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Sandy

Sandstorm Design, a Chicago marketing and interactive web design agency, has been awarded WBE certification by the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). The WBENC is the nation's leading advocate of women-owned businesses as suppliers to America's corporations and the largest third-party certifier of businesses owned and operated by women in the United States. 

To qualify for WBE certification, businesses must be at least 51% owned and controlled by one or more women. The one or more women owners must control daily operations and management of the business as well. All applicants undergo a rigorous approval process to ensure the legitimacy of the business and maintain the integrity of the council.

Sandstorm Design, in business over ten years providing marketing strategy, rebranding initiatives, interactive web design work and usability services, was awarded the prestigious certification in November of 2008. "We are proud and honored to be a certified WBE business and be part of such an inspiring organization," principal Sandy Marsico said in regards to attaining WBE status. 

Visit Women's Business Enterprise National Council for more information. 

This blog was posted by Sandy on March 26, 2009.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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Sandy

Sandstorm Design has launched a new web site for the National Association of REALTORS® to promote the Green REsource Council and NAR's Green Designation. The designation is the first of it's kind from NAR and offers specialized green real estate training for residential, commercial and property management professionals. 

Filled with up-to-date news and resources, the site educates users on green building products and practices, reveals the numerous advantages to going green, and helps distinguish green goers from greenwashers.

Sandstorm Design was responsible for the design, writing, development and marketing of the site. "We wanted to make green seem accessible and help users start the conversation," Creative Director, Janna Fiester, said regarding the strategy behind the look, feel and tone of the site.

Non-members are able to connect with green designees and professionals, and members have access to exclusive webinars and marketing materials, an online community and more.

Established in early 2008, the Green REsource Council works to make green real estate knowledge available to everyone. They're accomplishing this by advocating for a greener MLS, building NAR’s Green Directory for green industry vendors, and developing resources and partnerships to keep their members at the forefront of the industry.

Learn more about the Green REsource Council and NAR's Green Designation.

This blog was posted by Sandy on May 7, 2009.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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Sandy

Sandstorm Design has been selected by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to participate in their Emerging 200 (E200) initiative. The purpose of the initiative is to provide 200 nationwide businesses with the network and resources to build a sustainable business and create more jobs. Candidates for the program are emerging small businesses that have a high potential for growth, are headquartered in an inner city and are at least 3 years old.

CEOs from the 200 selected emerging small businesses take part in an 8-month intensive curriculum focused on developing an expansion strategy, and participate in a graduation ceremony upon completion. "The SBA Chicago group is like having our own Board of Directors. Each CEO is bringing a wealth of information to the table, along with experience doing business in a variety of private industries and public sectors. It's an amazing learning and growing experience." principal, Sandy Marsico said regarding her involvement. 

Fourteen cities across the country were selected to participate in the initiative (out of 55 eligible cities), including: Detroit, Milwaukee, Chicago, Atlanta, Denver, Dallas, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, New Orleans, Memphis, Portland, Albuquerque, Jacksonville, and Des Moines.

Why small businesses? According to SBA’s Office of Advocacy, small businesses are the greatest source of new employment in inner cities and account for 80 percent of total employment. The SBA hopes to expand the E200 program in the future to more cities and businesses.

This blog was posted by Sandy on May 11, 2009.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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Sandy

Sandstorm Design is pleased to announce the launch of MissionGetHired.com, a new CareerBuilder.com site that helps U.S. Veterans find jobs. Sandstorm Design proudly developed the new brand name, information architecture, experiential design and messaging for the site, adapting the CareerBuilder.com brand to cater to U.S. Veterans. "We wanted to create an online experience that spoke directly to Veterans," creative director, Janna Fiester, said regarding the brand strategy.

The site launched in April of 2009 and instantly received recognition. Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, mentioned the site on CNN's Road to the Rescue segment – the only feature thus far with a positive spin on unemployment. Veteran employment is currently at 8.1%, compared to the 8.8% overall United States unemployment rate.

