D-day: The Reason Design Team Offsite 2019

February 25, 2020

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Christiana Kim

2019 was a full-on year for the design team at Reason. We’ve been busy working on Coverly, Solivus, Symphony, and a host of business optimisation projects for various fashion retailers. Even though we sit together in one desk bank, it can be hard to find the time to properly share our learnings from within projects so the whole team can benefit.

Design and Strategy Director Michael Dingle took our feedback about wanting to improve this, and sent us an invitation to a Design Team Offsite Day (A.K.A D-Day). It was a no-brainer to make space in our diaries to think about the current ways that the team work, what we could improve on, and what we wanted Reason to achieve in 2020.

Different ways of designing

Since this was our inaugural D-Day, we really had to prioritise what we wanted to discuss as a team.

One of the things that had come up in multiple conversations was our hankering to try out different ways of working. When we get busy, it’s easy to fall back on methods that are tried and tested, without properly looking at whether there’s a better way to do it. By sticking to things you know, we all agreed that we’re in danger of being stagnant. So we were asked to bring a new idea to the table, about how we work - “a methodology, tool, a new anything (to you)”. And the team delivered.

Here’s a list of what our hivemind came up with:

And here’s where we decided that they’d be used best during the design process: DDay image1

It’s not to say that we’ll be putting all of these tools immediately into the Reason design process. We’ll be testing and seeing when it’s best to use certain tools. The purpose of the exercise was to give us headspace to continuously critique, analyse and iterate our own processes so that we can continue learning as designers. The result will be that we can design and deliver the most effective solution for each of our clients.

Team retrospective 2019: Ever-better team collaboration

DDay image2

For part two of the day, we individually noted down on post-its (we’re designers - what do you expect!?) about things that we did this year that worked well, and what could be improved. Talking through everyone’s post-its, we clustered similar themes together and after a discussion, came up with key improvement areas we’d like to better in the coming year.

This led naturally into the final part:

What do we want to do in 2020?

The last part of the day was a broader remit - what our manifesto would look like for the next year. Thinking about our own personal goals, as well as what we wanted to achieve at Reason, we hit the ol’ post-its, affinity mapped and deliberated as a team to come up with a series of qualitative goals for 2020.

DDay image3

Learnings

Progress is better than perfection

We know we could have taken longer to do discuss all the complex desires of the team, used different exercises or focused on other areas. But just setting aside 5 hours to get together as a team gave us the mental space to say thank you to each other, and think about improvements. We don’t get to capture the intangible things when you’re focused on day to day work - the thought comes up, but it passes and gets lost unless it’s a caused a major concern. Just making the time, even for a couple of hours, is great progress!

Taking it out of the office brings the team together

Because we work on cross functional project teams, we don’t often get the opportunity to sit together and spend a lot of time together as a design team. Taking us out of the usual office environment and the distractions of day to day really helped us pull our mindsets out of the detail into broader context. After spending an uninterrupted chunk of time together, we emerged knowing each other a little better.

Giving everyone a chance to participate

We have a very open office, where we feel safe to voice our opinions. But still, some of us prefer to preserve their opinions for a more “formal” space. Creating opportunities where the conversation happens in a smaller group setting ensures everyone gets an equal chance to speak.

Set up for a great start

It was great to end the year with D-Day: closing it off on a reflective note and thinking about goals for 2020. We came back to the office in January with the things we wanted to achieve fresh in our minds.

If you have a new tool/ methodology/ way of working that you want to suggest, or you want to share your experience in design team offsites (what went well, what could be improved), we’d love to hear your thoughts! Tweet us @madewithReason #designday