Every firm that has been in business for more than a week has a process of some sort, even if they aren’t aware of it, even if it isn’t packaged and branded and trademarked and marketed as such. Ants lack self-awareness, but they are definitely not lacking in systems and processes to get things done with remarkable efficiency. At the other end of the spectrum, there are many companies—even large, “successful” companies—that seem to be in an endless quest for new methodology but honestly couldn’t get a breadcrumb from the kitchen to the pantry if their corporate lives depended on it. The search for new methodology often results in nothing more than new terminology and ENAs (Exciting New Acronyms).
That said, there is a certain comfort in knowing, not just what the rules of engagement are, but what the experience of working with a new firm might be like. What do they believe? More importantly, how do they approach things? Is that approach different or better or more invigorating than other firms? How will they spend their time, the time I’m paying them for? How do I know that they will actually solve my communications problem? How do I know they will even try? What follows is first a general overview of our culture and then a more specific snapshot of life at Sandstrom Partners. The next best thing to actually being here, seeing it all happen.
We built this company on four planks that have served us well over the past two decades. Styles and typefaces and colors and materials will change from year to year, but these four basic tenets are fundamental to our brand. We encourage them. They are: tenacious inquiry, thoughtful analysis, fearless exploration, and a willingness to fall down, several times if necessary.
High up on our list of criteria for new hires, whether they’re designers or writers or project managers, is “unusual curiosity.” The result is that Sandstrom Partners has what could be rightly called “a curious culture.” We want to know everything about your company and your category. We actually enjoy this process—it’s a big part of why we do what we do. We subscribe to the notion that, “To every answer there is at least one question, usually more than one.” We like questions, because they lead to strategies and strategies lead to clarity and clarity leads to in- novation. And we like innovation even more than we like questions.
We think. We ponder. We wonder. We explore. We make unexpected connections. We think about what came before and what has never been and while we invariably come to a conclusion, we never stop thinking.
Only when we think we’ve got the big idea, and we’ve tested it against every filter and resisting argument, can we get to work on design explorations. This part of the process is akin to the tip of the iceberg. The culmination of all this is what you will see, but it’s based on a much deeper core.
Design and illustration and message and copy voice and package form and everything else are considered. Every touchpoint is important. When a brand comes to life it has to be believable and holistic. All points communicate, and all messages are important.
Learning From Our Mistakes
Does this system work every time? Hardly. But the success ratio is pretty high, and we try to learn from every stumble. The more we absorb, the more we can add to the equation. So we keep looking for adventure and the unknown. It’s where the great new ideas can be found.