atlanta. I was not ready to go back to Martha’s Vineyard. Martha’s Vineyard is a great place but it’s not like the land of opportunity. You’re not really going to move back there especially with what I was going to go into, unless I was just going to paint. If I was going to paint landscapes all day and try to sell them on the Vineyard that’s not my style.
If it comes down to painting, I enjoy doing it for fun, but that was not going to be my career. I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to do. I think at that point it wasn’t even clear to me there were such things as big design agencies, and you can go work for a company. Do that type of design work. I don’t know if that’s just because I was sheltered or because the world has changed so much.
I know that those existed, but I don’t think it was like as apparent as it is now through platforms like Dribbble, Twitter, and the ways you meet people and realize oh, I can work from home my myself and that’s okay. I didn’t really know what to do.
So I applied to go to SCAD which is the big art school in Savannah. That is how I landed there. I was going to get my master’s degree there. My financial aid got messed up and I realized I did not want to take on another 60 grand in debt to get a master’s degree. My plan, maybe naive or not was to actually become a professor.
Dan: To teach design.
Bill: That was going to be my gateway to actually be able to teach, because I wouldn’t be able to do it without the master’s degree. That would afford me things like insurance and the other things that didn’t seem fathomable to do by myself. But 60 grand in debt, no thank you. But sure, I’ll still go to Savannah and see what happens.
I kind of floated around Savannah for a little while just working. You’re talking like some pretty terrible jobs, with normal people but straight-up construction laborer. I’ll work for whatever you want to pay. I just don’t want to go back to the Vineyard. I’m going to find my way here.
Fast forward almost two years into my Savannah travels, I started to make my way into doing little design projects for people I was meeting in the community, jobs that I was working for. I worked at this one vacation rental place, and it was clear to me their business cards were terrible, and the website was terrible. I could redo the brochures because I had that talent from school. It wasn’t what it is now. I was still considered pretty bad.
But I started to redo all their stuff, and it was so much better for them. I got a good bit of word of mouth in the little Savannah community. There’s this guy who’ll redo your business cards and brochures. I started to pick up a fair amount of that type of work, to the point where I was making more money doing that than working at that job. I really loved my boss there. She was great, and she connected me to a lot of people and kind of funneled a lot of that work to me. She was proud to show me off, in a way.
Dan: This was a construction company?
Bill: No, this was a vacation rental company. I had moved from the hard laborer oh, my God, I’ve never worked so hard in my life, but this will at least pay the rent for now, to this other job that was more cushy. I sat at a desk, answered phones, and helped people find these vacation rental houses.
Dan: That became a funnel of design work.
Bill: Freelance work, yeah, from all the other businesses out there. Vacation industry is huge in Savannah. I got a lot of that type of work, to the point where I told her I know you helped create this monster, but I’m going to go out on my own in six months. And I’m just going to work from home and do this type of design work.
It still was not a plan for me to start a company, create a big team. At this point, Dribbble didn’t exist or I didn’t know about it. I got so much work here’s the good thing about Savannah. Savannah is so small, that if you’re a total jerk you’re doomed basically. Everybody knows everybody. But if you can get a good name for yourself, it’s going to work out really great for you.
I had so much of that, I don’t even know if I was using the word freelance at that point. I don’t think I knew, again, that was really a thing-thing. I got so much freelance at that time, but I started to get web work and dev work. I was hacking my way through crap and Dreamweaver and really sloppy. Then I’m not happy with my work because I’m like this doesn’t even look good. What am I even doing?
I put out this casting call on my website that might have gotten two hits a week. I don’t even know how people found it. Funny enough, my business partner still, Erik Regan, he found it and reached out to me. He said I can do some dev work on the side. I know what you’re asking for and I can handle that.
We literally met one time at Applebee’s. We call it our magic first date. And by the end of that it was why don’t we just work together and maybe start a company or something. I’m still kind of young and dumb to this whole thing. I don’t know what, am I going to pay you when you do work? I don’t even know what the appropriate amount to pay you is. It’s kind of scary to me. You don’t know me. How is this all going to work out? Let’s go bigger and scarier, I suppose now, and just do it together. We can succeed together or fail together. I think in my mind that relationship just seemed easier to manage. So we did that. You see where we are now. It’s worked out really great.
Dan: I love the origin story. This is great.
Dan: First of all, Applebee’s is amazing. Hopefully you guys had some jalapeño poppers or something. Starting without really knowing what the hell you’re doing, that was certainly my path as well. I think it’s a lot of peoples’ path. Starting a business, even when you don’t know what you’re doing, is a leap of faith. I think that’s how most successful businesses start. You were loving what you were doing, right?
Bill: Exactly right, yeah.
Dan: And you wanted to take it to the next level.
Bill: Looking back, I wouldn’t have done it another way. We’ve learned a lot along the way. I think a lot of that is very necessary learning. I think it surprises people when I tell them. Like, where did you work before Focus Lab? I’m like nowhere, honestly. I’ve worked a lot of jobs in my life but nowhere that fully prepared me for running a business, or agency life, and client relationships. That all has been learned over the years, through trial and error, some of it really hard. But now on the backside, you know all the ins and outs.
Dan: I think that’s the way to learn it. That’s incredible. So you and Erik started Focus Lab in Savannah, which by the way I’ve visited there once years ago, and it’s a really cool town. It reminds me of Salem, Massachusetts, where I live, a little bit. It’s got kind of a spooky vibe to it. I’m not sure, part of it, I think that the time I had read the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and the movie and everything. That was part of it too, but there is something really unique about that city. Even in the south, but also extended from there. It’s the different parks and greens that are there are really interesting. How long did you live in Savannah?
