by Lauren Festa
They say don’t mix business with pleasure, but for these creative couples, that’s just the perfect working formula between themselves and their clients in producing some of the best work in the industry today. For this series, we’re speaking to creative couples at the top of their game, running small design studios near and far, who prove that there really is such thing as a better half. As for ‘who’, well, that depends on what day of the week it is.
Everyone has at least one good novel in them. That is true of Creative Directors Jared and Rachel Rippy. Except their novel is not a book, it’s their Denver based design studio. For 14 years, the couple has been together, after studying at the Art Institute of Colorado where they both took up positions at the Aspen Art Museum. Currently, NOVEL is where they work and play on freelance projects as a team.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Names: Jared and Rachel Rippy
Ages: 34 and 35
Location: Denver, CO
Working Titles: Co-Founders and Creative Directors
ADC: Everyone here is (refreshingly) breaking the cardinal rule: Don’t date in the workplace. Do you think it’s time we changed this traditional sensibility?
Jared & Rachel: It makes sense to date someone with common interests and it’s nice to be with someone who understands the things that drive you. Although that being said, proceed with caution. We’ve also seen plenty of workplace dramas to let go of that sentiment wholesale.
ADC: Sometimes you end up liking the people you work with and I think that’s okay.
J&R: For sure, if it seems like a good fit, why not?
ADC: Did you think this would work from the get go? Any doubts?
J&R: We’ve always felt it would work because of the common bond of loving all things design and we both have a drive to seek out our individual vision.
ADC: Has a client ever been skeptical to approach or have you ever been turned down work given the work dynamic? Some people feel like work may not get done, or there are too many emotions involved.
J&R: To our knowledge we haven’t experienced that. Clients often see it as a positive and it adds a level of integrity and dedication to the work. We try to keep things professional and not let emotions affect our interactions with clients.
ADC: Is this something that “is not for everyone”?
J&R: It can work for anyone as long as each partner is willing to put in the time, sacrifice, thought and care into each other as much as they put into the work. It can be a grind but a wonderful and beautiful one.
ADC: Have you ever had a moment where you guys were like “that’s it, I quit!”
J&R: Yes, but it’s worth sticking with it in the low times.
ADC: What are some of the main differences between working in this dynamic (together as a couple), versus working in a larger agency setting with different people?
J&R: The amount of freedom and openness is refreshing when working for yourself. It leads to knowing yourself more honestly. It’s also a nice setting, living by your own standards and ideas. It’s a ton of added responsibility, but we’ve both found working under others has sucked the life out of us, in most cases.
ADC: How does it help each of you personally, to be able to work with someone you also cook with and do laundry with?
J&R: It’s often beneficial to ideate on projects outside of the office, while cooking, walking the dogs or over a meal. For general concepting, this can be the best time to take a step back and see things more holistically. Each of us has insights to each other that is helpful. We’re constantly bouncing ideas back and forth and we lean on the expertise we each have as well. Work also feels more collaborative when you’re both working toward the same goal of producing great work together, rather than worrying about building individual careers.
ADC: Any tips, tricks or advice?
J&R: Since starting out, we have grown in understanding each other which has helped with understanding clients in a way. You go through highs and lows (such is life) which builds empathy and you are better for them as a couple and as a business. Tip: Always be attentive and listen. Give your significant other time and energy, even if you don’t feel like it.
ADC: Do you generally work together as a team or as individuals and have check-ins?
J&R: Mostly as a team but there is a mix of individual work as well where we bounce ideas off of each other along the way. There are also smaller, completely autonomous projects where the only check-in is ‘Did you finish yet?’
ADC: How do you balance the work/life thing? Do couples have a rule that when you aren’t at work you aren’t talking about work or does it blur into personal hours?
J&R: It definitely blurs into personal hours, although we try to keep some separation too. We recently moved our studio outside of our home which has helped tremendously. We do talk about projects and do some sketching in our personal time, but we try to keep it casual and refreshing to help us recharge.
ADC: Do you give yourselves or each other days off?
J&R: Yes. Our work week is generally Monday through Friday, but if we want to shift things around because one or the other needs a break, or we want to go on a hike, to an event, or take a longer lunch at a nice eatery we make the time for these.
ADC:Do you agree on most decisions or is there lots of debate and discussion?
J&R: We see eye to eye most of the time, and talk things through to come to a compromise when we don’t. Jared tends to make decisions based more on intuition or emotion and Rachel tends to have a more logical outlook, but our approaches usually compliment and work well together.
ADC: Do you have more freedom?
J&R: Yes, there’s more freedom to set our schedules, take a break when we need it, and make time for doing the little things that are important to us.
ADC: Who does what?
J&R: Jared focuses on illustration and branding projects and Rachel helms the web design and development. You don’t want Jared anywhere near code.
ADC: It seems like the work came first and then the relationship. Does work still come first or are there more important things?
J&R: We both had design as a focus in our lives at school, although the relationship came before working together professionally. Our careers grew and converged, eventually leading us to work toward a common goal. We would say our relationship would always come before career and we adjust the business accordingly.
ADC: What is one thing you wish people would understand about working as a creative couple?
J&R: Although it’s familial, what we do is taken very seriously and our work is an output of our drive and is a part of who we are.
ADC: Please fill in the blanks: I _______ working with my significant other because _______.
Jared: I _live for__ working with my significant other because ___it is fulfilling and she strengthens my weaknesses__.
Rachel: I _love_ working with my significant other because _he always makes things interesting and challenges me to do better_.