Sandstorm Blog

Joshua

With 2017 right around the corner, the Sandstorm team has been dreaming about what’s to come in the new year. Taking our core values as inspiration (Warrior Spirit, Learning and Sharing, and Have Fun!), we each set a New Year’s resolution. From running 5Ks to learning a new language to dancing more, our goals for 2017 ran the gamut (you can see all of them here).

 

Dreaming is never enough for us, so we activated 6 of our resolutions as GIFs to celebrate the season with all of you.


core value: warrior spirit

resolutions: compete in a 5K race

 

Many of our staff have the classic resolution to run a 5K, but our Copywriter Bill wants to compete in a race to raise money for Open Heart Magic. Bill is a magician for the nonprofit Open Heart Magic, which brings the surprise and excitement of magic to children in Chicago area hospitals.

 

 


core value: warrior spirit

resolution: plan a beautiful wedding

 

Lisa, one of our Digital Strategists, just got engaged! So who can blame her for having the big day on her mind? Her resolution is planning a beautiful wedding and fun reception while keeping her type A personality at bay.

 

 


core value: learning and sharing

resolution: learn a new language

 

Most of our staff have been bitten by the travel bug, but our Creative Director John and Production Designer Jason are taking it one step further by learning Italian and Japanese, respectively.

 

 


core value: learning and sharing

resolution: learn new tech skills

 

Staying on top of the latest tech developments is just part of being a Sandstormer. Andy, our Senior Engineer and Team Lead, is going to extend his knowledge by becoming a Drupal 8 expert and Joshua, our Marketing Manager, wants to master HTML so he can perfect our email newsletters.

 

 


core value: have fun!

resolution: dance like nobody’s watching

 

Our Front-End Developer Adam will be relieving some stress in 2017 by letting loose and not caring what anyone thinks.

 

 

 


core value: have fun!

resolution: I want to be the very best, like no one ever was.

 

Pokemon took over the world this summer, and our office was no different. Interaction Designer Jesse’s new life motto also happens to be lyrics from the Pokémon theme.

 

 

 


Sandstorm is happy to assist in dreaming up 2017 marketing resolutions with you and help activate them in the new year.

This blog was posted by Joshua on December 14, 2016.
joshua sovell

About the Author

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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Joshua

The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) and Fortune has announced that Sandstorm has been selected for prestigious 2016 Inner City 100 list. This recognition places Sandstorm in an exemplary lineage of nearly 900 fast-growing and innovative inner city businesses.

ICIC’s Inner City 100 is an annually compiled and released list featuring high-power, high-potential businesses from around the country with headquarters in inner cities. Each company is selected by ICIC with help from a national network of nominating partners who seek to identify, spotlight, and further enable the named companies’ innovative urban entrepreneurship. Ranked by revenue growth, the esteemed recipients go on to have their names published in Fortune.

Sandstorm ranked 95 overall on the list of 100 and it is the third time we have been honored with this distinction. We reported 2015 revenues of 4.29 million and a five-year growth rate of 117% percent from 2011-2015. In the past year Sandstorm has added a number of new positions, including a Digital Strategist, Marketing Manager, Front-End Developer, Director of Analytics & Optimization and a Creative Director

The full list can be viewed on the Fortune website here.

 “We are extraordinarily proud of these pioneering entrepreneurs who lead the way in economic revitalization in America’s inner cities,” says Steve Grossman, CEO of ICIC, of the list of 100.

The Inner City 100 program recognizes and supports successful inner city business leaders, and celebrates their role in providing innovation and job creation in America’s cities. These companies strengthen local American economies, provide job opportunities for underrepresented communities, and drive forward economic and social development. 

This blog was posted by Joshua on December 7, 2016.
joshua sovell

About the Author

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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Joshua
user research, UX, usability, World Usability Day, UX research

There seems to be a holiday for everything now, including user experience. And Sandstorm couldn’t help but celebrate it.