Bill: I was there for I believe just about nine years. I was there for a while. Me and Erik started, it was just me and him. We actually, I went full Focus Lab before he did. He still had a job. He was the main developer at one of the megachurches in Savannah. These megachurches that thousands of people go to. He was in charge of all the development work there.
He had, I wouldn’t want to say accidentally, but they got pregnant really early in their marriage, a bit unexpected there. Which that was harder for him to say okay, I can eat Ramen and go full time whatever this company’s name is going to be. I was solo at that point. He was recently married and then they just had a baby, so it took him longer to go full time. But the goal was let’s prove the model. Let’s work hard and make sure we can drive a certain amount of money per month. As soon as it seems like it is a less-risky move for you, let’s transition.
As soon as we hit that point, he had a talk with his wife, and full transition. That’s when Focus Lab was really just me and him in a co-working space. Just cranking away. What’s the plan Stan, how are we going to get to next month, and the month after that.
Dan: At that point, were most of the clients you taking on still local?
Bill: Yes, it was all local at that point, which is cool. You’re working with the people that are close to you. The one thing about Savannah is I wouldn’t say it’s a booming market. It’s a great tourism town, and it’s really awesome to come and vacation and spend time. Go out and find some high-profile clients that are really going to help you grow your business, not so much, but it was a great starting point for us.
The thing that really kicked us off was Erik’s a developer. If you think about the early days, we are the ying and yang. I’m the designer and he’s the developer. We’ve grown to take on other roles now but he decided to become really embedded in the ExpressionEngine community, if you’re familiar.
Bill: His goal was basically I’m going to be one of the top ExpressionEngine guys, not only in Savannah, but hopefully in the world. The community is small enough for me to do that. I cannot do that in WordPress. I can do that over here in ExpressionEngine. And that quickly led to projects we had never seen before. It broke us out of our Savannah market.
We had people from Virginia calling saying I’d like you to come out and train my dev team for a week. We’ll write you a check for nine grand or something. We’re like whoa, we haven’t even had a web project over a couple grand yet. We’re still like just measly dollars.
Dan: The demand for ExpressionEngine at the time was huge.
Bill: And he was so diligent. I followed him and I did that on Dribbble. If you want to boil and distill it all the way down, ultimately, that’s kind of the path. We saw what a niche area and a lot of intention and energy could do. It rose him to the top of that community. It changed our business revenue. Like wow, how am I going to do that on the design side? How am I going to get out from under making these business cards and brochures? Even though I like the people I’m working with, now we’ve got big aspirations. Let’s do this thing. I got to Dribbble through a weird path. I don’t know if you remember a site called “Love Design”.
Dan: I do.
Bill: Over in the UK. I got onto that first, somehow. I started posting work on there, and meeting people. I’m like I really like the feel of this. This is the first time I ever put my work anywhere, and had people respond. It was like whoa, this feels awesome and semi-addicting.
So then I started to realize where the real players were, if you will, where you’re really going to get exposure. So I couldn’t get a Dribbble invite. I was not cool enough at that point, and that’s totally fair.
Dan: I hate hearing this.
Bill: No, it is what it is. I think the invite structure is great for Dribbble, honestly. I worked to get it, and I’m happy I worked to get it. I went to Forest next, if you remember Forest in the early days.
Bill: I was over there. I continued to make more connections. And I built a relationship with a guy, Stephen Di Donato. He’s a designer out of Canada, who we actually funnily enough ended up hiring for a bit to do some design work for us. He was the person that invited me to Dribbble.
Bill: Finally got on, and by the time I got on there, I had kind of wet my palette with Love Design and Forest, and figured out I’m going to go after this thing. I basically just became a machine on Dribbble. I made it my job to post something every single day, whether I loved it, whether I hated it. I went around and commented. I just became that guy that’s just always around.
Dan: You dove headfirst into the community.
Dan: And participated.
Bill: I was fully immersed an engaged. I rode that train hard for years. I think that’s where one of the big I don’t agree with you points come from me, where people will quickly and this is anything, not just Dribbble. Oh, that doesn’t work, or that’s silly. I’m like you only tried half-assed and spent about six months. I put in three years of aggressive engagement, really putting myself out there. It snowballed and snowballed, and yes, it is easy for me now because the snowball is so damn big but that doesn’t discount the amount of time and energy.
Dan: That it required to get there.
Bill: I put into that community.
Dan: I’m really glad we’re talking to you. That’s a really key point. How do I get more visibility? This is a way. You don’t just overnight have thousands of followers. It’s taken a lot of hard work and a lot of time to get there.
Bill: Absolutely. When I speak sometimes I’ll talk to the design students at SCAD or even just other younger shop owners. They have to people, like the me and Erik of six or seven years ago. They’ll say what do you think’s most important, what do you think we should do. When I start to talk about Dribbble, I try to really pound home don’t look at it at the end of the year and say has this really shown a lot of fruit yet.
It’s years, but I’m telling you I did it. It’s totally doable. I am not an outlier. I am not this magnificent designer that deserves 50,000 followers just because I have a shaved head or something. I put in all the work. I did it. If you go onto the top designers, and you look at their followers versus how many shots they have, my ratio is much higher than most people. I didn’t have a fan base or anything, so I had to put up shot after shot after shot.
