The Future Organization Will be a Place of Positivity & Purpose, Shaped by Three Factors

In the future, where will you work?

Will you be in a healthy environment that produces good vibes — gratitude, attitude, and mood?

Forward-thinking workplace trends lead us to believe that tomorrow’s most successful organizations must embrace flexibility, commit to employee development, and demonstrate an openness to creativity.

The Success of Future Organizations

Automation is top of mind for successful organizations, but not because it’s the “formidable foe” that’s hungry for your job. Although automation eliminates the need for certain positions, it creates new efficiencies and presents people with an opportunity to be more human, to partner with technology rather than fear its presence.

This brings us to our main point: the future of work requires planning from both organizations and people if they wish to exist harmoniously with technology.

Employees must future-proof their skills, e.g., cultivate soft skills, augment certifications and degrees with project experience, and become the go-to source of specific knowledge (subject matter experts, SMEs). However, organizations have essential work to do, too.

Leaders need to attract top talent and retain personnel to drive the business. If the current workforce statistics accurately reflect future employment challenges, companies must become more than an activity — more human, and reflect the behavior of a true social enterprise.

There’s a reason our name is Designing North and why our brand promise to clients is that: it’s not a location, it’s a mindset. Because ‘designing north’ is that little bit of extra that we can all bring. We refer to it as just north of 100%. Over the years, we’ve seen what happens when a group of people with that same mindset come together over a project — the joining of the right clients, sound designers, and a useful purpose.

A Place for Positivity

The positive project experiences revealed which client organizations formed the most effective partnership. Precisely, each team understood the relationship between gratitude, attitude, and mood. That is gratitude impacts attitude which, in turn, affects mood. This relationship is now our unwritten rule for project success: show gratitude to internal and external partners, always present a positive attitude, and maintain a good mood.

A study of over 12,000 professional employees from the U.S. and Canada revealed a compelling story about employee happiness in the workplace. For example, happy employees are 98% more likely to identify with company values and 85% more efficient with their work than those who aren’t. This data supports our belief that behind a good client is a healthy internal culture and inclusive mindset. Our experiences with exceptional clients and successful project outcomes correlate three characteristics that companies can use to improve the work environment; let’s explore how they are used in the workplace.

A Place Where People Show Gratitude

Gratitude travels up and down the chain of command, but it’s most beneficial when a team of employees uses it regularly. Coworkers should appreciate one another and express gratitude for hard work. This collaboration cultivates an abundance of positivity. Don’t believe us? Just give it a try for a day.

UC Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons agrees that gratitude is essential in the workplace, and is a basic requirement for positive human interaction. Give and receive thanks at work — it’s that easy. When you do, expect the following benefits associated with showing gratitude:

Improved organizational culture — Emmons believes that expressing thanks is a remedy for the toxic symptoms teams experience.

Stronger teams — Emmons explains that showing gratitude leads to reciprocity, which strengthens relationships.

Increased motivation — People want to work for an appreciative boss, and feel better about themselves when leaders give thanks.

Organizations consistently recognized as “great places to work” are typically those that frequently understand, validate, and value outstanding work, according to The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

‘In an SHRM/Globoforce survey, Using Recognition and Other Workplace Efforts to Engage Employees, 68 percent of HR professionals agreed that employee recognition has a positive impact on retention and 56 percent said such programs also help with recruitment.’

A Place That Supports a Positive Attitude

How you approach projects and interact with clients and employees matters. The relationship is part of your brand and serves as the foundation for building brand equity.

But what if we told you that our approach to success was just a different way of thinking, one that fosters extra effort, no matter the circumstance — would you give it a try? If so, start by “going positive” during the workday when faced with a challenge. Even problems arise, ask team members to take a step back, observe the situation, and inject a positive outlook or present an idea that enables everyone to see the bright side of the situation.

“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.”

Willie Nelson

This advice is priceless for managers and organizational leaders. Choose to be positive and show gratitude for the work done by others on your team if you wish to experience positive results, is what’s being stated by the legendary singer.

