In late 2013, Dropbox was around 500 people, globally. As new people joined, they brought in new ideas, and ways of problem solving that helped reshape our culture. This was also a tipping point; While we gained new perspectives, some of the more unique qualities that made our early culture strong were watering down. To prevent any loss, our company’s first designer, Jon Ying and I started a team to help guide culture as we grew.

We called the team Black Ops, as we saw ourselves as a team that could galvanize around whatever the company needed, behind the scenes. Today, the team designs what we call work experiences that inform, celebrate or shift culture — to help Dropbox achieve our more aspirational goals.

What is a “work experience”? It can be a piece of art that encourages you to look closer, or think bigger. It can be a poster that inspires you to take action or change your behavior. It can be an office installation that simply brings you joy. In other words, our team designs work experiences that inspire, unite, and bring joy.

Amorphic branding

Black Ops designs for Dropboxers — our people, not our customers. That means we’re able to work outside of the company brand guidelines. Instead, we craft unique designs that reflect attributes of our culture. This approach provides us with unique challenges, yet gives us a tremendous amount of creative autonomy. Much like an incubator for visual experimentation.

For example, over the years we’ve remixed the Dropbox glyph in countless ways. By reflecting aspects of other initiatives like Pride or Hack Week, this allows us to broaden our logo's meaning. We’re much more than a product, we’re a diverse community of people and projects.

Inspiration without a style guide

Inspiring to create change

Fears of failure

Self-doubt, imposter syndrome, and being afraid to fail are common within any company. Though learning from failure is a crucial step of innovation. Inspired by this, our team designer, Garrett Prince created a zine that explores archetypes of failure. By providing insights into the ways failure is misunderstood, it makes the idea of failure more accessible. You can read more about this project on our Medium blog post.

Four failure archetypes
By providing insights into the ways failure is misunderstood, it makes the idea of failure more accessible.

Hack Week

When the constraints of daily work life are lifted, our creativity becomes boundless. Once a year, for 7 energetic days, our global offices come together and experiment with new ideas, and new ways of working. We call this week, Hack Week.

Our team works with a cross-functional group to theme and design Hack Week — beginning by asking, "What is the biggest problem Dropbox is trying to solve?" We design a campaign around this problem, with posters that pose thought-provoking questions. In addition, we often build installations that give a different perspective, or challenge our perceptions. Hack Week is not only about giving us time back to create, it's about challenging the status quo in order to think bigger.

Uniting as we grow

Celebrating diversity

We love to celebrate the diverse community within our walls.

For initiatives like Black History Month and Pride, we partner with employee resource groups to share stories about Dropboxer diversity. Through photography, copy, and design, we highlight how everyone belongs. This brings to the surface the ways different perspectives strengthen our culture.

This year we celebrated Black History Month through a campaign we called Shades of Black. The campaign posters featured stories, and portraits shot by our team photographer, Chris Behroozian. It was highly impactful to see familiar faces and read their stories of identity as a minority group in tech. Moments like these reinforce that everyone in our community matters—and foster cross-company connections in an authentic way.

Shades of Black
Moments like these reinforce that everyone in our community matters—and foster cross-company connections in an authentic way.

Bringing more joy to work

Oldschool gratitude

Strong connections can form out of simple acts of kindness or recognition. Sending a thank you via email is great, but some efforts you might want to reward with a little extra delight. Our team designer, Lori Novak came up with Gratitude Post — an internal postal service for Dropboxers to send hand-written messages of gratitude to each other.

The idea is simple: Choose your favorite postcard, write a special message, (add in some optional confetti) seal it, and drop it into the special mailbox. With a little magic, the card will appear on the recipient’s desk the next day.

Gratitude Post

Messages that are magnetic

Sometimes these work experiences are simply designed to bring joy. One example is our magnetic letters mural. We created this installation to give Dropboxers an interactive space to express themselves. Anyone can re-arrange the magnetic shapes and letters into custom messages that live for a brief moment in time.

Magnet wall
Moments of self expression can lead to joy in unexpected ways at work. Dropboxers can leave a message or create a composition with the magnetic wall.

Getting to enlightened

A healthy workplace is one that is inspiring, diverse, informed, and joyful. To achieve this, we experiment with new ways to celebrate and foster healthy growth. By evolving the ways we work, we'll gain better insights into solving similar work problems for the world.

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