You find your rhythm, and whether I wanted to take a tilted shot because it gets more love or not, people can hate on that but that’s what worked for me. I had intention with what I was doing. I wasn’t always just like do you like it or not. It depends on how you want to use it.
Dan: You created your following. I don’t want you to sell yourself short either in terms of the design work you’re sharing was great. That’s the other thing. It’s like partially there’s equal parts of talent and sweat.
Bill: I agree with that. I don’t think anybody can just go throw anything on there, as long as they do it a million times they’ll get a following.
Dan: But if you do have talent, and you’re willing to put the effort in.
Bill: Exactly, and I was willing to push my talent. Some of my early shots, I was still finding my way to what I’ll consider now the style I’ve had since then. It was more minimalist, but not full Swede minimalist. Still liking color, and all of that stuff in there. But when I first started it was like that grunge age a bit, where everything had texture and noise on it. I even evolved, and my stuff got better. Following got better. It’s an evolution.
Dan: And it’s totally been fun to watch that evolution. One of the cool things about being on Dribbble so long is to see that. Watch peoples’ style change over time, and get refined and refined. Then seeing something like Focus Lab coming into “focus”.
Bill: Funny story about our name, so when I had my freelance business, if you will, it was called Ideal Design Firm. Quickly after me and Erik met, Erik brought to the table I’m not a designer, and we do more than that, so that’s a weird name for us. Which I agreed. So we went through the terrible path of trying to figure out what’s our name going to be.
The naming exercise is the worst thing ever, especially when you’re trying to do it for yourself. We got to the point where we kind of didn’t care anymore. We’re like we can’t spend any more time thinking about this. We just need to pick a name and get to work.
We really liked the word focus itself, just because it told a couple stories we wanted to tell, the quality and focus on the work, and the attention to detail and all that. We couldn’t just use that word. There’s no way we’re going to be able to trademark that. So we have to stick something at the end of it.
Lab popped up. I would say EllisLab, who made ExpressionEngine was probably the subliminal seed for that. So we stuck the word lab behind it, and were like okay, this is it. We’re over it. Who cares what our name is? Focus Lab, it means nothing, which in our mind was a good thing. If we decided, we were going to build airplanes in ten years we’ll build airplanes. It doesn’t matter what we do.
We went for the URL. It was available. We’re like awesome, but someone was sitting on it and it was, 1,000 bucks. We had just started. We literally had no money. We were like oh, 1,000 bucks, it was 1,000 or 1,500. We wrote it on the wall and our goal was to buy it the next month after we made some money.
We made money and went back to buy it and somebody else had bought it. We were like ah so there’s like a doctor maybe in the Carolinas who has it. And his site has been the same since Focus Lab started to right now, and we hit him up every year trying to throw more money at it. We have LLC stuck on our URL now, and it drives us all nuts, to the point where even when we were working with a client in Australia. They asked why do you have LLC on your name? We’re like it’s a business thing in America. They didn’t even understand what the hell that even was.
Dan: It’s not a thing worldwide.
Bill: Right. So then we have to get all the handles for
Dan: Focus Labllc.
Bill: Yeah, we want focuslab.com but the dude’s holding out on us really hard.
Dan: In this day and age, where you’ve got a URL but also have profiles everywhere, it probably matters less and less.
Bill: We’re not losing sleep over it anymore. It’s a once-a-year thing. Oh, my gosh.
Dan: Let’s see if the doctor will be able to part with it now. He’s probably getting a lot of traffic he would normally not get.
Bill: Interesting thought. I actually never thought about that. Not to toot our own horn, but I’m sure we do drive traffic to him, accidentally.
Dan: He’s probably getting a lot of
Bill: He thinks he’s killing it right now but he can’t understand why his conversion is terrible.
Dan: I got all this traffic but no one’s signing up for X-rays. Like that’s how doctors work. That’s crazy. The next step is you have turned this into a pretty giant business. I wanted to mention this article because A) we were thrilled that you wrote it because it says some nice things about Dribbble. To toot our own horn a bit.
But the fact that Dribbble and sharing being okay with sharing in general as a designer and a company has helped you guys financially pull in a lot of money. I’ll put the link in the show notes, but it’s a Medium article from a ways back that has said a lot of positive things about how Dribbble helped and other social things.
I wonder if you’d touch on that, how it helped. I think the way you guys and we’ll get into some shots in a minute, but the way you have shared your work online has been really influential and interesting. You don’t just share something when it’s done. You share the process or stuff that maybe wasn’t accepted, which is really fascinating, to see logos that your thought process around creating a brand. I wonder if you could share I think it’s been successful to work that way, out in the open.
Dan: Have clients been okay with that is one question that comes to mind.
Bill: I can talk to you about that. We actually make it part of the kickoff, called let me just make this clear for all the listeners here. I want to make it super apparent that I’m talking to you. You made Dribbble. I love Dribbble. So I might be more excited now talking to you to make you feel happy.
Everything I say I would be saying right now to anybody I was talking to. I just happen to be talking to you right now. I did an interview with somebody from Cornell University about a month ago. They’re doing a study on this new kind of world of designers that share their work. Is it powerful? Does it help us? What works, what doesn’t? This person in particular is very interested in that.
I could not have said more good things about Dribbble to that person. They have no skin in the game. They’re not going to hire us. I’m just being as real as possible to what has changed the landscape of our company. So as we continue to talk about Dribbble, and I kind of throw a lot of awesome sunlight on Dribbble, I just want the listeners to understand that I’m not doing it because I’m talking to you.