The theme for World Usability Day 2016—Sustainable User Experience (UX)—unites UX and sustainability through the shared objective of creating unparalleled experiences. At Sandstorm, we understand the impact UX research and design can have on projects and, most importantly, people.

So we got excited to capitalize on our UX expertise while cleaning up our office recycling habits.

We assembled a team of eco-warriors—aka UX architects and marketing specialists—to investigate our team’s recycling habits. By utilizing user interviews—one of many types of user research—for this project, we were able to better understand current behaviors in the office and identify opportunities for improvement.

We asked our team members questions about their basic recycling knowledge, why they recycle, and what keeps them from recycling at the office. We uncovered two key findings from our research and, as a result, devised four ways to improve recycling.  

Key Findings

  1. The majority of Sandstormers want to, and do, recycle
  2. The most significant barrier to recycling is Sandstormers’ uncertainty as to whether an item can be recycled or not

Ways to Improve Recycling at Sandstorm

  1. Ensure bins are present by every desk and in every conference room
  2. Clearly communicate what can and cannot be recycled
  3. Reduce plasticware/food waste
  4. Explore purchasing a dishwasher

Usability is about tweaking what you currently have to create a more effective experience; our user research showed that—with Sandstormers already in the habit of recycling—we need only to implement a few minor changes to encourage greener behaviors. 

And just because we have action items now doesn’t mean our process is over. We will continue to track office recycling, and do follow up user research, to ensure office recycling is optimized for a greener tomorrow.

This blog was posted by Joshua on November 10, 2016.
joshua sovell

About the Author

Joshua Sovell

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

Joshua
Alliance for Audited Media, AAM, Responsive Website, Web Design, Web Development, Content Audit

Here at Sandstorm we don’t simply “refresh” a website, we help businesses evolve their brand. Which is exactly what we did for Alliance for Audited Media (AAM) when they wanted their website to project a more modern feel with digital prowess. 

Our first move was a content audit to get our arms around the site and understand the complex mission of AAM (empowering media professionals with trusted verification and data). From there we created a set of information architecture (IA) guidelines that informed the responsive website design. Through our thoughtful research and strict IA guidelines we were able to deliver a new website, with approachable messaging, that spoke to their various audiences. 

This blog was posted by Joshua on October 28, 2016.
joshua sovell

About the Author

Joshua Sovell

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

Joshua
Sandstorm Staff, our culture, Super Secret Event, Sandstorm Hunt

In the spirit of our 3rd core value, Have Fun, each year Sandstorm has a Super Secret Event! Our Co-Captains of Fun, Alicia Newland & Nathan Hass, plan everything with our CEO Sandy Marsico. In past years we have gone to a Cubs game, an arcade & bowling.

This year we grabbed lunch at Emerald Loop, to ensure everyone was maxed out on energy for the main event: a scavenger hunt. The staff broke up into 5 teams for a digital scavenger hunt taking us all over the loop. The riddle clues led us to familiar landmarks like the Chicago Theater & the Chicago Cultural Center, and some interesting new places like Harlan J. Berk Ltd., coin dealer, looking for trivia answers. Some of the clues were a little more active and we had to snap a picture of the team doing ballet outside of the Joffery Ballet, posing on 1 leg with Calder’s Flamingo statue in Federal Plaza and double-checking the time with the famous Marshal Fields Great Clock.

 

Our core values help us accomplish our mission: to create a place for like-minded people to have fun & do things in a way that hasn’t been done before. We understand that some of the best ideas come from giving our inner-selves a place to explore & play. Beyond our Super Secret Event, we keep the fun rolling with a Guac Off, Halloween Costume Contest, Holiday Pajama Day and other pop up events throughout the year.

If “Have Fun” is one of your core values, check out our join the team page for open positions and to submit your resume. 

