About the Author

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James Wynne
James Wynne

James Wynne is Director of User Experience for Sandstorm and has been in digital product development since 1996. He has worked as a UX designer for a myriad of clients including large eCommerce brands, mobile device manufacturers and integrated marketing agencies.

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Karen Bartuch
Karen Bartuch

Karen Bartuch is passionate about data and uncovering hidden insights to help her clients make better business decisions. She enjoys taking an innovative yet evidence-based approach to her work.

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Ron Brown
Ron Brown

As a digital strategist, Ron is focused on creating campaigns and unique communications that drive engagement.

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Emma Thompson
Emma Thompson

As an Associate Digital Strategist, Emma has a background in ad sales and a desire to create strong brand identities.

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Terribeth Beasley
Terribeth Beasley

As a QA Analyst, Terribeth is detail oriented and driven to provide excellence within every project.

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Amanda Heberg
Amanda Heberg

As the VP, Business Development, Amanda leads new business development, sales, partnerships and marketing strategy across Sandstorm. Amanda collaborates closely with new clients to build strong, long-lasting partnerships while aligning Sandstorm's capabilities to solve client business problems.

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Eric Savage
Eric Savage

Eric Savage is a JavaScript Developer with expert knowledge and extensive experience in front-end development.

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Megan Durst, digital strategist
Megan Durst

Building strong client relationships in between running 5Ks

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Bill Kurland, Copywriter
Bill Kurland

Copywriter Extraordinaire

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joshua sovell
Joshua Sovell

As the Marketing Manager Joshua is in charge of crafting the Sandstorm narrative via compelling blog content and community engagement.

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Jeff Umbricht
Jeff Umbricht

Jeff is an Illinois native with a passion for web development. Making code into great things drives him every day. He’s often busy building awesome experiences for Sandstorm clients, and there’s a high probability that he’s rocking out to metal while he codes.

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John Rausch
John Rausch

Over his 25 years in the advertising industry, John has produced award-winning work for many B2C and B2B clients. He is a passionate believer in the power of the brand and brings a strategic approach to every piece of creative.

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Lisa Goepfrich
Lisa Goepfrich

Lisa is a Digital Strategist who is extraordinarily adept at building visual stories.

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Nick Meshes
Nick Meshes

Nick is Sandstorm’s Director of Analytics and Technology. He’s boosting our quantitative focus. He’s busy increasing our capabilities in web analytics, website optimization testing, SEO, SEM, display advertising, business intelligence, and personalization.

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Alicia Newland age 5
Alicia Newland

Alicia is an Account Director with 15+ years of experience on the agency side. Her first job as a paper carrier back in the 80’s, planted the seed for her dedication to building solid client relationships and her love of media.

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Tracy Graham
Tracy Graham

Tracy is Senior Designer at Sandstorm. His background in design and photography for print and web with experience in multiple industries makes him a Swiss army knife of creative awesomeness.

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Sean Fuller
Sean Fuller

As Technology Director, Sean is a hands-on developer and technical lead on projects. He works with design and strategist teams from kick off through launch to plan, design and execute technical solutions for client projects. 

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Reilly Willson
Reilly Willson

Someday I'll need a real bio, but for now I'm busy creating awesomeness for our clients!

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Amanda Tacker
Amanda Tacker

Amanda is a Digital Strategist with several years of experience on both the agency and client sides, with both B2B and B2C clients.

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Kellye Blosser
Kellye Blosser

Kellye’s unique approach involves a delicate balance of left and right-brained thinking. She most recently hailed from the corporate video world. Here at Sandstorm, she’s excited to bring strategic, innovative thinking to every project.

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Emily Kodner
Emily Kodner

Emily is our Senior Director of Client Delivery. She consults with clients, leads projects and works alongside our team of creatives and developers to provide solutions to complex business challenges.

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Megan Culligan
Megan Culligan

Megan knows the importance of picking a winner. With a background in politics and PR, she knows that a successful marketing campaign requires coordination of many moving pieces and a team focused on achieving a great goal. You’ll see her analytical point of view on the blog, providing insight and tactics for success.

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Meaghan Glennan
Meaghan Glennan

Meaghan is a storyteller. From the Granite State to the City of Broad Shoulders, she's created impactful true-life tales about people, places, businesses and events. As she guides Sandstorm's story by directing our marketing communications, you'll see a lot of her unique perspective and style.

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Holly Brinkman
Holly Brinkman

Holly's title at Sandstorm Design is Strategy, Research, and Writing, as she does a little bit of everything. She loves clever advertisements, strong brands, social media, and intuitive web sites.

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Matt Chiaromonte
Matt Chiaromonte

Matt is a copywriter and social media guru in Sandstorm’s Internship Program. With a background in marketing, journalism, and improv comedy, Matt brings equal parts knowledge and entertainment to our little corner of the Internet. When he isn’t generating social media content, Matt can be found enjoying pizza, podcasts, and many other things that begin with the letter “p”.

