An Unofficial (and Working) Guide to Navigating Rule29, from an Experience Institute Fellow. 

 

When you start working at a new place, you might feel lost or anxious during your first few days. And if you’re like me, you think about every possible thing that could happen the night before your first day and lose sleep over it. What if I’m dressed inappropriately? Are they going to be super rigid? Septum piercing in or out? Is parking going to be a pain? What if there’s unexpected construction on the way? Better leave way too early — you’re not going to sleep much anyways.

Without fail, these kinds of questions and thoughts race through my head. And that nervousness feels silly now that I’ve settled into my position at Rule29, because it’s pretty different from most places I’ve worked before (read: it’s an incredibly welcoming and friendly environment). I began working at Rule29 in October for my first apprenticeship as an Experience Institute fellow, where I’m using experiential learning to create a model for design research, strategy, and social innovation.

As a Brand Research Fellow at Rule29, my main project is to help mold a more cohesive and true Rule29 brand. Even though branding is one of many capabilities at the agency, having an outsider’s perspective was necessary to go through the process in an appropriate way. Learning from professionals who do award-winning branding and design work while utilizing my research and strategy skills has been the kind of exchange I was hoping to experience during my Leap Year. At the end of my three-month experience, I hope to leave the agency with an even greater sense of confidence in their brand alignment within and outside the company, whether that means overhauling the language in their static content or just suggesting small tweaks to their tone of voice.

Besides interviewing both Rule29 employees and clients to understand the values and personalities of the company, I’m also actively observing the environment and interactions in the workplace, a.k.a. the old Geneva house-turned-studio that’s more of a home than a typical office.

I’m still figuring out the culture and nuances of Rule29, but already I feel like I’ve gotten a grasp of the place, thanks to being thrown right into the mix. So far, here’s what I’ve been able to pick up.

Multitasking is not just a useful skill, it’s an absolute necessity at Rule29. Join a Monday Production Meeting for two minutes and you’ll see just how full everyone’s plates are. And the variety of work on each plate is more than I realized a small agency could deliver.

“Hey, Susan. How’s everything going with the wireframes? And the brochure layouts? What about the ad campaign? Ok and the HTML email template? Anything else? Oh right, the Keynote?”

In Rule29’s case, multitasking also means balancing many talents and expertise. Equal parts grit and skill, the team is creative, strategic, empathetic, earnest, and tenacious. Diving into work alongside this group has been both humbling and a great learning experience for a strategic creative agency newbie.

They care about their clients and their work. A lot. I’ve watched the blood, sweat, and tears (ok, maybe not blood, but definitely some sweat and a few tears) that the team puts in to create high quality and valuable work. Their ability to listen and execute is one of the most valued abilities that their clients have brought up in interviews.

The server. Don’t mess with perfection, am I right? Since I don’t need to go in there often, I stay away from it. That’s where all the creative goodness lives, neatly tucked into beds of megabytes and gigabytes.

“Wait. Which folder did you put it?”

 The sense of family is apparent from the very first day. Not only is the office a house with a fully stocked kitchen that people actually cook in, the team openly and jokingly bickers like siblings. Some stay out of it and opt to find solace in their quiet corners, but most of the time everyone is laughing (unless Kelly is making the joke).

I’m so glad I happen to be here for the holidays. Immediately after Thanksgiving, Dawn, the Studio Operations Manager, decked the place out in all things Christmas. Tinsel, lights, three (and counting) trees, and numerous holiday-scented candles create a cozy, festive ambiance. And how could I forget the holiday music playing on the Sonos system?

“How do you feel about Mariah Carey?”

It’s been a little over a month and I already feel like a part of the group. Feeling a sense of belonging in a workplace makes an enormous difference, not only by experiencing comfort in a place you spend many hours a week but also by feeling appreciated and motivated to do your best work. Even though it’s quite a jarring difference from my last job, it’s a very welcomed one that will surely inform, and set the bar for, what I look for in future endeavors.