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Meet Olive & Company Interactive Director, Peter Robelia

Meet Olive & Company Interactive Director, Peter Robelia

When Rob Haskin and Tom Keekley decided to form Olive & Company, the first item on their to-do list was to bring someone on board whose interactive development expertise could support and build upon their creative vision. Fortunately, they already knew exactly who they wanted – long-time collaborator, Peter Robelia – and it wasn’t long before Peter joined them in the original Olive HQ in Northeast Minneapolis.

Ten years later, much has changed in the world of interactive projects, but Peter’s love of a well-made website has never wavered. As Interactive Director, Peter manages the development of all interactive projects that pass through Olive & Company. This includes everything from initial planning, through advising on how design will interact with and affect development, to the coding of a site, down to hosting setup and transitioning a site into a live environment. Occasionally, he may even flex his creative muscles with concept brainstorming or copy writing.

We spoke with Peter about Olive’s early days, the changing interactive project landscape, and spacer GIFs.

What did you do prior to your time at Olive & Company?

I worked for various marketing and design firms as a hybrid designer/developer. I even spent a few years working for the Haskin Design Group — a not-so-distant ancestor of Olive & Company.

You’ve been an integral part of Olive & Company since day one. How did Tom and Rob convince you to join them as they started up the studio?

Having known Rob and Tom for quite a few years, and having worked for Rob previously, I spent all of 3 seconds deciding to accept the offer. I knew that the company would have a passion for design, a commitment to doing great work, and promote a work environment that was as fun and unusual as it was talented and productive. Plus, they let me have the desk by the window, so I was sold.

Do you remember the first project you ever worked on at Olive?

I was working on the B.T. McElrath Chocolatier website and shopping cart before I even walked through the door. They were my first client and are still one of my favorites. If you haven’t tried it yet, the Salty Dog chocolate bar is not to be missed!

Initially, it was just the three of you and a lot of empty space within the Grain Belt Bottling House studio. Did you ever think you guys would fill that space with people?

I was pretty sure that we had the potential to grow, but I figured if we couldn’t fill the space there was just more room for Galaxian video games and air hockey tables. Sadly, we grew too fast for any arcade dreams to come true.

Interactive projects have obviously evolved over the last 10 years. From your perspective, what has been the biggest change?

I think the proliferation of mobile devices, and the responsive design revolution that followed, has had the greatest impact on the way I view websites and interactive projects. It’s was like adding a 3rd dimension to web design. That, coupled with the fading of Flash and the loosening of the IE6 death grip over the last few years, has really altered the entire field. I welcome these changes with open arms! I’ve never been more excited about web design, and its potential, than I am right now.

What is the single biggest challenge that you deal with in interactive projects?

I think my biggest challenge comes with anticipating the unforeseen parts of a project. There are always unexpected challenges that can pop up, adding complexity to what appeared to be a straightforward project. Luckily, with time, I’ve come to anticipate a lot of these challenges and can plan for them from the start, instead of dealing with them mid-project. I like to think of it as ESPP — Extra Sensory Project Perception.

What is the best part about your job?

I love building websites. CSS and JavaScript are just plain fun. I get excited by HTML5 and the advancement of browser technology. About the only thing that trumps that part of the job is the fact that I get to spend my days with such awesome Olive colleagues.

Foundation or Bootstrap?

Bootstrap, but only because of its native IE8 support. With 10% market share, IE8 is still alive and kicking, so we can’t quite abandon it yet.

Of all the various development tools, frameworks, platforms, and solutions, which has the coolest-sounding name?

I can’t pick one, but the other day I heard myself saying, “I’m base-64 encoding those SVGs and using a Sass mixin during preprocessing to ensure PNG fallback,” and I thought it sounded pretty cool. Others may argue how appropriate it is to associate the word “cool” with sentences like that.

Any old-school web development practices that you’re particularly happy to be rid of? You miss spacer GIFs, don’t you? Come on, be honest.

I love spacer GIFs and will always keep one in my back pocket just in case of a web apocalypse.

If the leaders of all the nations of the world came to you and asked you to pick a single content management system that every website would have to use from that point forward, which CMS would you recommend?

I’d have to recommended WordPress for 99% of the U.N. — just don’t let them turn on the commenting functionality or your dreams of world peace are shot.

Do you ever feel bad for the developers who worked on the healthcare.gov website?

No, I feel bad for the people who have to use it.

Okay, last one. If you were being sent on a voyage into space and you were only allowed to bring one book (no iPads, Kindles, or Nooks allowed on this trip), what would you bring?

Hmmmm…tough one. I’ve probably gotten the most real world mileage out of The Shipping News by Annie Proulx, but if I was going into space I’d probably want something I haven’t read. How about Moby Dick…I’ve never been able to get through it on earth, so maybe space is the place.

Olive & Company
Olive & Company
Founded in 2003, Olive & Company has dedicated our existence to a single purpose: providing finely tuned Modern Marketing solutions that drive brands and deliver business results. By helping brands stay in tune with emerging trends and technology, we give them the tools they need to adapt and refine their strategies to better engage and inspire their audiences.