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Amanda Elliott
Amanda Elliott

Amanda Elliott is the Marketing Coordinator at Sandstorm Design. She absorbs the creative energy from our leadership team and facilitates the team so they can focus entirely on solving client challenges. She is passionate about anticipating needs, solving problems, and making projects fun.

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Sharonda Thomas
Sharonda Thomas

Our newest social media marketing and copywriting intern Sharonda has a passion for producing read-worthy content. Knowledgeable with various social platforms she will combine her communications and journalism background with her love of social media to keep our audience engaged. An artist at heart, Sharonda spends her free time cooking, painting, and barbering.

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Karen Boehl
Karen Boehl

Karen does a little bit of everything – webmaster, social media manager and search engine optimizer. She can most often be found on Twitter, in the Usability Lab, or happily buried in the Drupal admin menu.

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Jason Dabrowski
Jason Dabrowski

Jason is one of Sandstorm’s designers and also helps keep the office running smoothly. As a veteran of the theatre—from acting to directing, lighting to set design—he knows the value of hard work and a positive attitude. Look for his unique voice on the blog.

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Nathan Haas
Nathan Haas

Nathan is a User Interface Art Director at Sandstorm. He is a proud alum of The University of Tennessee. His main focus was print design, but he soon realized the potential of pixels. This combination of print and interactive gives him a unique view of design possibilities.

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Kyle Lamble
Kyle Lamble

Kyle is your stereotypical bluehat hacker, by day, who wants you to upgrade your browser to support his love for cutting edge web development techniques. By night, he is a curator and publisher of art. Co-founder of Loosey Goosey Art, Kyle spends much of his off time helping artists find their inner potential.

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Will Biby
Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

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Andy Cullen
Andy Cullen

Someday I'll need a real bio, but for now I'm busy creating awesomeness for our clients!

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Derek Vanderlaan
Derek Vanderlaan

Derek Vander Laan is Sandstorm's Senior Design Architect. With 20 years of experience, he designs web sites, infographics, and interactive digital experiences. His creative skills are always at work either at his desk or plotting a prank for someone else's.

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Andrew Jarvis
Andrew Jarvis

Andrew lives in Bucktown with his wife and three cats in various states of hairlessness. When he's not at Sandstorm doing front-end development he is passionate about creating 3D art.

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Michael Hartman
Michael Hartman

As Sandstorm's Technology and Usability Director, Michael leads our developers and usability researchers in creating web sites and applications—both desktop and mobile—that embody our favorite blend: intuitive user experience and dynamic Drupal development.

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Janna Fiester
Janna Fiester

Sandstorm's VP of UX & Brand Innovation, Janna, is a design-thinker. Showcased in several design publications and exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, she is talented in taking nuggets of good ideas and nurturing them into solutions that are always strategic, engaging and visually delightful.

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Alma Meshes
Alma Meshes

Alma likes to help get things done at Sandstorm. She's worn many hats in her many years here and knows a little bit about everything.

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Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO
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.

Industry Insight

Sandy
social media marketing tips to B2B success

Social media marketing successes are strategic - now say that 10 times fast. Every client and prospect we're in front of now a days wants to talk about social media. It's the buzz, it's been the buzz, and now every B2B company is ready to do something... but the big question is what?

I think the bigger question is why? And do you have the capacity in house to either drive the strategy or execute on it? And what is the strategy or purpose for including social media into your integrated marketing campaign - because at the end of the day social media is yet one more marketing tactic you can add to your marketing mix. And it could be fun, and it's exciting, and more and more companies are playing around with it. But who is successful? And why are they successful?

My social media marketing tip for the day is to do your research and study your competitors and companies in the marketplace that you believe are successfully utilizing social media. It's one of the first steps in planning a strategy, and social media should be no different. So start your competitive analysis and start gleaning some insights from those that are further along.

This blog was posted by Sandy on August 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.

Sandy

Ready to conduct some usability testing because you have no budget and something is better than nothing? Then read on my friend...

You only need 5-6 participants to catch 80% of your problems (Jakob Nielsen, March 19, 2000), so what are you waiting for? Assuming you don't have access to your end user, grab a coworker or two (who isn't on the project) and watch their expressions and their navigational habits complete a series of tasks that you have deemed most important. It's basic, and rudimentary, but it's a start. And you've just started the beginnings of a task analysis - which will be important when you start to implement your web analytics.

This blog was posted by Sandy on August 6, 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.

Sandy
How many Chicago web design companies are there?

I once heard that there were 2,000+ web design companies in Chicago alone. And the average staff size for these web design companies were a mere 4 people, with the majority being 1 person shops. I know only 4% of the companies in the U.S. ever hit $1M in revenue, so that basically means that of the 2,000+ web design companies out there, less than 100 hit that mark statistically speaking. A creative magazine once published that only 1 out of 7 designers held a salaried job, but that seems pretty low so I either misread the statistic or have a memory block. So I did some research on my own...

