Sandstorm Blog

Kyle
Seeing the Possibilities, Pushing our Drupal Web Development, and Showing Off with the Sandstorm Website

Earlier in the year, I was fortunate enough to take part in launching the new Sandstorm website in Drupal. For those of you who’ve been here before, you know it’s a long winding road from the initial concept, marketing, content strategy, and design before you even begin the black magic known as Drupal web development.

It’s an ongoing, almost never ending, process.

Once you push through those phases and launch your first website, it can come as a surprise, to some, that the website isn’t actually complete. In fact, some of the most exciting features from the initial concept may have not made it into the final product. Instead, at launch, you’re more likely left with a large todo list of development ideas you would still like to see implemented.

What can we do next?

This is when most of us toss around the phrase “phase two”, but a website is, and always will be, a work in progress. This is one of the most exciting parts about working on the Sandstorm website in Drupal, because I knew when developing each section that this was just the first draft. Now that we are finishing up the year I have begun thinking about our website again. A year is a long time and, with “learning and sharing” being one of the core values at Sandstorm, I have learned a lot and can’t wait to begin pushing our Drupal development further than where it is right now.  

“The Results”

A new website, responsive web design or Drupal module is a great way to see each department flex their creative muscles and show the industry what we can really do, and good work immediately pays off. The increase in high-quality leads led to new clients, which led to our explosive growth, which ultimately led to taking over that office next door. This might be one of the coolest aspects of the entire project.

This blog was posted by Kyle on December 14, 2014.
Kyle Lamble

About the Author

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.

Reilly
13 Days at Sandstorm: A Retrospective

As the most recent addition to the Sandstorm team, I figured I would just speak about my current experiences at Sandstorm as if I have been working here for a very, very long time. I mean, time is nothing but an illusion anyway (shout-out to my fellow philosophy majors). So, here it goes:

Ah, as I look back fondly on that first day I came in to work at Sandstorm, I can hardly believe a full three days has passed. Where did the time go? It seems like just yesterday I was walking up the stairs to the third floor of this office building for the very first time. In truth, it was the day before yesterday, but the vivacity of my memories betrays the vast gulf of time that separates me from those distant events.

Sounds good, right?

Not only was my first day at Sandstorm very recent, but it was also very eventful - full of highs and lows. High: we got free lunch! Low: mine didn’t get delivered. I’m choosing to believe the restaurant messed up and it wasn’t some kind of Sandstorm hazing. In fact, Sandy herself offered up her bread roll to hold me over until my food arrived, so I’m sure there was no intended ill-will.

In all seriousness, I am very excited to be the new Digital Coordinator at Sandstorm. In the past, I have done a little bit of everything - from content writing to house demolition - and I look forward to continuing that tradition of wearing many hats in my new role in the world of marketing strategy.

This blog was posted by Reilly on December 13, 2014.
Reilly Willson

About the Author

Reilly Willson

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

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Nathan
The Infamous Tale of a Sandstorm Friday Night

At Sandstorm, we strive to strike a good balance of having fun and getting work done. One of our three core values is to have fun. This is instilled in you from the day you arrive. I have been here for over two years and a day hasn’t gone by without laughter billowing through the office or a tasteful “That’s what she said” joke.

It had been a long summer of tight deadlines and late nights at the office so I decided to set a mandatory office gathering after work one Friday evening. The calendar invite was set for 5 pm (although some had to work a little later, while others started earlier). We wrangled up some cash and headed out to gather some adult beverages and bubbly. To haul the load, Will even bought a little granny grocery cart.

The afternoon started pretty standard with beverages while finishing up end-of-the-day tasks. Drew started the evening leading musical roulette. This is where everyone messages him their favorite song and he throws it into a queue. Someone always sneaks in a song that reminds them of their middle school dance days.

A good game of darts gets going as everyone finishes up their tasks for the week and it’s not too long until the music gets louder and significant others and friends start to show up. Teams pair up and beer pong begins. I won’t say who the best player in the office is, but she already knows!

Before we know it, it is nearing close to midnight and the heated battle of Logo Party is winding down. If you don’t know what Logo Party is, let me explain. It’s the best of all board and party games put together (think charades and/or Pictionary). You will be surprised how everyday logos are ingrained in your mind that you can recognize the Wrigley’s Doublemint Gum logo just by seeing a tiny bit of the red logotype. (We're always thinking about brands.)

