Compass Rose Media: Optimizing User Experience

November 18, 2015

Compass Rose Media is a creative design agency focused on building digital experiences that solve problems and create opportunities for their clients. They just recently relocated to a new studio just a few blocks away from their former space in Downtown Santa Cruz. The new space is complete with customized furnishings, an editing room, pool table, and a view overlooking the hustle and bustle of Pacific Avenue.

Compass Rose Media was started in Santa Cruz in 1992 and 23 years later they are still going strong. From a time when they sent out VHS tapes to clients via FedEx to today, shooting videos in 4k, one of the things that has allowed Compass Rose Media to stand the test of time, has been their ability to adapt to new and ever changing technology.

Steve Weisser, Compass Rose Media Founder and “Navigator”, has been a great visionary, and an early adopter of new technology. "When the iPad first came out, he was like 'I bet we could use these for business.' It turned out that it was a great adoption of the Apple product for businesses, and we were on the leading edge of that." said Kris Raikes, Technology Manager.

Compass Rose Media has been able to react to the market over the years and pivot and expand their business model to continually be effective. Steve reflects on their ability to adapt and comments that, “If we had stayed just a film and video company, we would have been gone a long time ago."

The agency started doing more interactive media, and not just websites, but really focused on content that you can watch on the web. A key focus that has been consistent in all of their work, and really sets them apart, is their understanding of, and dedication to the user experience. Compass Rose Media wants the user to not only get the information and messaging from a video, but also remember it and enjoy the experience - something they like to call “marketainment”. Steve comments, “If you can entertain somebody while you are marketing to them, you’ve scored.”

Compass Rose Media is a small but effective team of seven (and they are looking to hire a Business Development/Sales Specialist), and remaining this size has been a conscious choice. Early on, the agency learned that in this business you have to mean a lot of different things to different clients and you can’t do that with a huge overhead. So, when building the team, the focus has been on finding and hiring people with a variety of skills who can play different roles within the organization.

This approach has made them very versatile and has given them the ability to work with clients of all sizes. This evolution is shown in some of the agency's most recent work, from creating a music video for a local band, Banana Slug String Band, to essentially serving as an extension of the Internal UX team at GoPro, they really do it all.


The versatility has also been a huge draw when attracting and hiring talent, almost everyone on the team agreed that having the ability to constantly work on new projects has been one of the things they like most about what they do and where they work. Because Compass Rose media takes a fresh approach to all of the work they do, every time they start a new project it is something completely different and new. Just looking at the portfolio page of their website you can see the variety and depth of their creative approach. Take for example their work with HGST to develop a powerful brand messaging video, "Long Live Data" to lead off a recent event in San Francisco. The success of the “Long Live Data” video was primarily driven by the agency’s ability to create and handle all elements of production in-house, even with the challenges of a limited timeline and budget. From initial creative to graphics and animation, having everything in one place made the process efficient and well-organized.

The beauty of being in the era of technology, is that businesses like Compass Rose Media can work with anyone from anywhere. CRM works with clients around the world, and they are able to do it from Santa Cruz - a place they have chosen to be their home base.

"We can work with anyone from anywhere and so the reason we pick Santa Cruz is because if you could work anywhere, why not here? It's beautiful. It's amazing. It is such a nice place to live. If you can live anywhere and work anywhere, this is a really good choice." — Alan Waldo, Motion Graphics Artist

And, being here since the 90s, Compass Rose Media has known what others have only recently discovered: that Santa Cruz is a great place to live and to do business. They have also had the opportunity to watch the growth of the tech industry in Santa Cruz.

“There were points, in the not so distant past, where there was no opportunity in Santa Cruz. Light Surf had gone, Looker wasn’t here yet. CRM was one of the biggest tech companies in town, and we don’t even consider ourselves a tech company. But today, we are seeing more and more tech show up, and we are seeing real opportunities for people who live here as opposed to having to drive over the hill." — Joe Spiers, Director of User Experience

Being able to both live and work in Santa Cruz, enables a life-work balance that is more difficult for those who may be commuting several hours every day each way. Here it is easy to walk out your door and go hiking, go biking, go surfing and still be able to make it to work on time and spend time with your family. And the physical environment supports this lifestyle too.

“Where else can you go where the ocean meets the mountains. You don't have to compromise, which makes this an amazing place” — Sheila Gunn, Senior Producer

Compass Rose Media has a long history in Santa Cruz and has demonstrated success working for clients within and outside of our community. Like many Santa Cruz business, the agency really values being a part of the community and giving back, which is why they have started working with Second Harvest Food Bank for their Holiday Food Drive. This is the second year in a row that they have done a commercial for the organization. The agency's connection and pride in Santa Cruz is strong and Steve comments that, “Santa Cruz has been really great to me and really good to our business, and this point in my career and in this business there has got to be some point where we are giving back to our community and Second harvest is an amazing organization that fills a huge void in our community and so working with them is important to us.”

To learn more about Compass Rose Media and the work they do, visit:

Gold for Santa Cruz

Happy 1st Birthday CruzCal!