This blog was posted by Sandy on May 13, 2009.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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Sandy

Sandstorm Design and the Green REsource Council have been awarded a Standard of Excellence WebAward by the Web Marketing Association.

The Web Marketing Association annually honors sites in 96 industries based on their design, innovation, content, technology, interactivity, copywriting and ease of use. Entries are judged by an expert panel using a 0-70 points system, and only the top performers receive an award. Sandstorm and the Green REsource Council were honored in the Associations category.  Learn more information about the WebAward Competition and check out the winning site.

This blog was posted by Sandy on October 26, 2009.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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Sandy

Sandstorm Design is thrilled to be ranked 21st in Brill Street's list of the top 50 most Generation Y friendly companies in Chicago. Joining Sandstorm on this list are huge companies like Google and Orbitz and local gems like Threadless and The Field Museum.

Brill Street selected honorees based on extensive quantitative and qualitative research. Judging criteria was based on what mattered most to Gen Y employees, including the use of social media, allowing flexible hours, and maintaining a work/life balance. Sandstorm Design is about 50% Gen Y and embodies a Gen Y’s ideal corporate culture.

 

This blog was posted by Sandy on October 29, 2009.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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Sandy

Sandstorm Design is starting the year off with a bang by being featured in the business section of today's Chicago Tribune. The article, "Small Businesses See Good Omens for 2010," talks to small business owners anticipating new opportunities and significant growth in the coming year.

"I can almost guarantee I'll have more staff," Principal, Sandy Marsico, says regarding her recent workplace expansion. Last year, despite the economic situation, Sandstorm Design was able to expand both its team and its space.

The new space features a full-fledged kitchen, a windowed room aptly referred to as "the fishbowl", a bright "sandstorm-ing" room to generate creative ideas, and a more closed off nook for Sandstorm's management team.

As for Sandy's 2010 outlook, she maintains, "I'm optimistic….we haven't been this busy since 2007." 

This blog was posted by Sandy on January 4, 2010.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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Sandy

Not all graphic designers follow the same procedures in completing a project. But this cursory overview will help you become familiar with the ins-and-outs of the creative and production stages of the graphic design process.

Before any work begins, we suggest the following: a communication strategy; assigning one company staff person as the decision maker and key contact for graphic design; a written contract covering project parameters and responsibilities; money matters such as estimates and billing; and a project timetable. Since the communication strategy is the single-most important element guiding a project from its initial stages through final refinements, make sure that you and the graphic designer understand what it says.

Initial research should include an audit of your competitors' and your company's current communications. In trying to establish a distinct position for your company or one of its products or services, you don't want to mimic a competitor's work or contradict a message your company just sent out. 

The first stage of creative work includes concept development. This is an exciting process, exploring various options and weighing their merits against the communication strategy. Once the concept has been established, the refinement stage begins. Along the way, you see the project evolve, each time becoming more refined. Other creative work such as writing, illustration, or photography usually occurs simultaneously with refinement process. 

At the end of the concept refinement stage, the graphic designer will usually present a final comprehensive layout or mock-up to the person at your company who has final approval authority. He or she should be satisfied with everything that will go into the final product, including typography, photography, copywriting, paper and colors. 

Copywriting takes on particular importance because proofreading responsibility rests with the client unless other arrangements have been made. In today's electronic world, desktop publishing allows copy to go directly from word processing to set type. Correcting copy during the word processing stage, rather than later, saves time, money and headaches. 

Since the approval process may involve more than one client representative, expect changes at each decision-making point. It is important, however, that the client's key contact person keeps track of and agrees to all changes before the designer makes them. Then, the production stage begins. 

During production, you will be asked to review and approve preliminary proofs at each stage of the project. This proofing process ensures accuracy at every step in the process and keeps things on budget and on schedule. During the production stage, the designer ensures the technical accuracy and overall quality of the final product. 

A design project can span weeks or months. What you end up with will be the result of a joint effort. Talented designers and savvy clients produce effective graphic design by making the most of their common interests and their individual preferences. If you decide to work together on future projects, take the time to assess your experiences and look for ways to improve. A union forged by success can generate profits and growth for both of your companies. 

