Our inaugural Night of the Roundtables event kicked off with flair. More importantly, it finished in success. No, we didn’t gather 18,000 freelancers’ contact info, nor did we book a million dollars of new business. And no, it wasn’t on TV – in fact, the press wasn’t invited. It was a success because it represented who and what we are: We are Designing North. A company with a mindset.
Freelancers don’t have company picnics in the summer or holiday parties in the winter. We tend to work alone, collaborating on projects when necessary, but typically from remote home offices or workstations. We wanted to host an event that was fun. Fun to eat, fun to listen, fun to converse, fun to just be, without worry that the ask was lurking somewhere in a nearby corner. We wanted to play with potential colleagues, and we gave these brave souls little indication of what the evening held.
After mingling at the picturesque bar of the Allied Arts Guild in Menlo Park, and swapping Hello My Name Is stickers for retro pharmacy wrist tags that proclaimed each individual’s favorite addiction, guests were invited to take a seat. No seat assignments. Sit where you’re comfortable. The evening’s emcee, Pat Hazell, former writer for Seinfeld and one of DN’s favorite creative directors, gave instructions about menu selection: pick four items, from the list of 22, for each of the four courses. Simple right? Well, not really. Here’s a sampling of the menu: Lanced Armstrong; Mini HTML; Jesus’ Treadmill; Fowl Ball; A Mazing Grace – all without explanation. In addition, he recommended that attendees take particular care of their round *TUIT* chips, as their value would become apparent as the evening progressed.
I welcomed the guests and the evening began with a Thick Toast…vichyssoise in a champagne flute. Reaction to the first course varied from startled to enchanted to consternation. One gentleman found himself with a spoon, a knife, a Weizen glass of beer, and a toothpick. Another guest found herself with a crisp salad and no fork. Enter the barter system. What we termed a *Tuit* (essentially a wooden chip) could be traded for utensils or food items from either the kitchen or one’s neighbor. Conversation flowed in a lighthearted, collaborative manner rather than the tired old, So, what do you do? diatribe. The more pressing question was How do I swap out my spoon for one of those bacon, almond, cheese thingees…they look divine!
With a nod to Proust, Head of Technology Nigel Peacock took us Inside the Designer’s Studio and asked each guest a question as the second course was prepped. Like the admissions officers at Ivy League schools, we knew that our guests, like student applicants, were all highly qualified individuals in terms of raw capabilities. But we wanted to know who our guests were as people…are they peeps we’d like to spend time with in the future? With questions like, What’s your favorite curse word? and If in fact there is a God, what would Peter say to you as you enter the Pearly Gates?, guests had to think on their feet and be pretty confident about who they are. All prompts were lobbed out randomly with Nigel’s charming British accent, and responses revealed some of the quirkier aspects of the evening’s personalities.
By the time we’d made it through the fourth course, Pat had entertained us with his comedic remarks and invisible card trick, and we found ourselves sated both literally and emotionally. Pat had one last request. Determine whether or not your round tuitchip is graced with a star. And then the double entendre question of the evening was asked: Are you a Designing North star? Three lucky winners won prizes: a pair of mustached shot glasses; (2) tickets to Pat’s hilarious one-man show The Wonder Bread Years; and a $100 Apple gift card. The remaining attendees, although sans a star on their chip, had clearly still demonstrated that they too were Designing North stars. We had finally gotten ‘round tuit’: the real value of the chip; the real value of being a part of Designing North Studios.
The Night of the Roundtables illustrated the essence of who we are. We’re seasoned enough to know that we place deep value in with whom we will spend our time. We want to work with people who are happy, love life, are passionate about what they do, enjoy a good laugh, and will always put in that extra effort – that hover above good enough. People who can check their egos at the door. Few guests realized that they were seated in a room with a veteran from Industrial Light & Magic, a former editor-in-chief at Wired Magazine, a designer at Fitbit, one of first designers at Frog, three former vice presidents of Digital, and an entrepreneur that helped build YouTube’s DigiTour which incidentally just sold to Ryan Seacrest’s company for millions. It didn’t matter. We were simply a bunch of creative people taking a little time out for frivolity. Roundtablers. Where no one was king, but everyone was a beloved knight.
Yeah, we’re pleasers – we admit it. We do the extra credit. Not in the brown-noser ass-kisser kind of way, but in the because it’s what we do kind of way – it’s our mindset. We revel in delighting our clients; and seek others to connect with who believe in the same. We’re the foe of average – the archenemy of mundane – and with a modicum of luck, our guests drank in that vibe on Thursday night.
PS – Many thanks to our extraordinary celebrity chef Josh Alkire of San Diego who contributed his creativity to the menu and delivered cleverly crafted fare, whilst working with a rather bamboozled wait staff! Tanya Samuels our dedicated head of opportunity who helped put the entire evening in perfect order. And finally, our Designing North Studios photographer Georgia Gregory who never ceases to capture the real moments in every snap.
To see more photos from the Night of the Rountables please visit bit.ly/dnsnotrphotos.