According to the bureau of labor statistics, graphic designers held about 286,100 jobs in 2008, and they consider everyone in interactive media to be graphic designers as well. I couldn't find anything on web developers other than computer scientists (28,900 jobs recorded) or computer support specialists (565,700 jobs recorded). So maybe 2,000 Chicago web design companies is actually a low number. If anyone finds the stat somewhere, please post a comment. Would love to know...

This blog was posted by Sandy on August 4, 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
Web design vs. user interface design

According to Wikipedia, user interface design is the design of computers, appliances, machines, mobile communication devices, software applications, and websites with the focus on the user's experience and interaction. Utilizing the same source, web design is the skill of creating presentations of content that is delivered though the web.

I searched google to see if I could find anyone debating the two terms as they are used often interchangeably, but I don't necessarily agree that they are one in the same.

Our agency is a user interface design firm that utilizes a user-centered design approach to improve the user experience in a creative and conceptual way. Google searches done today are looking for a web design firm in Chicago, but are they really? Hmmm...

This blog was posted by Sandy on July 25, 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

 

We've had companies tell us they feel like there is less risk with a big interactive agency player (like Razorfish, IBM, Ogilvy). But as a business owner of a solid, stable, and growing firm I think the challenges are different, but the risk level is the same.

Boutiques get a bad rep sometimes due to being one client away from going out of business, or shutting down because of cash flow issues. Big agencies have a bad rep of being "fat" or over managed, of missing deadlines, and blowing budgets. I had a grad school teacher tell me that clients are won because of the relationships they build. So when we hear that a potential client went with a bigger agency with multiple locations, we clearly didn't do a good enough job building the relationship and easing their concerns. A lesson learned and we move on. I would love to get to know a CEO from one of the larger interactive agencies mentioned above to see how they see companies like us.

This blog was posted by Sandy on July 24, 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
Inside the Sandstorm office

As a boutique interactive marketing agency, we're always keeping an eye out on the big interactive players in the marketplace. Forrester's report for Q2 this year includes Sapient, imc2, Razorfish, IconNicholson, and IBM Interactive as the star performers, with a few of our Chicago locals also being noted including Critical Mass, Whittmanhart and Ogilvy Interactive. These companies have multiple locations - and often are found in NY and CA, in addition to Chicago. Take a slice of one of them, and you have us here at Sandstorm...

We've gone head-to-head with Whittmanhart, Sapient, and Ogilvy in the past, but the reality is that we're a great example of a boutique shop and they represent the bigger players. So when the time comes, companies have to first make the choice to go boutique or go big - and then they get a short list from there.

Go boutique agencies!!!

This blog was posted by Sandy on July 24, 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
Chicago marketing firm feels the turn in the economy

Can marketing and design firms in big business cities (like Chicago and New York) be leading indicators for the upswing in the economy? I think so. And here's my theory. We are getting flooded with a ton of interesting, exciting, and good sized RFPs from a lot of the large and mid-sized businesses in the area. Companies that were holding their budgets close are starting to explore how they 'may' want to spend their money Q3 and Q4. Which is so exciting - it almost feels like 2006 - 2007 again!

So we're not going to get too excited too fast, because we've seen RFPs sit and sit, but the fact that they are increasing so rapidly (and all of them needed to be finished yesterday) that I am optimistic for the future, and my friends, and family who are looking for a marketing or design job.

This blog was posted by Sandy on July 23, 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
Web design firm awards: Ego or Not?

So I struggle with web awards. Are they more for the creative team, the client, or the ego? Or are they a great way to celebrate innovative design work and share creative uses of technology and social media? The answer is most likely yes to all, but for some reason they still kind of sit funny with me. I am proud when we win, and I know our clients are proud too - but I know inside that I feel more pride when our marketing efforts really help grow our clients' businesses. That's my own personal mini award. :)

This blog was posted by Sandy on July 21, 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.

Sandy
web design and marketing challenge: a working vacation?

I'm in Colorado this week, on a 'working vacation'. Living an oxymoron. So who came up with this idea of a working vacation anyway? USATODAY wrote an article on top 5 destinations for a working vacation, yet CNN wrote 5 ways to stop working on your vacation.

So do we or don't we work while on vacation? Is it to stay ahead, or is it to survive? Is this a U.S. Phenomenon? Either way, it's a personal choice, and I often have to remind myself that I make the choice every time I open up my laptop or answer my cell phone. I am choosing to let my work life enter my vacation. And this week I'm good with it. My next vacation I might not answer that cell, nor that email, and I'm comfortable with that as well.

This blog was posted by Sandy on July 20, 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
Content Writing

One company may beg to differ. We beg to write.

I'm talking website copy for the clients of our marketing and web design firm. We'll beg, we'll plead, we'll keep our fingers crossed - just for the opportunity to write the content. And here is the number one reason why... so we can hit our deadlines. When we meet with a new client and they ask "What do you see that will hold up our deadline?" I'll respond, start writing your content.

To help with this, we're starting to put together content templates to help mitigate the random copywriting we get when multiple SME's write for the same company. Erin Kissane wrote a great blog entry on content templates that goes into detail on how to use them. Thanks Erin!

This blog was posted by Sandy on July 15, 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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