Dan: We’re not paying you, right?
Bill: Right. This is how it went down for us. So sharing our work is absolutely influential in our growth. Whether it be Dribbble or another platform, I think Dribbble was the perfect platform for us honestly, and it still is. So don’t mess anything up over there, Dan. We really need you to stay.
Dan: We’ll do our best.
Bill: It became the way we grew. If Erik and I were still reliant on continuing to kind of go after bigger, better in Savannah, I don’t think it would be a stretch to say we’d probably still be just a two or four-person team. It’s just you need to get out there. In the world we live in now, it’s so easy. It’s essentially free. You guys should charge more.
For me to be a pro and only have to pay 20 bucks, and you’re talking about returns of millions you’re thinking about Twitter, Instagram, all it takes is time, energy, and intention. And you can get all your work out there. So we realized that very early on, that that’s how we were going to break out of the Savannah market. We were going to post our stuff all over the internet.
The internet is now the world. And we just post, post, post. I basically, again, I became a machine. Not because I also want to be clear too I am not obsessed with likes in general. I don’t need to put up a shot, or send out a tweet and have it be the best to make me feel happy about myself as a person. Thankfully, because that can be a bit of a trap. But I can tell you I am obsessed with likes and retweets because I know what it does for our business.
From a business perspective, I am fully attacking that. I’m making sure it does perform well and we’re constantly trying to make things better and all of that. Posting is a way of life at Focus Lab, so I make it very clear to the team you guys need to be posting. If I don’t see stuff going up, I’m telling the team you need to post your work. That shit you just made right there is amazing. You need to post it.
Not everybody functions the same way I do. I think I’ve been molded into a certain type of person and I’m good with that because I know what it’s done for our business. But I want to now help the new team members that might not be as active socially throughout any channel. This is who we are. This is how Focus Lab operates. We post our work.
Dan: Has there ever been pushback from clients in terms of what you’re sharing?
Bill: Yeah, but we know out of the gate. I don’t even know everything we learn, and then we change and create a new process around. At some point, we learned we need to be asking clients upfront, right out of the gate do they know about Dribbble. It’s Dribbble specifically. In our kickoff slide we have a slide called “Dribbbleability”. It shows a shot of our Focus Lab page and three colors, red, yellow, and green.
We ask them first do you know about Dribbble because if you don’t we want to inform you before we get your opinion on if we can post or not. Usually they do. The majority of our clients come through Dribbble so they’re like yeah, we totally get it. We ask them can we post anything and everything, starting from right now after we get off this call. That would be green. Yellow is we can post most things but there are certain things you want us to hide, whether it be your name let’s say Help Scout. Help Scout was not this way but we just worked with them.
Maybe they would be okay sharing the animation work we were doing, but not saying who it was for. Or hiding features for a big website that their competition stalks them like a hawk. There’s that option. Or there’s full red which is you don’t want anything to be out there. It makes you nervous. You want everything behind the curtain.
I would say early on 80% of the people went green and the rest filtered through yellow and red. As we’ve continued to get bigger clients, they come inherently with other issues. This is not a knock to clients. I don’t like to be that guy either, but they are more protective of the things they’re doing. There’s more politics in those projects, so the red ratio has gotten higher.
Dan: The bigger the company, that’s going to happen. Especially if it’s a public company. Then you’ve got potential trade secrets and things they’re worried about.
Bill: We tell them no pressure. I want to impress upon them how important it is for us to post work. In a way it’s kind of like our livelihood. We post our work. This is how we grow our peer network. This is how we get clients. But at the end of the day, the client still decides. We don’t want to see any of this out, so basically we want until launch and then we start a slower rollout, as if we had just started it. Again, you want to maximize what you can do.
Let’s say Help Scout is a good example, they launched their new brand. We did not do the branding, just to be clear. We just did the animation work, which is a newer service of ours, which we’re jazzed about. Will Kesling our animation guy is awesome. They came to us to do some animation work.
Before he put up his first Dribbble shot I talked to him and said don’t go right to the final version. Show people the process. We story tell when we post Dribbble shots. Start with your sketches. Let’s show some ideation. Where were we in our head. Build up to the final look. There’s multiple reasons for that. Some of it’s selfish, some of it’s not.
But it’s a better story for the viewer to follow along that way and it allows us to basically get maybe three or four Dribbble shots instead of just one. When you’re in a company like Focus Lab and I’m saying I want you to put up multiple shots a week at least, you need to find a way to be able to create multiple shots. If you use it all up on one shot, you’ve used up all your ammo, so you better stretch it out.
Dan: But also I think everyone following you, Focus Lab, is appreciative of that. You’re not just seeing the finished thing. You’re seeing the story evolve, and I would think tell me this, but the more you share about a client project the more it could possibly help the client.
Bill: A hundred percent.
Dan: Especially if it’s a brand relaunching or launching a new product. Obviously, there’s a certain amount of promotion that goes into putting up on Dribbble or whatever network you’re in.
Bill: We pitch that to the right people. It is more clear to us sometimes than others that if the Dribbble demographic is like people that they would want, if that is their demographic, they’re getting so much more value by working with us. My account has 50,000. Focus Lab account has 30,000. That doesn’t account for any of the other team members. That’s a lot of eyeballs immediately.