The benefits of having a positive attitude surface time and time again. Client’s share their frustrations and failures during introductory meetings — this is common. Rather than fuel the fire of negativity (which strangely feels good because our brains are wired this way), we immediately introduce realistic opportunities for improvement and demonstrate how they influence success. By preventing the issue from escalating, we instantly transform the vibe to one that eases tension.  

Challenges arise in every project, which is why it’s easy to lean in with pessimism and doubt. However, this mindset only reduces the team’s ability to collaborate and present quality solutions.

A positive attitude, which is fueled by expressing gratitude, sustains energy within the team environment. And energy is the common denominator for high engagement and performance. Peter Economy, Leadership author, and consultant suggests 7 Ways to Create a Remarkably High-Energy Workforce.

We absorb energy from coworkers; positive attitudes create an abundance of positive energy for everyone to consume. Successful organizations should encourage positivity and maintain an internal culture that rewards positive interaction among internal and external staff and partners.

In the HBR article titled The More You Energize Your Coworkers, the Better Everyone Performs, the following example highlights the value an organization gains from employees with a positive attitude: “she energized me because she loved her job and was, in general, a very happy person. She always came in with a smile on her face which created a positive atmosphere.”

A Place Where Mood is Meaningful

Your happiness and wellness at work are impacted by your mood — the emotional response to your surroundings. The most successful organizations craft environments that maximize a person’s satisfaction; but in the future, it will be mandatory. That is, to build high-performing teams, leaders must find, train, and retain employees who steward good mood.

UW Health psychologist Shilagh Mirgain, Ph.D. explains how others influence your happiness. She says, “How an individual feels can ripple through his or her social groups and influence how the group feels in general. In some ways, our emotional states are like a virus – we can spread the positive and negative experience to those around us, even with strangers.”

Similar to how a person consistently shows gratitude and upholds a positive attitude, a good mood requires constant work — review these tips on how to stay positive from Mirgain, Ph.D.

We know from surveying clients that expressing gratitude influences a person’s attitude and mood. We also know that successful teams cultivate inclusivity, openness, and acceptance. But why do these observations shed so much light on who people will choose to work for in the future?

We strongly believe that people want to feel good at work, they want to create a sense of purpose to justify the daily routine. A positive mood provides meaning and frees the mind to explore deeper connections that might otherwise remain unclear. Feel good. Do good. (And that doesn’t just mean M&Ms in the kitchen, and pool tables in the break room anymore.)

The Takeaway

In the future, when work and the concept of living well are joined at the hip, the most successful companies will enthusiastically embrace a culture defined by gratitude, positive attitudes, and a good mood. Mainly because gratitude and appreciation contribute to the kind of workplace environments where employees want to come to work and don’t feel like cogs in a machine, oh, wait, does that sound like your current relationship with work? If so, it’s time to re-think who you work for and why. Go ahead, set your sights on the trifecta of positivity; you are destined to experience the benefits.

The future employee won’t accept anything less — will you?

For Long-Term Success as a Remote Worker, Seek Joy

Working remotely; you either love it, hate it, or have no idea what to think since it’s not an option at the moment. If you fall into the latter, be patient — your time is coming. At least that’s what the data tells us.

Did you know that 43% of today’s workforce spends at least some time working remotely, according to Buffer’s latest report on remote work? If you are eager to partake in this autonomous lifestyle, rest assured it will be commonplace in the near future.

A virtual studio with a design and development team spread across the globe, we’ve learned the ins and outs of what it takes to succeed as a remote workers. In fact, we see this shift to virtual teams as a part of elevating the human experience, a component of living well Monday through Sunday, not just on Friday and Saturday. But to be honest, the majority of this experience rests on the company culture itself. Remote isn’t a destination, it’s a mindset.

Remote teams function best within a company culture that embraces communication, collaboration, and of course, distance learning. Additionally, no matter which group you identify with (love it, hate it, maybe in the future), there’s one incredibly important detail to consider when working remotely, one that we see overlooked time and time again.

