June 28, 2012
One visit to the Rally Interactive website and you know you’ve come across a company that is unique, as are the three founders. There’s Thomas Cooke, the company’s executive producer looking like a character on “Spartacus.” Ben Cline, Rally Interactive’s creative director, is all decked out in his skiing gear. And finally, you have Wes Pearce, the technical director. He has a casual look, but is definitely enjoying a moment. And what a moment it has been for the company, a growing startup based in Utah’s attractive Wasatch Mountains. Eighteen months removed from coming together to form Rally Interactive, the creators are basking in the glow of receiving the prestigious 2012 Apple Design Award, iPhone Developer Showcase, at this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference. They won the award for their work on the National Parks by National Geographic app – only the second app they created in iOS. Recently, I had an opportunity to visit with each member of the team. What I found were three guys not only committed to what they are doing, but who also appreciate the world around them – specifically, the outdoors.
“We are passionate, agile, & live for the outdoors"Since the creation of the company, Rally Interactive has remained committed to combining their love for the great outdoors with their passion for design. The result has been collaborations with companies like Kühl, Snowbird, the State of Utah, and of course, National Geographic. Gone are the days when each worked in the world of advertising, which they suggest was like “Mad Men,” circa the early 21st century. However, don't let their backgrounds fool you. As Cline suggests, “our goal is to build products, not advertising.” What those products are, however, remains a work in progress, given that everything they’ve done up to this point has been work they've created for others. Future projects, those with and without client involvement, are a company secret, of course. Still, there is no doubt where their compass points. As their online motto states, “We are passionate, agile, & live for the outdoors.” Whether it be Kühl’s website, Utah’s travel app, or the National Geographic app, the company's passion is to help others explore what is happening outside. Or, as they state on their website:
If we’re not up to our eyeballs working on the latest client project, then we're most likely neck deep in Utah's "Greatest Snow On Earth", or going even deeper into oxygen debt, cycling up one of Utah's steep mountain passes on our road or mountain bikes. It's what keeps us going. It helps bring a sense of purpose and passion when we are fortunate enough to collaborate with brands with similar interests.Knowing this, one shouldn’t be surprised that future iOS projects will likely revolve around the outdoors. A game based on the outdoors could also arrive in the App Store someday. Skiing on your iPad, anyone?
About AppleDuring our discussion, we spent a great deal of time discussing their experiences dealing with Apple, which they called enjoyable. Still, they also saw Apple’s well-documented commitment to secrecy on display. Leading up to WWDC, Apple asked them for some key documentation concerning the National Parks app. However, Apple wouldn’t say why the materials were necessary. Before Apple bestowed on them the 2012 Design Award, “(Apple) called us up asking for high-resolution screenshots of (the National Parks) app, plus, a copy of the app free of Wi-Fi requirements,” said Pearce. He added, “we didn’t know what either was for.” Looking back, however, all three said there were signs Apple liked their app. When the app arrived in the App Store in April, Apple called it an “iPad Editor’s Choice.” It was also called the “iPhone App Of The Week.” Because of this, Cooke feels that making the app free might not have been the right path to take. Many of the reviews in the App Store seem to confirm this, as many customers complain that they have to pay for each guide. These in-app purchases range in price from $0.99 to $1.99 for each guide. “If we had known Apple was going to profile the app as they did, we might have suggested to National Geographic that (the app) be released at $0.99 or something like that,” Cooke stated. Nonetheless, the app remains popular, despite the complaints. For now, Rally seems committed to learning more about iOS and making their customers happy. In doing so, they have no plans to develop for Android (as no client has asked them to do so). Besides, they feel most comfortable with Apple’s “closed” iOS environment, which they called much better than Google’s more open, yet flawed system. Wherever their paths take them, Rally Interactive remains committed to keeping with their principals. In fact, Cline suggests that the company's biggest contribution to iOS could someday be far more important than creating travel apps or online clothing catalogs. “Curing cancer would be nice,” he suggests. For more information on Rally Interactive, be sure to check out their website. Additionally, you can download the universal National Parks by National Geographic app and Utah.com’s Canyon Country National Parks app in the App Store.
National Parks by National Geographic
National Geographic Society
Canyon Country National Parks