In a loft warehouse east of San Francisco, across the bay, a pair of Drury graduates are honing a modern approach to advertising. The company they cofounded, beyondcool, works with a select group of clients, and has nearly doubled its revenue this year despite a bumpy economy. Throughout, Jason Perkins '97 and Robert Price '97 draw constantly upon the lessons they learned at Drury.
They knew each other on campus, even worked on a project together, but Jason and Robert followed very different paths to the work they now share. Robert came to Drury an artist, a sketcher since childhood. He wanted business acumen, and a way to carry his artistic skills into a commercial environment. As a freshman and sophomore, he tore through every possible art course. By the time he was a junior, he was ready for internships and advanced independent studies, guided by professor Dudley Murphy. Courses in psychology, sociology, business and communication rounded out his major.
Jason, on the other hand, scrambled to meet his high school art requirement (though he did well in the one class he took). He arrived at Drury with an interest in accounting, tried majoring in journalism, then public relations. "I was studying communications, but not with much focus," he says. In his last semester, he returned to the arts with classes in drawing and painting, and even a stint in the Drury jazz band. "I didn't deserve to be there," he says. "I just wanted to soak it in. I promised I'd keep my guitar turned low." Summer work and internships taught him to design pages for the World Wide Web. In the end, he earned a degree in public relations, added a minor in art, and wished he'd studied more visual communication.
Jason headed west, to California, joining a small ad company, Pfeifer Swan Creative. Within months, the company decided to spin off its Web design services. Jason, realizing he was a better manager than designer, suggested Robert might be a good addition. Price, working at marketing firm Noble and Associates in Springfield, was interested in Web, interactive and CD-ROM design. "I guess I'm fortunate to say Jason liked what I was doing." He moved, and beyondcool was born.
How did their Drury experiences play into this success? Jason learned flexibility - and humility. "The first thing you have to know to be really good is that you're never going to know it all," he says. "The really interesting thing about Drury is that you could step in and out of fields of study easily. The more you've experienced, the better you become at it." Campus jobs and internships, including a stint helping design Drury's first Web pages, helped broaden his skills, paving the way for his current career.
Robert's appreciation for what he learned at Drury came in 1999. Even as he'd worked through courses in communication, psychology and sociology, he says, "I didn't see too much how it related" to the graphic arts career he had in mind. Then, as beyondcool retooled itself two years ago, Price began "looking more at strategy," and a key advertising principle came up: positioning. Thanks to a course he took with Joe McAdoo, Price could say to himself, Hey, I studied this in college! The familiarity helped beyondcool develop a vision for the future. In contrast, one of their major competitors recently went bankrupt. Robert sums it up neatly: "As an immature young man I didn't realize it at the time, but it all clicked, it all came together."
In an ironic evolution, Price, the childhood artist, now sees himself more as a businessman, "manipulating brands to create revenues for a company," while Perkins says "I got into this because ... I wanted to be an artist." Yet the work each does requires creativity on many fronts. And each realizes the benefits of his multifaceted Drury education.