There are some clients that say we want you to post 100%. We want you to link to us. We want all that traffic. Snappy was one of them. Ian was awesome and he understood all that dynamic. He was like listen, I want you guys to drive as much traffic as you could. We drove a couple thousand signups to his landing page before Snappy even launched, because that was the demographic.
There are other clients, like dental implants, that’s never going to give any helpful traffic to them, so it’s not even a conversation we bring up. But it is cool to have the you’re not really paying for this, per se, but you’re getting a ton of value if you’re the right client.
Dan: You are a perfect case study for how to use Dribbble effectively.
Bill: I try to think that we are, honestly. We use Dribbble in a very specific way. Most of it is not to get feedback. That doesn’t mean we don’t care about feedback. I love people writing stuff, but we’re not constantly posting on there for full critique. A lot is to say check out what we’re working on, exposure, exposure, exposure. Grow our network and community and meet people.
Dan: I think that’s a perfect way of using it.
Bill: I think some people say you’re gaming the system or you don’t actually care. You’re just going for yourself. That’s not true. I think we walk a really happy, comfortable line of sure, we want our shots to perform well. Why wouldn’t we? We hedge towards that but that doesn’t mean we’re evil or despicable or don’t care. It’s an interesting
Dan: It’s all positivity and momentum across the project.
Bill: We’re all love across the board.
Dan: Of course you’re going to be proud of the work you’re doing for the client. It looks like the relationships you build with your clients; you can see it through the work you’re sharing.
Bill: Relationship is huge for us. I would say that’s number one. The timeline and budget has to be right, but if timeline and budget even when those are right and the relationship is poor, that’s a bad project for us. We’re not just in this for money. Yes, we need to make money to operate. We need to make money to grow and be profitable, but at the end of the day, we want awesome relationships. We just need those other two things to match up behind it.
Dan: That really shows in the work. We’re going to talk about a couple of shots and get behind the story behind those. The first is this “BeGLAD” branding process you shared for the Focus Lab team in July. What’s cool about this, and a lot of the shots you share, are these extra attachments that show the process behind creating the brand, and the evolution you’ve taken to get there. Which it’s also very cool the client is cool with that. You’re not just seeing the finished mark and you’re actually showing it. One of the things I wanted to ask about this shot in particular, I assume it’s a mockup.
Bill: It is.
Dan: It’s a very realistic mockup of what the brand looks like on this tapestry hanging in a building, which is really cool. You’re not just seeing this on the screen but how is this mark and brand going to work in a real-life situation, not just on a screen or piece of paper, but on a banner. You seem to do that in other projects as well. I wanted to get your take on that.
Bill: It’s important to us. One of the things we realized early on is clients are not designers, 90% of the time. Therefore, you need to show them the next level. I can’t just show the static flat apple on a white PDF and expect them to be like wow, that’s amazing. They’d have to have pretty awesome vision to think outside of their own box to say and it could become this and this.
When a branding project specifically gets real for a client is when you put it in context. That’s when we flip the script on the client and we know that buy-in is imminent at that point. That’s where the wow factor typically comes from.
We tell them that upfront too. It’s not all smoke and mirrors, but we set expectations throughout the project. Round one of a branding deliverable after strategy and research work, when you get to round one of visuals, it’s pretty mundane in a way. We try to tell them there’s probably not going to be a lot of color in here. We’re not going to put it in context or do mockup shots with it. We need to find our way.
As we get to round two and three, as soon as we start to hit on something, that’s when we start to blow it out and put it in mockups and show it in all these scenarios, so they can really see the vision and grab onto it. This is a round three or four. The amount of apples this client saw this client is great, by the way. We’re still working with them, redoing their entire website right now. They teach teachers to help better education within school systems in general. They’re such a great group.
Dan: You said this is a third or fourth round. Do you often, the mockups are very real looking. A lot of work goes into them. Do you wait and do these when you’re close to a finished thing, or does this happen with some iteration? Do you present these and iteration happens after the fact, even after these mockups?
Bill: Everything is a dance. Every client is different. You speed up the dance, slow down the dance. You rearrange the steps. We follow pretty much a certain flow, but depending on who the designer is on the team and who the client is, if you know you’ve really got something and you don’t need to show them a million things, you can cut right to the chase and go after it, even early in a round two. If you want to start throwing it on mockups, think that you hit a homerun, I would not slow them down.
The process can bend and flex to the type of client you have. Sometimes it has to be more rigid where a client will perform better under a very systematic, step-by-step, because you need to keep them focused, and checking things off the list. Where other times, you know they fully trust you and you just go straight up, full head dive. If you want to build a whole entire thing in one week and think you’ve nailed it, then go for the big pitch.
It depends. But the one thing you do keep consistent is you always set expectations. You really want them to know where they are in the process. If you’ve gone ahead of schedule, and I’m showing you this on a mockup already, I usually wait a week for that but I’m really excited about it and wanted to show it to you. We’re also very vocal.
We do video deliverables now, which has really helped us. Before it was a PDF and Basecamp with some notes. Then we’d let them review, give them the weekend to review basically, and we meet all our clients on Monday and Tuesday for about a 30 minute to an hour block, depending on the client. We get all their feedback and discuss everything we did.
Now, we shoot that video and record it, and walk them through the deliverables. We’re basically pitching them but they’re not in the room at the time. That gives them all the context, all the expectation setting, ignore this, don’t ignore that, I really need your opinion on this. This I just had fun with those doodles were not scoped. They were not part of the project. I knew that they would be right for the brand. I hadn’t doodled them forever so I was excited to put them on Dribbble. This was so out of my element. I just went for it, and the client this sent them over the top. It was all freebie for them. It was right for the project. I did it.
