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.
I had a creative block for today's blog entry, but I really wanted to write. Alma popped into my office, so I asked her for some ideas (this is a very common scenario here at Sandstorm... I have an idea, or at a loss for one, and the staff member in the closest proximity to me gets "chosen" to help brainstorm the solution). She jumped right in and rattled off like 5 ideas, and the one that struck me the most was her perspective about how unique we are in how we openly share ideas here - and that anyone can add insight and make a contribution. Some may say this is an inefficient use of time... these random unplanned idea-dreaming water-cooler conversations, or is it really one of the perks about working for a boutique?
Last night we had our 3rd class in our 8 month program where we had a pretty interactive discussion about the five stages of business growth. We broke out into teams that were in the same growth mode, and shared personal stories on how we each got there. My favorite part of this SBA e200 group so far is hearing the personal stories of each CEO - how they got started, what factors motivated them, and what risks they took to get here.
Each CEO has their own story of courage, recognized opportunity and personal growth. I bet this group would make a great twitter novel... (hmm, note to self). But I wonder how much time that novel would take away from me working on building our web design company.
Our tweeting has generated a new business lead for us today! At 500 followers and counting (Holly has a personal goal of getting us 1000) our web design firm has hit a point where we can track our tweeting to a lead. And it is a good qualified lead - perfectly matched for our usability expertise and in the green industry. Stay posted as we continue to build our social media strategy and track the results.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) was searching for 200 companies across the country with a high potential for growth to become part of their Emerging 200 program. The e200 would provide education, networking and resources to help CEOs scale and grow their businesses, create more jobs, and expand into new markets. It sounded like an interesting concept, so I applied.
I was in Colorado on a snowboarding trip when I got the call that Sandstorm Design was 1 of 16 companies chosen from Chicago. More to come...
Our twittering is driving web site traffic to our web design company. This week twitter made it into our top 10 referral sources according to our web analytics. And the great news is that our twitter traffic is staying longer on our web site than traffic from other referral sources. Today we plan to add twitter as a referral option on our request a quote and contact us forms to start to track if twitter traffic turns into qualified leads.
So I just read a snippet from the middle of a twitter novel, and I am still getting my head wrapped around the concept. I read about 50 posts, and I feel like I jumped into a movie part way through. All weekend this twitter novel storyline has been popping up in my mind, but I can't decide if it's the storyline that is strong or is it my intrigue and curiosity on the medium selected? Could a twitter novelist make it on Oprah? Or could our web design firm build a novel about our company?
So our web analytics consistently show a decline in unique visitors on Fridays, but on a month to month basis, Fridays drive the most leads verse any other day of the week for our web design firm. Why is that? Is everyone so tired of putting out fires all week that by Friday all they want to do is some browsing on the web? Or do they finally get a few minutes to themselves to get to that 'to do' on their list of finding a new interactive agency? Or is Friday subconsciously the most creative day (and fun) day of the week? Any insight would be great!
So we started a twitter account for Sandstorm. Holly has put together a Twitter strategy for our web design firm and we now have over 200 followers within our first few weeks. Within days we got Obama and the Chicago Cubs to follow us - which was fun to tell my parents as it sounded impressive. Anyway, we're (I mean Holly) is regularly tweeting, and we're testing a few content directions, and building our own case study on our experience with Twitter. As a B2B company, will Twitter just distract us from the marketing that we know works for us, or will it become part of our integrated marketing campaign that we can't live without? Stay tuned and follow us.
For the past couple of years at Sandstorm Design, we have received a countless number of phone calls, email requests, and snail mail resumes from graphic design students interested in learning more information about a career in graphic design, looking for a design job, internship or freelance assignment.
It wasn't, and still isn't, possible for us to answer every email, return every phone call, or reply to every letter. (If we did, we wouldn't have time to actually finish our own graphic design work!) But we wanted to help and encourage newbie designers to get into the design field and enjoy what we consider the ultimate career choice, graphic design.
I hope the SSC gives you some insight into the real world of graphic design, provides you with some information for that research paper, and helps prepare you for your own incredible career as a graphic designer.
Sandy Marsico, Principal
Sandstorm Design, Inc.
So you are on your hunt for a web design or graphic design internship at an innovative design firm, with a great client base, award-winning design work, steller G5's, and nice hourly pay? You are not alone. You are in a crowd of student graphic designers the size of the crowds from the Taste of Chicago. In this economy, a graphic design internship like the example above, with pay, is extremely difficult to find. Not impossible, but difficult.
First ask yourself, would you work without getting paid? Are you truly looking for design experience or are you looking for a part-time job? If you are willing to work unpaid, mention this in your cover letter (and always send a cover letter please). Some companies assume that you want pay with your design internship and don't have it in their budget.
Second, consider all options. Are you looking ONLY for design firms, ad agencies, and web development companies? What about in-house marketing or creative departments at Fortune 1000 companies? Or newspapers? Magazine companies? Many multi-million dollar organizations have superb in-house creative departments and potentially more opportunities. There are many large companies in the Chicagoland area: AllState, Sears, Boeing, McDonalds, Chicago Tribune, etc.
Third, consider local printers. Is there a Minuteman Press or AlphaGraphics near you? Small printers offer design services to their clients since many of their clients cannot afford the design studio prices. Maybe you could walk in and introduce yourself to the owner and offer your services for the summer? This could become YOUR graphic design internship.
Finally, make your own graphic design internship. Okay, so it's not exactly an internship, but you could offer your services pro-bono (free) to your favorite charity or not-for-profit organization. Get involved in your community, practice networking, and build your design portfolio, while at the same time building your community. After all is said and done, a design internship will not guarantee you a design job when you graduate. An internship helps give you some real world experience and keeps you ahead of the competition. There are many excellent designers out there, and in order to compete, look at the best student in your class and realize that he/she is your competition, and the beginning of your networking base.