Text excerpted from "The Graphic Design Handbook for Business" 
© 1995 American Institute of Graphic Arts/Chicago Chapter

This blog was posted by Sandy on June 13, 2004.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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Sandy

One of the leading textbook publishers, McGraw-Hill, has invested $5 million in several companies that provide the software and applications to create e-books (Wired News, Aug 2000). From the success of e-books in the education industry, a completely new marketing tool has emerged. The e-book for business is not quite a brochure, nor a sell sheet or advertisement, but an informative, sales-driven resource.

Publishing an e-book allows a company to educate their clientele in a noninvasive way, to form strategic alliances with industry partners, and to open a dialogue with potential clients. Like a regular book, an e-book has chapters and pages of valuable information. As a marketing tool, an e-book reflects a corporate image, is distributed to educate prospects, and promotes an organization as the leader in their market for their product or service. 

Because an e-book can be posted to a web site as a downloadable file, sell sheets and pricing can be updated frequently, technological advances in a specific industry can be addressed quickly, and new products and services can be launched in detail without the cost of shipping or printing the publication. 

The trend of e-books in business is becoming a valuable, new marketing tool. Professionally designed and written, e-books can be integrated within a company’s marketing strategy and can reinforce a company’s corporate image. A prospect reading an e-book on a computer screen will do more than just read. Audio and video plug-ins can allow for video clips of product demonstrations and interviews with a CEO. Additional functions of a .pdf file enable prospects to highlight areas of interest, type notes in the margin of the text, and directly contact a company. 

E-books can be a powerful sales and marketing tool to generate leads and increase brand awareness. E-books can be sold on-line or given away as a promotional tool. Don't wait for your biggest competitors to discover the value of e-books.

This blog was posted by Sandy on june 13, 2004.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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Sandy

1. Visualize Your Dream and Write it Down!
Putting your dream in writing is the first step to achieving it. The act of writing creates a commitment on your part, and helps you paint an even clearer picture of your future.

2. Invest in Your Identity
If you are looking to start up a new venture, don't skimp on the logo. Your logo is the first impression of your business (especially when all you have are business cards to hand out). If there is one thing to spend some money on, it's building your identity. And don't forget to choose a great company name!

3. Two Words: Royalty Free
Royalty free photography is a designer's dream come true. The images can be purchased quickly, at a reasonable rate, and can be used an unlimited number of times. This is an excellent way to build a beautiful, cohesive look to your brand.

4. Breaking Up is Hard to Do
Developing the ability to fire the "bad" clients can make the difference between a profitable year and a year with too many headaches. Sometimes the chemistry just isn't there, or you have grown apart. Either way, the relationship needs to come to an end - it's better for both parties involved.

5. Find Mentors Outside of your Industry
Some of the best mentors are those outside of your industry, with similar business philosophies and ethics as yourself. If you find someone who inspires and guides you, you've found a new mentor!

6. When All Else is Equal, Go with your Gut
Not sure what to do about a current situation? Listen for that voice inside that I call my gut. This natural instinct can help you make significant creative, business and hiring decisions.

7. Don't Underestimate the Power of Color
Color has the power to persuade, influence and engage a reader. Don't be afraid of color when working on your marketing materials. Thanks to digital printing, full color pieces have become more affordable than ever.

8. When Spec Work, Works
I personally hate spec work. But it worked once when we needed to show a client that we were capable of handling a project and we didn't have the specific experience in our existing client portfolio. If your company decides to hire a design firm based on spec work, make sure there is open communication with the design firms involved to increase their chances of pulling together a creative solution that works.

9. Creativity Takes Time
Designers have a saying...You can get creative work done cheap, quick or good -pick two. Be patient as the best creative ideas generally don't happen the first hour or two of brainstorming.

10. How to Get the Most Out of Your Design Firm
The best way to get the creative results you are looking for from your design team is to outline your marketing goals from the beginning so your designers can create a visual solution to your problem, not just a pretty picture.

This blog was posted by Sandy on June 13, 2004.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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