The Portland metropolitan area has been dubbed the “Silicon Forest” thanks to the likes of Intel and a few other large tech companies which call it home. Fundy Software Inc., however, is not a large company. Located in an unassuming office building in Beaverton, OR, Fundy’s entire staff works within earshot of each other. The company was founded in 2008 by Andrew Funderberg who, as a working photographer, had struggled for years trying to find an efficient way to create album designs for photo books and collages. While software companies had long provided templates (and photographers often created their own), he felt this was not actually a solution to the problem.
“Up until now, every album design was based on templates,” he explains. “The problem with that, is that if you have three vertical [photos] and two horizontal, and the template is the opposite, you’re stuck.” So Andrew, or “Fundy” as he is known, set out to devise a new way of designing albums, one that offered the drag-and-drop ease of a template, but without the static limitations. While the idea was to improve his own workflow, the project grew and grew, eventually culminating in the creation of Album Builder, a Photoshop plugin that used math to dynamically design a beautiful page layout regardless of the number of horizontal and vertical photos you brought into it. Running a software company is now Andrew’s full-time occupation. “I still do photography, ” he says, “but now it’s just for fun.” Somewhat amazingly, he has no formal background in computer programming—he earned a BA in English, then moved to Japan where he did his MBA and spent a lot of time shooting weddings. I ask him how he made the jump from photographer to software designer. “I think it was mostly out of stupidity. If I had known what I know now, I would have told myself back then that there’s no way I could have done this. Now I have 11 employees and it’s, you know, it’s kind of crazy.” By being unaware of the obstacles in front of him, he saw right past them.
Album Builder is now the best and easiest-to-use album design software available, and has received well-earned praise from the professional photo community (Tamara Lackey even made an appearance in Fundy Software’s hilarious April Fool’s video in 2012).
Casual dress, free beer and espresso, and Nerf gun fights are just a few examples of how the company keeps the work environment fun and inspires its employees to stay engaged and keep their creative juices flowing. While this approach may seem unorthodox to some, it’s certainly not too different from how many small Portland-area companies are run, and it seems to work: Fundy Software just put out their 6th version of Album Builder as part of their new Fundy Design suite of applications (which also includes Blog Collage, Image Brander, and Gallery Designer). Redesigned from the ground up, Album Builder V6 runs as a standalone application, not a Photoshop plugin, which makes it more efficient and more available to photographers who have a decreasing need for Photoshop. The interface is simple and elegant, but it’s the speed of the program I found most impressive. Andrew demonstrated how it’s possible to design a full book in about five minutes, and then instantly convert it from an 8×10 to, say, a 6×6. Regardless of the number of photos or aspect ratio, the software intelligently resizes all of the images to fit. Any cropping can be manually adjusted, of course, to make sure important areas of your photos are not being cut.
While Album Builder V6 is a significant accomplishment, the company is already looking to what’s next. Gallery Designer is a new app that allows photographers to create wall splits and plan gallery shows with the same ease as designing an album. Album Builder remains the core product, and it won’t be staying stagnant, either. “When I was living in Japan, one of the things I focused on was Toyota’s philosophy of kaizen which means constant improvement,” Andrew says. “[It’s] the philosophy that you’re never done. There will never be a final version of Album Builder.”