45royale was founded in October of 2005. That’s a lifetime ago in internet years.
In those days, Web 2.0 ruled the land, the first podcast craze was just taking off, and the iPhone was but a twinkle in Steve Jobs’ eye.
We’re probably a little biased, but we feel like we hit the scene during the golden age of web design. As a fledgling design studio learning the ropes, we achieved success by standing on the shoulders of giants. Zeldman, Cederholm, Bowman, Santa Maria, Shea, Snook, the guys at The Big Noob—all openly sharing what they were learning every day.
In the beginning…
During the first few years of our existence, we were lucky enough to build a quick reputation. We hitched our wagon to quality work, word of mouth referrals, and doing right by people. Business was booming—we could hardly keep up with the opportunities.
In fact, most people don’t know this, but in February of 2009 Facebook approached us about joining their little upstart design organization. After a few interviews, we ended up declining because we had too much work and weren’t in a place to move to California (Adam and I had each bought new homes and were settling down). 10 years later, we shudder to think about how much money we could be swimming in right now. But hey, that’s life.
We aren’t complaining, though. We saw several amazing years filled with impactful projects, smart clients, and incredible growth. However, somewhere around 2014 we noticed the design landscape changing dramatically. For the first time in 45royale’s history, we started worrying about where the next project was coming from. And we weren’t alone—we asked around and a lot of design firms were feeling the crunch, too.
The death of the web design agency
We didn’t know it at the time, but in 2014 we were smack dab in the middle of a major industry shift. Two years after the carnage, Oliver Lindberg, former editor of .net magazine, wrote an article called, “The death of the web design agency“. In it, Greg Storey of Happy Cog fame described 2014 as “apocalyptic for web design in the US, with many agencies failing to attract the levels of business they’re used to”.
As agencies began to feel the belt tighten, design-forward companies were there to swoop up talent and bring it in-house. Aqui-hiring became the new norm, and a lot of our peers closed up shop.
Truth be told, we had offers landing on our doorstep, too. We flirted with a few big-name companies and even worked inside their organizations for a while on trial runs. But at the end of the day, nothing felt right. All this uncertainty dampened our spirits and we couldn’t help but think about what the future looked like for 45royale.
In 2017 we got busy again and carried on, but it was too late—the seed had been planted and the rat race had taken its toll. By 2018, it was clear that we were all ready for a change. So at the beginning of 2019, we began the journey to dissolve 45royale.
So where do we stand now?
Well, we’ve stopped taking on new projects and are working on exit strategies with long-standing clients. Matt, Adam, and the rest of the team are taking time to explore new opportunities. We’ve decided to leave our site and blog up as a way to pay forward the knowledge we’ve gathered over the last 14 years.
I’m sure there will be more conversation to come from this announcement, but for now, we’d just like to say thank you. Thank you to the generous and selfless web design community that’s helped us mature and master our skillset. Thank you to our clients who kept this crazy dream alive for almost 14 years.
But most of all, thank you to the incredible designers, developers, administrators, and mentors that made 45royale the amazing, remote-first company it became. Without you, none of this would have been possible.
With much love and gratitude, we look forward to the future. Here’s to the next chapter…