The party started to dwindle as the clock struck midnight, and we all realized we needed to go home (or at least leave the office). We called some cabs, and those still standing decided to go to a local establishment to have a nightcap.

This will be a night I will never forget, and one where I wish I remembered more. Everyone woke up safely the next morning with great stories, major headaches, minor cuts, and random bruises*.  

*No animals were harmed in the making of this story

This blog was posted by Nathan on December 12, 2014.
Nathan Haas

About the Author

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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Jason
The Warrior Spirit, One Core Value of A Successful Digital Marketing Firm

One of the unique things that I am most proud of as a Sandstormer is our warrior spirit. This is not the kind of company where people say “that’s not my job”. It’s the kind of company where people say “what can I do to help?”

One day I came back into the office from using the restroom to find several people in the kitchen pulling together garbage bags and spraying Lysol. I found out that the garbage smelled funny, and 4 people just got up from their desks and started handling the situation. I asked if I could help, as the de facto “Office Manager” this is sorta my responsibility, but I was assured that it was all good.

At just about any other company, someone would send an angry email to someone like me, or there’d be someone elected to add this task to my plate. At Sandstorm, when the garbage needs to go out, it just gets done.

It was the same the day Janna and Laura brought in a Kia-load of things from IKEA. A group of us just made our way down to the loading dock, and pulled everything into the freight elevator. We brought it up and pretty much the whole office started pulling apart boxes and assembling things.

It extends beyond garbage detail and putting together Swedish furniture. Our wonderful Digital Strategists keep an eye on our workload and there have been many busy days where I come to find out a few large chunks of my project work has been handed off to someone else. Similarly there are those days where a project shows up end of day, or a simple project grows 6 heads right before it’s due, and folks spring into action to help each other out. Similarly, it’s not unusual for someone with a light day to simply come forward during our morning meeting and say they have time to help today, or in the middle of the day to start asking around to see if anyone needs any other help.

It’s the kind of team spirit that makes you WANT to help others, because you know they will be there when you need help next. It also inspires a certain level of self-reliance, at least in me, because I know everyone is busy, much of the time, so I only want to raise my hand when I need it. I’m proud to work for a digital marketing firm where “nobody gets left behind on the battlefield” and I can’t wait for the challenges of the New Year!

This blog was posted by Jason on December 10, 2014.
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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Will
Capturing Sandstorm’s “Cool” to Become One of Crain’s Coolest

Did you hear?!!! Crain’s Chicago Business Magazine chose Sandstorm as one of Chicago’s Coolest Offices. It’s a big honor, and it was a lot of fun to get us nominated (and ultimately chosen). The nominations took place over social media and required a lot of pictures (you can see most of them on our Instagram account).

I worked with Nathan (he’s got a nice camera), and I went to town. Our office is cool as it is, but it’s chock full of easter eggs. The team all have fun trinkets on their desk (or in my case a whole bunch of bric a brac). We also have a lot fun details around, too, such as samples and our chandeliers (check out our “Purple Palace” and “Cheese Room”). I thought about interesting angles and lights and got some pretty cool shots, so cool that we got selected ;).

I really loved getting to play around and show off our awesome space (I especially love the up-close shot of Megan’s solar powered toys). With an expansion underway and more cool things to come, I’m sure we’ll catch some attention for our coolness next year, too. (I’ve already got some ideas.)

This blog was posted by Will on December 9, 2014.
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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Megan
The Axelrod's Clockman!

Earlier this year, a few of us had the fortunate opportunity to work with Dick and Emily Axelrod, of The Axelrod Group, offering marketing strategy around their latest book, Let’s Stop Meeting Like This. (If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it. It’s a workplace productivity book that doesn’t feel like a stale, dusty textbook that you’ll be quizzed on later).

This project was special because we were able to truly have a good time with the client, felt the impact of our marketing plan and content strategy, and watched them succeed to great heights.

Keeping Time with Clockman

The Axelrods also introduced us to Clockman. Their timesaving superhero. I won’t spoil the book, but Clockman always finds a way to step in a give you the most important bits of information you need to know. He’s stuck with me since. I always find myself picturing the little guy when I start to get too verbose and ramble during a meeting.

