I kinda had a hunch all along that I would start my own business at some point. My dad and both of my older brothers had done it, so it seemed like a natural choice. By early 2005 my side business of designing and building websites had become a full-time job with the start of a redesign project for the Virginia State Bar.

My years in business rolled by pretty quickly. Projects, clients, and employees all came and went. I moved out of the spare bedroom and into a shared office, then another and another.

Eventually the effort of running a business was my job, and graphic design—the reason I was in this business to begin with—fell by the wayside.

Punch became a client of mine along the way. I appreciated how organized they kept their jobs and how readily they accepted my advice on projects. When Charlie approached me about joining the team at Punch, I ultimately accepted, sensing an opportunity to hone my skills in design and user experience while building an interactive design team that could tackle larger and more challenging projects than I could on my own.

In January of 2012, I parked my pickup truck in the alley behind Punch’s Shockoe office and hauled my iMac up the stairs and into my new office.

Even though I knew just about everyone at Punch by this point, having worked with most on one job or another, I was nervous to be here.

I was used to navigating projects with clients, but working side by side with this many designers was going to be a new experience. Especially considering that one of the reasons I was here was to help them hone their skills in interactive design and user experience, not just my own. It hasn’t been easy. Concepts around designing for many screens and devices, and approaching projects from a content-first perspective are difficult even for seasoned interactive designers, but we have taken some solid first steps.

Among the first people that joined my team directly were web developer Phil Barbato and content strategist Alica Lane. Amid the day-to-day work of projects, we started collaborating on ways that we could share our experience in interactive design with the rest of the team. We started a lunch-n-learn series to share broad industry topics. We introduced tools like Basecamp and Google docs to facilitate collaboration. And, we worked—and still work—on what an effective process for interactive projects looks like here at Punch—one that builds on the strengths of the new interactive team, as well as the strengths of a team whose focus has been in traditional media and award-winning design.

Photography has always been one of my favorite hobbies. In high school and college I spent a good bit of time in the photography darkroom.

I loved the process for making prints. Expose the paper, run it through the developing trays, and see what you end up with. Start with a new sheet, add a little more exposure, burn and dodge a bit, and check it again. Gradually, through trial and error along with some measure of skill and experience, the image you want begins to emerge—the image you wanted to capture when you pressed the shutter.

Punch is a work in progress, just as it has been for 20 years. As our team adapts to the changing landscape of design and business, we continue to grow and adapt to new challenges. As we build on the successes and learn from our failures, a clearer picture emerges. When I took the job here at Punch, I had a vision of my own for what that picture might be. Over the last two years I have learned that what emerges will never be simply my own, but a collaboration of everyone involved.

It is a picture that is uniquely Punch and one that I am proud to have had a hand in making.

Phil Hertzler

Phil has spent the past decade perfecting his web design and development skills. After building his own successful company, he joined Punch to build an in-house digital team. Phil stays connected to the RVA community by being a regular at Refresh RVA and the Richmond Ad Club.

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