This blog was posted by Joshua on October 14, 2016.
joshua sovell

About the Author

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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Joshua
Ensono, branding, tech, mainframe, brand strategy, content strategy, marketing strategy, web development

Machines possessing hopes and dreams is a classic theme explored in science fiction. Sandstorm® explored this theme when Acxiom IT restructured their organization and needed a rebrand to reflect their new position as a tech company that dreams of the future.

Acxiom IT recently became a standalone infrastructure management services business, which required a new name and brand strategy to set them apart from their former parent company. Sandstorm® was hired to guide the 46-year-old business as they developed a new corporate identity. The result: the Ensono brand and a vision for the future.

Sandstorm®'s first step was diligent research. We examined the client's history, needs, behaviors and desires to understand where they've been and devised a marketing strategy to help them reach where they wanted to go. In speaking with their senior leadership, it became clear that they wanted to position themselves as a solution that meets the needs of the present and the future. Although they offered industry-leading mainframe solutions, Ensono needed help representing themselves as a company that develops and innovates for the future.

With renewed focus on addressing current client needs while engineering solutions for the demands of tomorrow, we turned to creating a new name. Sandstorm® went international while exploring the concepts of progress and dreaming: "enso" is a Zen concept that refers to strength and creativity, and "in sogno" is an Italian expression meaning "in dreams." By merging these words and concepts together, Ensono, or the company that dreams, was created. This idea of inventive and adaptable thinking followed through the positioning statement, key messages, content marketing tactics, and digital marketing strategies.

Sandstorm® assisted Ensono with their brand launch and website development and has continued to partner with them on many projects including: collateral materials, promotional video, product campaigns, corporate signage, and assisting with the interior design of their new office space.

If you are dreaming of a new marketing strategy, Sandstorm can make it a reality.  

 

This blog was posted by Joshua on August 4, 2016.
joshua sovell

About the Author

Joshua Sovell

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

Joshua
B2B Best Brand launch Award for marketing campaign, Sandstorm team: Chief Strategy office Laura Luckman Kelber, Executive Creative Director Janna Fiester, Creative Director (Content) John Rausch, Account Director Alicia Newland and UX Art Director Nathan Haas

Sandstorm® recently acquired some new hardware when we took home the Best Launch Award at the B2B Marketer Awards & Conference for our marketing campaign rebranding Holden, a global leader in sales performance development.  

Like many businesses, Holden was in a shifting industry and looking for a way to stay relevant while standing out. Sales training was seen as an ineffective & inefficient necessity, leading Holden to borrow from the eLearning industry to disrupt their industry by repositioning as a SaaS company. Sandstorm came in to create their new brand strategy, which included the bold claim that "sales training is over". 

This disruption, punctuated by the new tagline game-changing sales habits, moved Holden away from a traditional sales training organization to an innovative, educational solution for developing talent. The brand launch campaign, that included a new identity, tagline, digital marketing, website and marketing collateral, helped Holden achieve 106% their annual lead gen goal in the first 5 months.

Congratulations to the award winning, Sandstorm team: Chief Strategy office Laura Luckman Kelber, Executive Creative Director Janna Fiester, Creative Director (Content) John Rausch, Account Director Alicia Newland and UX Art Director Nathan Haas!

This blog was posted by Joshua on June 30, 2016.
joshua sovell

About the Author

Joshua Sovell

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

Sean
seeking Full Stack Engineer

Join a creative, collaborative and nimble team to help architect and build innovative digital products.

The Full Stack Engineer is dynamic individual responsible for implementing front-end and back-end development on client websites and web applications utilizing HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, PHP, .NET, Python and other relevant programming languages. Other responsibilities include Drupal and other application architecture; server configuration; developing, maintaining and following coding standards and best practices; working with the creative and sales teams to estimate upcoming projects and proposals; staying informed of new web development trends and technologies in order to bring ideas and suggestions to current and future projects. Other duties as requested.

You’ll work in a fun, energetic environment that builds careers and makes news. Founded in 1998 by a successful female entrepreneur, Sandstorm has earned nationwide recognition for being an industry leader and sustaining a track record of satisfied clients.