One of the things I am most grateful for in 2014 is getting the chance to work with this dynamic duo and learning about ways we can all save in our workday by getting down to what is most important. As if all of that wasn’t cool enough - Clockman’s also a rockstar (see above).

This blog was posted by Megan on December 8, 2014.
Megan Culligan

About the Author

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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Michael
http://www.sandstormdesign.com/blog/working-hand-in-handEnsuring User Experiences from Coast-to-Coast Are Not “Taxing “

I love doing usability testing. I always learn something new and there is usually at least one surprise. For the past 3 years we’ve partnered with Fast Enterprise, who among other things, provide tax processing software to state and local governments. Our work with them involves visiting state capitols across the country conducting 1 to 2 day usability studies. These studies are often followed by a working session with our client’s development team to review our findings and recommend solutions.

While tax software may not sound super exciting, our client is engaged and passionate about making the user experience of their software better, and we get to collaborate with them in doing so. Over the years we’ve seen our recommendations make their way into our client’s core product, which actually is super exciting.

Another bonus, we get to travel to exotic places like Bismarck, North Dakota and Montpelier, Vermont.

This blog was posted by Michael on December 7, 2014.
Michael Hartman

About the Author

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
Sowing the Seeds to Sprout a New Brand

Coming from a small agrarian community, I have always wanted a small plot of land here in the city to grow a few veggies and herbs among the weeds. Sadly, this past, cool summer did not enable my tomatoes to flourish and the squirrels decided to feast on the small crop I was able to grow.

Germinating Brands for Years to Come

As 2014 comes to a close, I realized my green thumb was most bountiful here at Sandstorm. Instead of sowing seeds for nourishment, the Sandstorm Team and I were able help plant and cultivate the strategic seeds for three new brands. Even though these three projects all started with user research, competitive analysis and positioning deliverables, the resulting strategies were truly personal. The Sandstorm Team was able to capture the spirit and uniquely position each organization that included an awesome sales enablement platform, an association all about awards and an amazing credit union focused on delivering the unexpected.

A Diverse Mix of Branded Crops to Sprout Lots of Green

This wide range in businesses is just a glimpse into what makes each day (or year) at Sandstorm truly different. Being able to partner with my fellow Sandstormers and these three organizations to bring their individual brands and marketing strategies to life has been an incredible experience and my highlight for 2014.

Looking ahead to 2015, maybe I will have some tomatoes to go along with the launch of these three new brands. That is if the Polar Vortex stays north and the squirrels are willing to share.

 

This blog was posted by Janna on December 6, 2014.
Janna Fiester

About the Author

Janna Fiester

Sandstorm's Executive Creative Director, 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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Megan
Working Hand-in-Hand Even When You Can’t Be Face-to-Face

Work relationships are often like family, you don’t really get to pick them. To have the opportunity to continue to work with people you gel with is a privilege and we’re lucky enough to have several of these engagements.

Part of the Team

One marketing partnership that I work closely with is MathWorks. Our relationship is a testament to their patience and willingness to take in an external agency and guide us along the in’s and out’s of their business. We have become a part of their team going on three years, supporting their internal creative team for successful global events, among many other responsibilities.

The amount of work we’ve done with them has grown exponentially. We’re now leading several projects within their internal organizational structure, providing creative support, and working in conjunction the MathWorks creative team to support global marketing events.

Your Presence is a Present

I’m grateful for the expansion of the business side of the relationship, but I’m particularly glad for the opportunity to personally deepen the partnership and grow relationships with their team. The highlight of the past year was when our team went to the MathWorks headquarters near Boston to meet their team in person (the East Coaster wannabee in me was thrilled).

At the end of the day, the work is very important, but it’s essential to remember the impact you have on the people you interact with day in and day out. I cannot say enough positive things about having the opportunity to meet them face to face. Being in the same room made us feel like true coworkers and partners.  

So today, I wanted to share how thankful I am to have had the last year elevating a great brand and working with a great group of people. With clients like them, it’s easy to carry out our mission - to do good work for good people.

This blog was posted by Megan on December 5, 2014.
Megan Culligan

About the Author

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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Reilly
Our office's new east wing
This blog was posted by Reilly on December 4, 2014.
Reilly Willson

About the Author

Reilly Willson

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

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