Dan: Once they saw it, they see it all working together.
Bill: Yes. For the designers listening, I did not build that mockup. That did not take more than four minutes to make. There’s a product called LiveSurface. It’s a plugin with Illustrator and you can take your flat design and wrap it on the hundreds of “surfaces,” as they call it in their store bottles, collateral, paper material, just so much stuff in there. When that product came out it was a game changer because that came out a couple of years ago. We were old enough to know that mockups and live in-context shots were so key to our deliverables. We needed those things. This product came out and I was like oh, this just made our lives so much easier. Before that, we were building them ourselves. They look all wonky, and they’re warped weird and stuff. You try to bend those things in Photoshop and it gets all crazy.
Dan: That’s a pro tip there.
Bill: For sure, that is a must-have.
Dan: That’s huge. The fact that doing these mocks helps the clients immensely, sort of grasp what the brand it.
Bill: That’s the golden ticket.
Dan: There’s another shot called “Assembly,” which is similar in that I love the branding work you guys did on this. It’s sort of like some of the team members holding up pieces of the logo to make the logo. I really love this shot because it just shows you’re not just thinking about this as pixels you’re delivering. It tells a story. The brand isn’t just a static logo. It could be this living, breathing thing.
Bill: Yeah. This shot specifically I love. Out of all the projects and shots in general, this is probably a top-ten for me just because there’s so much cool stuff behind this project and this shot in general. “Assembly,” if I’m going to distill it all the way down, the core brand story is we’re bringing people together to do stuff.
All these individuals, parts are different people, and therefore, when you go mill it out of wood into their shapes, we should have different people, different diversity, holding this thing and really bringing it to life. It’s more representative of the people than anything there. This was a fun project. Unfortunately, “Assembly” didn’t make it. They closed the doors. This is still one of our most loved projects. Even the owners from “Assembly” were bummed because they thought they did us a disservice, the brand work we did for them was so awesome but the product itself didn’t make it. They were a great group to work with. Still now, when I run into people if I go to conferences, my new question for people is what was your favorite project we ever did. It’s really interesting to me. So many people say “Assembly”. This was such a homerun within our peer group as well, such a fun project. Based off of Morse Code, which is how we got to the dots and dashes. Some super fun stuff.
Dan: The color you used, everything about the project is fantastic. That’s amazing. This is really good advice for people who do branding projects. Show how this is going to look in the real world and the different applications it’ll be seen in.
Bill: For us too, it kind of scratches our own itch because it almost is like we’ve gotten so much in this routine specifically, which is after we ship all this stuff is digital. Nothing is ever tangible unless the client happens to make some swag and send it back to you. But who knows if you’ll ever see or get that stuff? We kind of take it on ourselves to say what would we want. We did this thing for our “Recitate” project. We did this awesome neon sign. The client had no idea. These aren’t things they’re asking for. We want to bring our work to life.
Dan: That’s fantastic. That’s amazing. And it makes sense. You’re doing the testing for them in a way, like how’s this going to work, is this going to work on a t-shirt or a neon sign?
Bill: Now the bar has continued to get so high it’s like how much can we spend on a project.
Dan: What’s your R&D budget?
Bill: We’ve actually put percentages around projects, prices and stuff. We try to create a formula because it was too hard. What, are we going to spend a thousand bucks on this thing over here for this client? We were basically at that point. Not to mention it helps the portfolio immensely and we can shoot these videos and it just brings the whole thing to a proper finish instead of we made some pixel digital files and that’s it. You never get to a proper finish line almost.
Dan: I think these examples are fantastic. Everybody should be doing this, not to steal your idea.
Bill: I don’t think we are the originator of anything. We’re here doing our thing.
Dan: It’s just the execution is fantastic.
Bill: That’s huge for us. You see quality over quantity, that statement is used by everybody and that’s totally fine. We’re one of those people using it too but that hits home for us. It’s very important, quality of what quality of photography on our website, quality of even a Dribbble shot. Those things are actually important to us. We obsess over that.
Dan: We love that. For the last shot, the “500px” I say 500 px is it P-X?
Bill: That’s funny because part of this project, the problem was to fix that. So thanks a lot, Dan.
Dan: I just exposed myself.
Bill: That was always the problem 500 pixel. When they came to us, that was one of the key problems to fix was to make it PX. Honestly, how can you ultimately fix that 100%? I don’t know you can, but it is PX.
Dan: For me, it’s from a front-end developer standpoint, that’s what I would say if I saw that. That’s how we refer to it, in units.
Bill: I think most people say that.
Dan: But for them, since they’re a photography site, they’re out of that. This project was amazing. We’re big fans of them too. Met those guys in Toronto. We had a lot of similarities when we started out in terms of UI. We often go to them wonder what they’re doing for certain UI pattern or whatever. But this is a really cool project. Again, you’re sharing this shot is called “The New 500px”.
Again, there’s attachments with all sorts of sketches for things you tried that are fascinating. A number of these could have been great marks for the brand. The one you ended up on is fantastic too. I wonder just in general about this project what was unique as opposed to the others you shared process with?