If this sounds like the right fit, apply online or email your cover letter and resume to jobs@sandstormdesign.com. If it’s not quite right for you, please share this opportunity with someone in your network.

Skills & Requirements

Full Stack Engineer Job Description

·       Minimum of 3 years experience developing web pages and digital solutions from provided wireframes and designs using server-side programming languages, relational databases, HTML, CSS, JavaScript

·       Strong understanding of object-oriented PHP.

·       Strong understanding of relational databases (MySQL, MSSQL, PostgreSQL)

·       Strong understanding of JavaScript/jQuery

·       Understanding of at least one other server-side language (Python, C#, etc.)

·       Understanding of AJAX, XML and JSON

·       Understanding of server configurations (LAMP, LEMP, IIS, etc.)

·       Understanding of Git workflows

·       Understanding of Grunt, Gulp and similar tools

·       Understanding of HTML and CSS/SASS/LESS

·       Understanding of web standards, cross-browser and cross-platform development techniques

·       Demonstrated ability to work both independently and as a member of a team

·       Commitment to excellence, usability, and coding standards

·       Intense attention to detail

Bonus if you have

·       Familiarity with content management systems (Drupal, WordPress, Django, SiteCore, etc.)

·       Familiarity with JavaScript frameworks (EmberJS, AngularJS, BackboneJS, ReactJS, etc.)

·       Familiarity with NoSQL and data warehousing

·       Familiarity with security and performance testing techniques

 

Why Sandstorm?

We’re a high-energy Chicago-based user experience agency that does good work for good people (that’s our mission). We leverage strategic marketing, UX design, emerging technologies, and usability to create high-impact and compelling brand experiences. We work with large amazing brands and interesting niche players, too. If you want to do big agency digital work in a boutique environment, we’re the place for you.

Who works at Sandstorm?

At our core, we are a team of compulsive problem solvers and solution-seekers; always thinking about what could be and implementing it. We play well with others and have found that clients benefit most when all partners are aligned and working well together. This follows our “Yes and” philosophy of always listening and building upon ideas, no matter where they originate. Collaboration is in our cultural DNA.

What about Culture?

Our team is constantly evolving and growing both as employees and as professionals in our industry. Job titles rarely do our staff justice. Our culture is grounded in our three core values:

  • Learning & Sharing – Continuous, collaborative improvement is fundamental.
  • Warrior Spirit – We are a team and in it together. Persevere!
  • Having Fun! – Showcased by our monthly “You Rocks!” and random Super Secret Sandstorm events.

We have amazing benefits, too. Free snacks, beverages in the fridge, costume contests, annual guacamole contests, 4% match in your 401K, $50/month contribution into your HSA, great hours for work/life balance, paid volunteer days, company lunches—and your birthday is a day off here!

 
This blog was posted by Sean on 05/31/2016.
Sean Fuller

About the Author

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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Will
Sandy Marsico spreads holiday cheer on Vistage.com

Sandy has a featured post on Executive Street, the Vistage blog. “3 tips to designing a holiday party that your employees will love” is all about Sandy’s (and Sandstorm’s) unique approach to celebrating the season successfully.

Happy Holidays (and have a great holiday party)!

This blog was posted by Will on December 18, 2015.
Will Biby

About the Author

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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Jason
Michael Hartman, Sandstorm's Executive Experience Director

When Michael Hartman came to Sandstorm 5 years ago, he brought with him a wealth of experience in Drupal and user experience design. Since then he’s guided our team of UX experts every day while bringing expert knowledge to our clients (and to our blog).

As our Executive Experience Director, Michael will continue to provide thought leadership and strategy. He’ll be expanding UX strategy while cultivating superior processes and standards. All the while Michael will educate clients, mentor Sandstormers, and keep our agency moving forward technologically through development and user experience design.

Congratulations, Michael. Rock on!

This blog was posted by Jason on November 4, 2015.
Jason Dabrowski

About the Author

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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