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.
Targeted Keyword Phrase
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."
Sometimes at Sandstorm your day at the office is nothing like your job description. Here's a few people that have contributed in big ways this week. I really appreciate that all of these things got done without a hitch. (deep sigh of pure appreciation for your random talents and strengths)
- Thank you Alma for stuffing, sorting, organizing our mailing list, buying stamps and mailing all of our holiday cards. And an extra thanks for going to IKEA with a fever and cold so we could get our furniture delivered this week!
- Thank you Zachary for building all of our IKEA furniture.
- Thank you Jon for moving all of the heavy bookshelves across the office floor.
I am positive that I miss opportunities to thank people every day, but I will work on that as a new year's resolution :)
Our big reveal - Sandstorm Design has officially expanded. We took down the plastic barrier to reveal our new addition. IKEA delivered all of our furniture, so I can imagine we'll have small teams building out the desks, tables, and chairs all day. Our current space is still cluttered, but we'll work all week on organizing our chaos. It's a proud day here at Sandstorm as our interactive/user experience/marketing/web design agency expands our footprint! (Clearly we're still working out what adjective best describes us. We struggle just like our clients.)
The blue huddle room that you can see lit up is what we call our 'fish bowl' because of the large amount of windows and the deep blue interior. By tomorrow we should have our table and chairs in there ready for some official Sandstorming (i.e. our marketing term for brainstorming)! If Zachary is around, I am sure he'll take more photos. He has been our photo journalist on this rehab adventure.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a half day! The Chicago Tribune was here to shoot some photos of the office for an upcoming story in January, and the painters are finishing up some of the trim. They got some great shots of our sweeping plastic drape and cluttered space. We've got the holiday shopping spirit and are doing some group online shopping at IKEA to get new desks, conference room tables, and chairs.
Our plan is to take down the curtain on Monday to do our formal unveil of the new addition, and of course we'll have photos! We're taking a half day today to start the holiday weekend early, so Merry Christmas everyone!
Starting bright and early at 7am this morning, the metal studs were cut to unite our two spaces. When I first called the office, Zak answered the phone "It's a loud day here at Sandstorm" which made me laugh "out loud". If you call Sandstorm enough and are fortunate to get him to answer, he's always got a witty and generally funny phrase for the day.
I could tell in the background that the noise was annoying pretty much everyone, so to thank them all for their patience and tolerance through the noise today, I took the Sandstorm team out to Jury's for lunch. Yum!
Now it's nearly 4pm and our construction crew is gone. We finally have some peace and quiet to do our interactive and marketing magic, and the huge draping plastic wrap is a unique creative inspiration. It's actually so eerily quiet in here that it feels a lot like a serious corporate environment... I can actually hear the hum of my laptop and the slight clatter of a few keyboards.
Our new neighboring space was painted today (woo hoo!), and has such a creative, fun, lofty yet still marketing and interactive agency look to it. The old walls were gray and electric blue, which was interesting, but didn't have our more signature sandstorm look. Plus the gray made me sad, so I just love the new shade of blond that replaced it.
In addition, we are introducing "the fishbowl". It's one of two new huddle rooms with tons of glass windows, with interior walls painted blue, so it kind of feels like you are in a fishbowl when you are working in it. It's going to be great to reduce the sound of the trains on conference calls, and is a great brainstorming room. Jon is donating some old floor lamps for ambiance. Thanks Jon!
And I can't forget our newest lunchroom. Ah... no more having to clean up the conference room or usability lab last minute because a group decided to grab lunch together, and leave random things behind. Now we have a large, bright space that will probably always have hot sauce packets on the table or tables - we haven't decided if we want a few smaller tables or one big one.
So right before Christmas we're going to get just the greatest gift... A new and improved, much larger space for 2010! Thank you to my fabulous and dedicated staff and to our clients for making this possible as we continue to grow as one of Chicago's emerging boutique interactive agencies. :)
The new huddle rooms sure went up fast! It took only 2 days and we were able to walk in and experience the basic layout of our new space. Very cool! We are all anxiously awaiting our two new brainstorming rooms so we can hold internal meetings, conference calls, and additional research work (for when we are doubled up on our usability lab). They will also be a great place to get some quiet time when the crew gets a bit rowdy - usually near the end of the day. And it's been said that Sandstorm is one place is the morning, and a totally different place after 4pm :) We're also getting tons of new space for new workstations, and will have the room we need for growth in 2010.
Here at Sandstorm, we take being creative and interactive pretty seriously. Even our holiday party is interactive and ultra creative, but I don't mean the technically-savvy, online kind of interactive. We share tapas for hours, play "dirty santa" and have developed our own traditions... All staff and significant others are invited to a tapas feast at Cafe Ba Ba Reeba (open bar, open table of unlimited tapas - this year we had 8 plates of bacon wrapped dates . We get our own room now because we kind of need it so we don't bother the other patrons).
Anyone who wants to play buys a gift and wraps it up all fancy. My gift wrapping ability is poor, so I blamed it on my 3 year old son. Anyway, gifts are piled on a table while we sip sangria, scope out the size/shape/wrapping of the gifts, and prepare to draw numbers to see who gets to go first. Number 1 goes first, and gets to select any gift from the table. He/she opens it, and then the second person gets to either steal #1's gift, or make a new selection. This process of swapping and unwrapping goes until all the gifts are open. Then #1 gets to see everything and get the gift of their choice. Holly has some how been #1 two years in a row... hmm.
Somehow along the way we all manage to eat hundreds of tapas, and still have room for desert. Due to everyone's schedules, we have our holiday party on a Sunday night. So we give everyone the day off that Monday. Yep, a free Monday during the holiday shopping season. This year we had it over Thanksgiving so everyone got 5 day weekends. And we might just add that to the tradition next year. The coolest part about being a small company is that we can build traditions, and we learn each year how to make them even better. Happy Holidays everyone! And to my staff, thank you for an incredible and memorable holiday party 2009!
Today they started the demo in the space next door that we are taking over! They are doing a really great job as it's not too loud nor disruptive. Thanks Hugh and Joe Hayes! We've decided to add a larger lunchroom and kitchen area, along with two huddle rooms for brainstorming, conference calls, quiet meetings, private phone calls and some more work space as we continue to grow - all to enhance our user's experience (which in this case, our users are our staff).
It's a really fun and exciting time here at Sandstorm as we continue to grow with our user centered design methodology, creative Facebook applications, and strategic interactive tools. We are all looking forward to a busy and exciting 2010.
It's a major breakthrough moment for us. The tenants next door to our office are moving out this month. This is pretty exciting. This is our chance! This is our moment... to break into that space and commit to our explosive growth. It's our opportunity to embrace change, and start to design the newly added space. (which is the really fun part). So I am printing out floor plans of our current loft office and of the office next door for all of the staff to draw up what kind of space they need as we continue to grow.
Do we finally need a full lunchroom? Do we need a game room? A creative brainstorm room outside of our kind of cool conference room. Someone mentioned huddle rooms? Do we need quiet rooms? Or maybe a nicer place for the fantastic contractors we know and love so they don't have to work so close to the microwave and micro their brain waves out...
When we moved into this space 2 years ago I always envisioned that we would knock out part of the wall and make a curved archway into the new space. But after visiting the layout, I think the entire wall is going to have to go to really break through. My friend Ron told me that companies are the most efficient after a move, I'll let him know how it goes.