In the creative fields, it’s often said that you’re only as good as your last piece of work. By these standards, Wondersauce — a New York-based digital design and development agency that consistently delivers award-winning work for clients like HBO, Nike, Stella Artois, Gap, John Mayer, and The New York Times — isn’t just good. It’s wonderful.
Producing great work, though, isn’t the only thing that drives the independent shop. For Wondersauce, the secret to design success lies in making the creative journey as smooth as possible. “We’re a services company. Making amazing things for our clients is a given. But what sets us apart from other agencies is that we focus an ungodly amount of attention on all the day-to-day interactions of getting things done,” says Founder and Managing Director John Sampogna. “We want the overall experience of working together to be easy and pleasant for our clients as much as we want to build amazing things.”
This relentless commitment to client service — along with a deft ability to move quickly on projects and a strong dedication to constant evolution — has helped fuel the agency’s rapid growth. Founded in 2011 by Sampogna, Founding Partner Eric Mayville, and Creative Director Seth Klassen, Wondersauce has grown from three people to 50 (and counting) designers, producers, and strategists in three years. In 2013, Brett Waszkelewicz joined the agency as Partner and Creative Director to round out the leadership team. And now, Wondersauce is setting its sights beyond New York.
Born and raised digital
Before establishing Wondersauce, Sampogna, Mayville, and Klassen honed their design chops at larger shops like Razorfish and Code and Theory. Having worked in digital media their whole careers, they’re keenly aware of how fast technology changes — what’s cutting edge today may very well be obsolete tomorrow. That’s why they’ve taken a tech-agnostic approach to client projects. In practical terms, it means they design and build experiences for just about any type of screen or surface — as long as authentic human interaction is the end result.
“All we care about is reaching consumers with memorable things that are relatable to what they’re using, whether it’s a phone, a website, or a subway platform. It doesn’t matter to us,” says Sampogna. “We’re fascinated by how people interact with things.”
When it came time to set up a file sharing solution for their business, the Wondersauce team sought out tools that would similarly allow them to focus on enhancing human interaction — in this case, through workplace collaboration — rather than on the technology itself.
After they considered several options, Dropbox for Business emerged as a natural fit. “We grew up digital, which is why we considered Dropbox before we thought of building out our own servers like the traditional shops we worked at before,” explains Mavyille, who oversees the agency’s business operations. The simple rollout and cost savings made Dropbox an easy choice.
In fact, Mayville estimates that Wondersauce has saved tens of thousands of dollars on hardware and IT consulting fees by choosing to deploy Dropbox for Business over building and maintaining a local file server. Beyond keeping the agency’s IT expenses low, Dropbox has become the backbone of its creative operations.
Today, the entire Wondersauce team uses Dropbox for Business to sync and share everything from presentation decks and design mocks to videos and photo assets. As Sampogna puts it, “All our agency files live on Dropbox. We live and breathe on the platform.” By providing a one-stop shop for every aspect of their creative workflow, Dropbox helps Wondersauce eliminate bureaucratic and technological roadblocks.
As a result, they’re able to work on design concepts as a team, exchange assets with clients, check in on projects remotely, and automatically back up their work — all without skipping a beat. “Communication, collaboration, and the efficiency of those two things are paramount to what we do,” says Mayville. “If those things break down, then projects fall behind the timeline and we can’t execute on budget. Anything that gets in the way of our efficiency means we’re basically dead in the water.”
With Dropbox, Wondersauce is able to execute on client projects at top speed and efficiency. For instance, while building an ecommerce site for a client, the design team needed to retouch a large number of image assets within a very short timeframe. As Waszkelewicz recalls, “What should have been a month’s worth of retouching work had to happen over the course of a couple nights.”
Waszkelewicz — along with seven other Wondersauce designers — worked around the clock to complete the project in time for launch. They sped up the process and stayed organized by setting up a simple file structure in Dropbox for each designer to share completed assets, making it easier to upload everything to the site. “Without Dropbox,” Waszkelewicz says, “I don’t think we would have made that deadline.”
As Mayville adds, “We’re able to move incredibly fast and get to market sooner because of how efficient we are.” Collaboration doesn’t stop once they get outside of the office, either. With busy travel schedules and up to 20 active projects to oversee at any given time, the management team depends on the Dropbox mobile app to check in on progress, share feedback, and keep things moving along — all from their phones.
We’re always moving. We’re always evolving. And Dropbox gives us the freedom to focus on where want to go next as a company. - Brett Waszkelewicz, Partner and Creative Director at Wondersauce
It’s this ability to move nimbly that’s enabled Wondersauce to deliver groundbreaking projects like The Players’ Tribune. Conceived by Derek Jeter as a media platform for professional athletes to share their stories directly with fans, The Players’ Tribune aims to reshape sports conversations.
To launch the site, Wondersauce used Dropbox for Business to access and edit project files while working from the Tribune’s offices, share assets with designers back at their headquarters, and keep track of changes to articles written by an all-star roster of contributors. Most importantly, Dropbox lets Wondersauce securely back up files and manage multiple versions — without slowing down the creative process. Since their files are stored in Dropbox, the team doesn’t have to worry about backing up every single version that’s created throughout the course of a project. The backup process is automatic, which frees up time for team members to move on to other client projects. If and when accidental deletions happen, the team knows they can recover critical work files with a few simple clicks.
“The beauty of something like Dropbox is that you don’t think about it every day,” says Sampogna. “It’s beautiful that we don’t have to think about whether our files are safe or about version control.”
With Dropbox for Business working in the background, the team can focus on designing great work, hiring more talent, and finding new ways to grow their business.
“Dropbox is ingrained in our culture,” says Mayville. “Without Dropbox, I just don’t know what we would do, because it allows us to look for efficiencies and opportunities elsewhere.”
Always moving, always evolving
For Wondersauce, elsewhere just so happens to be in Ohio. In January 2015, they opened their second office in Columbus. Whereas other New York-based agencies would have expanded to San Francisco or Los Angeles, the agency’s management team saw bigger — and more exciting — opportunities in the Midwest. “Columbus is a lot like a startup,” says Mayville, who went to college in Ohio. “It’s a city that can change quickly and adapt to new things, because it’s at the center of a very diverse demographic of people. I think we’ll have a chance to make a real impact there — both in the creative community and in the city itself.” In other words, the city of Columbus is a lot like Wondersauce.
The agency has grown and changed so quickly that it’s not quite the same shop that Mayville and his co-founders opened three years ago. Initially focused on designing digital publishing, ecommerce, and brand experiences, they’ve since expanded their scope of work to include content creation and large-scale integrated campaigns. “We’re not afraid to take risks,” says Sampogna. “We have a fresh perspective on things and like to dive into interesting stuff.”
Simply put, the Wondersauce team isn’t satisfied with resting on their laurels — or staying in the same place for too long. “We’re always moving. We’re always evolving,” says Waszkelewicz. “And Dropbox gives us the freedom to focus on where want to go next as a company.”