Goodnight, 45royale…

Company 3 min read

Goodnight, 45royale...

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 the 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…

Matt & Adam

27 Comments

Sandeep Dhesi December 16, 2019

Sorry to hear the news guys. Thanks for all the resources and knowledge over the years! All the best with your future ventures.

Matt Downey December 17, 2019

Thanks, Sandeep—we appreciate the love. We’re going to leave our blog up so that people can hopefully learn from our experience these past 14 years.

If you’d like to follow our journey after 45royale, you can keep up with Adam on Twitter and me on my newsletter.

Damien December 16, 2019

This hit really close home, Matt. I decided to move on from Wake Interactive in 2015 (after 10 years) for all the reasons you cited. You guys were always inspiring and I’m sure your talents will land you steady.

Matt Downey December 17, 2019

Thanks again, Damien—we appreciate your kind words!

Bill December 16, 2019

Thank you for all of the design inspiration and amazing resources over the years guys! I’m sure you’ll both be a huge success in your next endeavours!

Matt Downey December 17, 2019

Thanks for the kind words, Bill. It was our pleasure to share what we created and learned along the way!

Tom O'Dea December 16, 2019

Congratulations on your 14 years of success! Running a small business that long is very difficult and you should be proud. Best of luck to you both in the future.

Matt Downey December 17, 2019

Tom—it’s good to hear from you! It was because of clients like you that we lasted 14 years. Thanks for the kind words, we’re definitely proud of everything we accomplished with 45royale and are looking forward to the future!

Geof Harries December 16, 2019

I was there in those Web 2.0 days with you. I’ve been following and admiring 45royale’s work and endurance ever since. Coincidentally, 2014 is when our business closed its doors.

I am sure it’s heart-wrenching for you to turn off the lights on a creation that was your own, you grew and ran for a long period. But, I believe with some time and perspective you’ll appreciate what you achieved with 45royale. Even more than you realize today.

You will move forward to enjoy, learn and mature in a new phase of your life and career. I know I have.

Best wishes for you and your families.

Matt Downey December 17, 2019

Wow, Geof—thank you so much for this. I read your comment to my wife last night and we were both moved by your words.

It’s definitely going to take some time for things to sink in. It’s always hard in the moment to step back and appreciate everything that’s transpired. Fourteen years of history is hard to unpack all at once. But the transition is made a bit easier because we’ve been planning this moment internally for the better part of this year.

Even with all the planning, it was still surreal to make things public yesterday. The saving grace is that everyone at 45royale knows their best work is ahead of them and we’re all excited for what the future holds.

From my family to yours, I hope you enjoy the holidays and we’re wishing you the best in 2020. Cheers!

Ole Martin Kristiansen December 17, 2019

So sorry to hear this! Glad I got the opportunity to work with you back in the days. Best of luck!

Matt Downey December 17, 2019

Ollie, so good to hear from you!

It was our pleasure having you on the team—you made a huge impact on the design culture during your time with us at 45royale. We couldn’t be more grateful!

It’s been fun watching your continued success at Bakken & Bæck—here’s to a healthy and prosperous 2020!

R.Bhavesh December 17, 2019

Been following the work of 45 Royale since 2009-10 and you guys have always been an inspiration. Sad to see this shop is closing but wishing you all the success and happiness in your future endeavors.

Matt Downey December 17, 2019

Thanks R.Bhavesh—I appreciate your kind words. All the best to you in the new year!

Adam Schwartz December 17, 2019

14 years – wow! Congrats guys.

You two really helped us shine as we were coming up. I’m very grateful. Best of luck to you two in your next chapter!

Matt Downey December 17, 2019

Adam, it’s great to hear from you!

Working with you and the team at Articulate for 7+ years was hands down the highlight of our careers. You are an amazing leader and we considered ourselves lucky to learn from you every day.

I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunity you gave me and the trust you showed me during our time together. I wish you and the team at Articulate nothing but happiness and success in 2020–may it be your best year yet!

Tyler December 18, 2019

Wow, but what a great run! You’ve produced top-notch work for a while and I’m excited to see what comes next. ✌️

Matt Downey May 11, 2020

Thanks Tyler—we’re pretty proud of what we accomplished over those 14+ years. Hope you’re doing well, cheers bud!

Lee December 18, 2019

Long time Adam! I didn’t know you guys were closing up shop. Would love to chat sometime after the new year on what you’ll be doing post closing up shop. It’s been Yeeeeeeaarrrs since we’ve talked. I’ve always been a fan of your work and have kept it on my radar since back in the day when we transitioned away from Articulate :D

Happy Holidays and chat soon

Ryan December 20, 2019

Hi guys,

Sorry to hear you’re closing down – been a backseat admirer for a while. I remember I was just getting into web dev and was perplexed how you managed to have a banner slider on your homepage with a circular notch cut out of it.

All the best

Matt Downey May 11, 2020

Thanks Ryan, I appreciate that. And you’re not the only one confounded by the notch—we had more questions about how we pulled that off than anything else on our site!

Alex February 3, 2020

This broke my heart. I’ve loved your agency so much.

Matt Downey May 11, 2020

Thanks Alex—I appreciate the kind words and the love. Unfortunately, 45royale’s time came. We’ll take with us a lot of great memories, relationships, and experience.

Jermaine May 8, 2020

Wow! Visit your site randomly just to see what you all are working on. Met you and Adam at AWDG and those were fun times. Even had the chance to attend a 45royale Holiday Party. Wish you all the best of luck!

Matt Downey May 11, 2020

Long time no talk, Jermaine!

Yes, the AWDG parties back in the day were legendary. I have fond memories of hanging out and talking shop ’til the wee hours. Those were definitely the golden days. And who could forget your “8 AM Maine” videos — they were always so motivating, energizing, and entertaining!

Hope you’re well and safe man, take care and thanks for stopping by the blog!

Matt Rossi August 19, 2020

Dang, what a bummer. I check your site from time to time and was always excited to see what new redesign you had going. Today when I checked I was shocked. You guys were a tremendous inspiration throughout the years for me. I look forward to seeing what comes next, best of luck!!

Emmanuel August 20, 2020

Been checking your website for a long for inspiration and the thought just dropped on my mind that I haven’t checked a long time, and kaboom! Wow!! You guys are amazing inspiration. I wish you the very best in your future experiments.

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