Bill: That’s a good question. Let me talk to a couple of things in there. As far as you’ve referenced all the visuals, it’s actually the middle attachment where it starts to show all the exploration. We are exploration maniacs. For us, it’s a big part of what I push as far as how we design brand stuff specifically. I want to see our boards full and full of stuff. It can be messy, terrible, great. Just I want you to go, go, go to the last limits of your brain basically before we start to say that’s it or this is it. So tons of exploration. We distill that down before we show the client, or it would be too much for them to even try to figure out.
Dan: That’s interesting. So they might not have seen this big board.
Bill: No, they wouldn’t have seen all that but what we do in the beginning, as a bit of a safety net in case there’s some magic in there they love. And if they never saw it we’d never know. We’ll show the deliverable in the presentation in what we think is best leading up to the most powerful visual of that particular week. Then we’ll have in the front of that deliverable here’s a quick screenshot of a section of our artboard, so you can see all the exploration or the majority of the exploration more to show we explored a lot of stuff and have been working hard over here. And in the backend of the deliverable we’ll have the “boneyard” end. We will take out a couple other key ones we left out but still think might have promise. And shine a bit of light on them, but they’re still gray scale. We don’t put them in any proper presentation style. We don’t show everything. We couldn’t because we do so much exploration that it would be—
Dan: It’s free, right?
Dan: Pixels are free.
Bill: That’s that bit on the exploration. When I spoke before about how we like to lead up and build a story with the Dribbble shot, this is an example of the opposite. 500px launched that day. This is full guns blazing because this wasn’t a project we could share at all until launch day. When it goes live, at this point, we do want to drive traffic for this client great client, similar kind of industries and people and demographics. We wanted to drive as many people as possible, so this is where you put up more of a final shot and then a bunch of process attachments. You can only stretch it so far unless we make some other cool collateral and stuff. If we had been working on this project under the green light, these things would have been leaking out over weeks.
Dan: But it’s still cool to release the final thing but support that with all this other stuff. Hey, here’s how we got here. You can look at it all in one time, which is fascinating. Again, it’s one of the reasons I think Focus Lab has such a strong following on Dribbble specifically, because of the way you’re using it, and you’re sharing so much of the way that you work as a team. I think not only is it fascinating and fun but it’s also really inspiring and useful for other designers to see how this is being put together and how you’re presenting it. You’re actually doing a service for not only your own business and the client, but I think you’re also doing a service for the other designers in the community.
Bill: I appreciate that. It’s important for us to be transparent. That’s always been Erik’s motto. That’s how he is. Not to say that I wasn’t, but then I kind of adopt that fully and say we share everything. We have nothing to hide. We don’t have any secrets. Let’s show the world what we’re doing.
To answer your question about what made this project unique, I would say the fact the stakes were pretty high for us. Not that we haven’t worked with high-profile people before, but this was a brand people really loved already. They already liked the logo, so we knew we were up against a wall. It was going to come with a lot of opinions. We really wanted to get it right.
The 500px thing was great to work with. Chase, who led and did basically all the work on this project, did all the exploration, coming up with the final looks I certainly worked with him but he’s the man behind the curtain for sure. He killed this project. But what was also unique about this project is this was the first it’s not even that old. It’s October 2015 so not even a year old.
This was the first bigger thing we released that we were nervous beforehand, like oh, my gosh, it’s going to launch tonight at 12 o’clock, and I am very nervous about this. The design community is so great and so opinionated at the same time. Oh, man, I’m so nervous. It’s going to get picked up by Brand New. I’m so nervous. And it was pretty hard feedback. To the point where I was like I think I need to pep talk the team. We got trashed pretty hard on it coming out of the gate.
Dan: I didn’t know that. When I saw it I was like this is great. I loved it.
Bill: We were happy with it, and of course, you have a bit of self-doubt. That’s anybody. We’re not super human. It comes out and then you start thinking should we have gone a different direction. Did we do it wrong? We wrote a letter to 500px to say we’re getting a lot of average-to-negative feedback. We’re getting some good feedback too, but we’ve never had this much negative feedback, and really aggressive.
We were curious how they were feeling. They were like don’t even worry about it, it’s all good. We said we feel that way too, but we wanted to make sure you aren’t freaking out. Typically, a client could see that and be like oh, no, we made a bad decision. Go backwards, to where we were, and it’s so nice to be on the other side of that storm now and kind of realize how insignificant it was.
It was a good learning step for us. You’re going to get trashed for a week. It’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t mean your company is terrible. It doesn’t mean you have done bad things. We learned in that one. We grew some thick skin that week, whether we wanted to or not. I still love it. This thing rocks. We’ve been doing ads for them that are hitting certain publications that Alex worked on, and they look spectacular. I’m really happy with where it ended up but man.
Dan: That was a tough week.
Bill: That was a tough week for us. For us, usually it’s a lot of love. I think we got so used to everything is awesome that when we got trashed that time we were like whoa, this is a different feeling.
Dan: But you’re so right about waiting a week and letting it die down. The negativity kind of goes away and then people get used to the change. It’s this cycle, and then people start embracing the new. That’s a big change for people. You’re also designing for a community, like Dribbble would be. It’s like whenever we make a change, and we try not to do anything too drastic, but if we do, the same thing happens. It’s like this rush of really negative comments, and then you’re kind of second-guessing yourself.
Dan: Did we do the right thing here? Then you’re like hold on, this has happened before. Let’s wait a day or two. Then that goes away and then the positive starts coming out. It’s really fascinating.
Bill: It is.
