Sandstrom Blog

Steve Sandstrom’s Work History

The following is excerpted from a recent Oregonian story.

In response to a question asking for his work history, Sandstrom typed this on his iPhone:

I left Nike late 1988, and started a design division within Borders Perrin & Norrander Advertising. BPN account executive Rick Braithwaite joined me and we incorporated a partnership with BP&N in 1990. Then separated from agency as an independent firm with Braithwaite in 1993 when BPN sold to Foote Cone & Belding.

FCB management wanted to buy our firm as well because they saw potential for us to help them manage their Levi’s business from the design side. Because of the articles of incorporation with BPN, we had to sell at the same stock evaluation multiplier as BPN. Being a young firm with few assets made the FCB offer somewhat insignificant, so we went to the bank and borrowed enough to buy ourselves out of the deal. Later that year, the executive creative director at FCB gave us a Levi’s project that paid us more than the FCB offer to buy us. So we immediately paid off the loan. The work for Levi’s won several awards and boosted our reputation and awareness.

We have been in the same location (808 S.W. Third Ave., Suite 610) for 22 years. The number of employees fluctuates between 13 and 17, but becoming a large firm has never been an important goal. Doing great work for our clients has been the focus. Small and powerful. We helped launch Windows 95 with Wieden+Kennedy as the lead agency. There were only eight of us here at that time working on one of the world’s largest product launches ever. The perception of our size has always been bigger because our reputation and proliferation of successful and award winning projects has exceeded what many would consider possible from a small firm.

I’m on the board of directors of the One Club, the preeminent organization for upholding and recognizing outstanding creative work in advertising (and this has extended into design and interactive now). The board is comprised primarily of advertising creative directors most of whom have achieved lofty status and respect and fame in the industry and yet I’m always surprised when I find out that many of them think I’m the “famous” one. This is partly because there have been so few designers on the board over the years that it stands out. But it still is a gratifying thing to have the respect of the people I think are the smartest and brightest stars in communications.

Braithwaite retired almost five years ago and (former Borders, Perrin & Norrander president) Jack (Peterson) came on to help run the business. Another ad guy from BPN. Jon Olsen and Kelly Bohls had been long-time employees and were offered partnership along with Sally Morrow. Sally left last year to pursue her own interests. Jon is a creative director and Kelly is a project manager. Another key individual is Daniel Baxter who leads our strategic process. He also came from BPN.

Read the Oregonian article