make it feel small

Dropbox is a special place where rapid change happens at a massive scale. Now with over 400 million users, its already hefty mission is only getting heftier. Executing on that mission means something different every day and it's no small task to keep over 1,000 employees in a dozen offices on the same page about what that is. To make magic happen for users, they have to make it happen for themselves. There's just no faking that. While at Dropbox, I had the opportunity to help connect those dots for people by developing design projects with an unreal team called Black Ops. The short version of our charter was simple and daunting: Make Dropbox feel small.




Extended Credits: Justin Pervorse - Design & Curation; Jon Ying - Copywriting & Content Strategy; Kelsey Lettko - Gift Fulfillment

In November of 2014, the executive staff  asked Black Ops to buy the company's employees a holiday present. They wanted it to be something thoughtful, possibly even with a different variant for each team. It was a last minute, straight-forward request, but we racked our brains, trying to some up with something meaningful and interesting that fit in the budget. Trying to accommodate a group this diverse with a single gift proved to be extremely tough. It got to the point where we were simply trying to think of something that would offend the least number of people. 

The breakthrough came over breakfast (as it usually does) when I shared our predicament with a co-worker. He said "Well, anything will be better than what State Farm did when my mom worked there. They gave out this cheap catalog and you had to pick your gift from there." I've always believed that bad ideas are the evil twins of good ideas, so we got started. 

We launched an internal marketplace of consumer goods and artifacts of company culture. We "sold" everything from backpacking tents to Magic 8 Balls, as well as a letter to your parents from the CEO. In the span of a few weeks, we conceived, developed, and produced a catalog for print and web that was sent to every Dropboxer in every office. In an effort to de-monetize the experience, we engineered a playful fake currency of "Black Diamonds" within the catalog and intentionally included items that were beyond the allotted quota. To our delight, Dropboxers immediately began hacking the ordering site in an effort to secure a hot dog roller for their desk and a used car from craigslist for their driveway (lol @ driveway in SF). 

Our metric for success was the number of conversations the project could spark. How could we use a scant budget to make people laugh in spite of themselves? How could we turn this into a memorable gift that overshadowed the gifts being given? Watching employees grab coffee and hunker down with their catalogs in giggling groups was more rewarding than I know how to say.

Although, in retrospect, I'm kinda wondering why we didn't just do the thing where we bought people stuff.





Extended credits: Tymn Armstrong - Design

Tymn and I teamed up with the Dropbox People Ops team to revisit the new hire onboarding program from stem to stern. The program had been cobbled together over a few years as modules were added, edited, or removed to keep the information current. Our goal was to provide the team with an adaptable framework that would be able to handle whatever they threw at it. Tymn & I worked through countless concepts together, pushing for something that would feel connected to the Dropbox brand, but also feel fresh to new-hires who had been Dropbox users for years. We landed on a concept that explores what's inside Dropbox by stripping it down to its most basic and approachable parts.