Dan: Now looking back on it you’re like we did the process. We did the work. We did the right things. And it came out and we were confident with it. We know it’ll stand the test of time. That’s usually the case.
I was thinking of the Gap logo fiasco a few years ago. Sometimes there are massive shifts in brand that are questionable, but most of the time it’s just new and different and that’s kind of scary sometimes for people.
Bill: I woke up; I think it was 5:20 or something in the morning. I was like oh, gosh, the new brand is out. I got to at least look. I think the first tweet I saw was this new logo is the worst thing I’ve ever seen. It looks like it should be on a Pizza Hut box. I was like oh, it’s going to be a long day.
Dan: It’s hard. I feel for you. That happens every time we launch something on Dribbble.
Bill: But you’ve got to go through that.
Dan: You’ve got to grow the thick skin. Eventually you learn to sort of ignore and actually identify people that just want to be grumpy about things. There are legitimate criticisms that come in, which is good too, but it is tough to work so long at something and be confident in it, and then have someone trash it.
Bill: It’s so easy to trash something when you don’t know the background, the reasoning, the client. You don’t know anything but to just judge it within four seconds.
Something that’s interesting too that I’ve learned, I think we all have a bit of the judgment bone in us. That’s fair to say, but as I’ve been in this field longer and have been judged over and over again, I’m now very careful on how and what I judge. It’s clear to me I also don’t know. Maybe they hit a huge wall. We don’t know what happened within any particular project or design decision. That may not be what the client wanted to be out there, so I keep my mouth shut now. It’s not my place.
Dan: Likewise, I think that’s the right thing to do. You never know the whole story. In fact, I would love to know the story of the Gap logo.
Bill: For sure.
Dan: Who knows? It could have resonated somehow with what they wanted to portray. It would be really interesting to hear.
Bill: Or nobody wanted it and the CEO said I don’t care what you guys want. This is how it’s going to be and pushed it out. We have no idea.
Dan: That’s true. No, my nephew made this and we’re going with it. That would be a great documentary. That’s fascinating to hear how all that went down. Now with 500px, the brand’s been out there for a year. People dig it. people like it. I think it totally was the right direction. It’s cool because what you’ve done has with the other projects as well, what you put together is something that’s not just a solitary mark. It’s like this thing that can be extended into different ways. It becomes this really flexible platform almost.
Bill: I feel like we try to do that for every project now.
Dan: It shows.
Bill: Flexible brands, like we want things to be able to do more than just sit there in the top nav of the left.
Dan: That shows. I think that’s really a hallmark of what you’re doing.
Bill: That’s good to hear.
Dan: Hats off to you. That’s a good place to stop, otherwise, we won’t stop. We would go on forever.
Bill: Let me do a quick plug because I have a coupon. Two things from us, Sidecar, obviously we launched that last year in May, continuing to put assets and industry knowledge. We have a private Slack channel now so people that want to be in that, just hit me up on Twitter. We also have a coupon we created today for this podcast. It’s WELOVEDRIBBBLE. That’s it. That will last for the next 30 days, and it’s 40% off anything inside the store in Sidecar. Go there. Buy stuff.
Dan: 40%, that’s very generous.
Bill: Let’s go big or go home over here. The newest thing, which I’m really excited about but let’s not get into it now. Maybe we’ll do a round two of our talk if enough people comment and tweet that they want to hear a round two. I do feel like I could talk to you forever.
We started this new proposal tool. Internally as an agency, we battle building proposals. It’s really time consuming. You try to make them pretty but they’re PDFs and it’s kind of messy. Early this year we built our own web app proposal tool. It’s been received with flying colors from our clients. Some have even said we picked you because your proposal process was the best.
Dan: It’s a good first impression.
Bill: Yeah, it’s a great first impression. It’s huge for us because we’re a design agency. It feels really backwards to send out this clunky PDF. We just built it ourselves with no big plan after that, but now it’s very clear that more people need this thing. We just started making news two days ago, if you go to “proposals.focuslabllc.com,” you can get a sneak peak of what we’re cooking up. We’re set to release this year, in the somewhat near future.
Dan: Wow, that’s super cool. Maybe you’ve heard it here first, people. I assume you’ll be sharing more about that on Dribbble.
Bill: I’ll be leaking and leaking as we’re building that.
Dan: That sounds really useful for everybody.
Bill: People need access to build a simple but powerful proposal. There are other people in this space. I think there’s plenty of room for us. We want it simple and effective. It doesn’t need to have tons of features and all this stuff, and be messy. Just right to the point. We use it. It works for us. That means it would work for a lot of other people too without extra features.
Dan: That’s how good things are made. Make it for yourself first because you need it. I like that you’ve used John Snow as your text in the form fields. I can’t wait.
Bill: The Focus Lab crew is a fun bunch.
Dan: It shows.
Bill: That’s really important to us. It’s essentially like family over there. We all have our quirks but we are totally family and we enjoy being quirky and weird.
Dan: Super cool. I want to join that club.
Bill: Come on.
Dan: Thanks so much, Bill, for being in here and taking the time, and for sharing the stuff you do. I think there was a ton of good advice from just talking with you over the hour. We really appreciate it. I know I’m sure the listeners do too, so thank you.
Bill: It was absolutely my pleasure. Honestly, I would look forward to doing this again. I am a talker. I enjoy talking, and I like talking with awesome people, so you hit me up if you want to do it again.
Dan: Let’s do it again. It’s a deal.
Bill: Okay, sounds great.