The emails—minimalist, interactive, and nearly always laced with inside jokes—have earned Table Tr Td a small but ardent following in the tight-knit email development community. To see why, check out this email Palu and Roberts delivered on April 10, which features a fully functional email builder within an email.
At once a prankish stunt and a legitimate tool, it elicited both incredulity (“Are you kidding me?”) and admiration (“Building an email inside an email is some meta shit.”) from Table Tr Td’s Twitter followers.
Interactive email is a hot topic among email marketers and developers these days, and an email builder within an email is sort of the mother of all interactive emails. Yet the techniques Palu and Roberts used to build it—using checkboxes and radio buttons to toggle content—are decidedly old school. And the clinical visual style is almost anti-marketing.
While marketers may struggle to see the value of Table Tr Td’s experimental emails, email developers love it. Table Tr Td has achieved cult-like status among their peers for pursuing their vision so tenaciously. And that’s really their animating principle: to push the limits of email to inspire other email developers to do the same—and to stimulate a larger conversation about creativity.
Finding your way, along the way
Like most email developers, Palu and Roberts took winding routes to the discipline.
Palu originally went to college to study painting, eventually encountering the reality that has bummed out aspiring artists for time immemorial: “You don’t really get a job in ‘painting,’” she says.
She worked odd jobs for a while. When she found herself picking up trash for money, she decided that it was time to learn how to use a computer. She returned to school and discovered that web design brought together her 2 favorite subjects: math and art.
Around the same time, Roberts was traveling a similar path. He, too, had artistic aspirations but wasn’t sure how to go about it. He pursued a career as an auto body specialist, but he quickly found out that he’d be fixing dents and doing detail work for years before he’d get to actually paint. “Everybody in auto body wants to paint. You have to put your time in.”
So Roberts got a job as a conductor for the Burlington Santa Fe railroad. The pay was decent, but it didn’t scratch Roberts’ creative itch. So, like Palu, he returned to school. After earning a degree in graphic design, he landed a job at a development studio.