A new kind of company
When David Poteet founded NewCity in 1995, the web was still in its infancy with ~16M users. But he was quick to see the potential in digital, as many organizations were making the transition from a traditional media mindset.
Before launching NewCity David had designed the first website for Radford University. RU put him in touch with the Roanoke Times, which was looking for someone to teach web publishing to their news team. That grew into a subcontracting relationship, so when NewCity began we did a lot of work for advertising clients of the newspaper. We created all kinds of sites in those early days for everything from real estate to heavy equipment dealers, wireless telecom, exterminators and private schools.
We reached a turning point in 1999 when David attended a presentation by Jared Spool at a web conference in San Francisco titled “Cool Doesn’t Cut It.” It was in the heyday of the dot-com boom, and a lot of websites were being sold on the cool factor – not necessarily to make something useful. Jared shared research into user behavior that had direct implications for making websites intuitive and easy. The idea that web design could be both art and science started NewCity on a journey into human-centered design. We’ve built our business around this philosophy ever since.
From Regional to National
Higher education was the key to NewCity’s growth from a small start-up in a Virginia college town to an agency with a national (and even international) < list of clients >.
2006 was a breakthrough year for us, as we developed the website for Virginia Tech using Indi Young’s approach to aligning user goals with organizational goals. That led directly to a contract with Imperial College London in 2007, and those two references helped us add new colleges and universities each year. Higher education has proven to be a good fit for NewCity, since we thrive at the collaborative leadership required to wrangle large, complex projects with multiple stakeholders. We’ve established ourselves as an agency that really gets Higher Ed, which now represents a majority of our client base. (Though it’s certainly not all that we do.)
To date, we’ve worked with close to 40 colleges and universities, including Pomona College, Cornell University, Virginia Tech, and Oklahoma State University.
Over the past few years we’ve seen a shift in the way our clients approach digital projects. They’re not looking for a bunch of digital gurus to come and build them a beautiful finished product – and then walk away. They want a partnership; they want to learn from us (and we want to learn from them!); they want to become more self-sufficient. That’s why our focus is increasingly on teaching human-centered design, creating flexible design systems and platforms on which our clients can build. We want to create methodologies and tools that equip our clients for the digital challenges ahead.
Our name… we get asked about it a lot. From the beginning, David Poteet saw the internet as a new city, with all of the creative possibilities, technological breakthroughs, and spontaneous energy of physical cities – as well as the challenges, too.
The internet opens avenues for engagement, community, and commerce beyond the geographic bounds we used to know. It is itself a city in a constant state of reinvention. We embrace that flux, diving into new ways for people to engage with one another.