That is, you are a product of your environment. Which why we encourage you to take a cold, hard look at your workspace (current or future) and design it to be your ideal working environment. Even better, craft it to be a space that delights your senses and invites feelings of joy throughout the day. Because it’s the small details that have a big impact on day-to-day happiness as a remote worker.

Whether you are a designer, writer, social media strategist, marketing consultant, etc., becoming a productive remote worker is dependent on feeling good in the moment, and accomplishing this begins with controlling your environment. As a remote team that has successfully navigated challenges associated with telecommuting and freelancing (feeling of isolation, lack of communication, disengagement, etc.), we believe one universal factor of remote work deserves extra attention.

It’s called joy. To find it, optimize your physical environment and stimulate mental cognition. With personal examples to share, let’s walk through how you can increase your happiness as a remote worker by paying special attention to your environment and feelings of joy.

Take Control of Your Space

While discussing the concept of “finding your flow,” Managing Director Lisa Peacock touched on the importance of having control within the working environment. Specifically, she shared,

“I need to first get control of my environment, this means that everything around me is visually pleasing — which brings about a calming effect (that includes noise and movement as well) to create an internal organization of thought. Feeling the calm allows me to jump into the storm of flow where my immersion in whatever I’m doing goes unnoticed until I’m done with my work.”

As it relates to psychology, flow is a state of mind where our actions and cognitive thoughts progress with seamless transition, providing incredible satisfaction and enjoyment in what we are doing. And according to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, ‘flow is a finely tuned sense of rhythm, involvement, and anticipation.’ The importance of flow and its contribution to success as a remote employee can’t be overstated. And it directly correlates the designed environment to having control over personal choices.

To gain control, identify your ideal setting —  where do you work best? What do you need around you to feel at ease? (For us, the ideal setting means pets close by, or a window setting that allows for ‘California Dreamin’: plenty of natural light, a view of the outdoors, and visually pleasing elements that balance the physical space with color and shape.)

To accomplish this equilibrium, start by designing a space that reflects youand empowers yourchoices. As your vision unfolds, think like a UI designer — fixate on the look and feel of your workspace. If possible, start with a blank slate; remove clutter or clear out a room completely. Next, choose wall colors (if you don’t know where to begin, start with white — you can introduce color with objects and art). From there, choose objects, mixing color with texture and even smell. Try being creative with a wall gallery and add small plants throughout the room and on the desk. Finally, add your technology tools and ensure you have space to move and remain organized. These small details culminate into a “healthy” environment, one where the nutrients take the form of color, shape, smell and sensation.

In her book Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, Ingrid Fetell Lee talks about creating a space “where you can never be real sad or angry.” She further explains, “…designers were making me realize the kind of abundance that really matters, not material accumulation but sensorial richness.” Applying this mindset to your remote environment, the ideal aesthetic can be created by layering color, texture, and pattern, and you don’t need much stuff to achieve this.

Pioneering the ‘100% distributed culture,’ the Dribbble communityoften shares their experiences working as remote freelancers across the globe. In a recent blog post, a multidisciplinary designer described his connection with the “chosen” environment versus one that’s forced:

  “Comparing my office space with the spaces I use working at home, I noticed that I’m way more productive when I can choose my workspace. Hopefully, in the future, more and more companies in Germany will realize that remote workspaces are a good thing.”

Get Organized, Stay Organized

Remember, creating success in the remote environment means paying special attention to the small details, embracing those moments of elation and flow that lead to joy. Fortunately, there are well known “tricks” for you to keep in your back pocket. One in particular entails organizing your space, even increasing its functionality whenever possible. Whether it’s daily, weekly or monthly, get in the habit of rearranging items in your office, adjusting seating arrangements, location of the computer or your orientation towards the window. Add organizers to the desk; swap plants and restore the “white space” surrounding your tools. For example, here’s a look at a single workspace rearranged to accommodate additional accessories, while creating more functional space and, you guessed it, organization.

Remote workspace ideas | Designing North Studios

As Buffer’s 2018 work report concluded, the vast majority of people working remotely do so from their home office (78%), not coworking spaces and cafes. So although social media portrays a remote workforce dominated by the “WeWork empire,” people are actually finding the most success at home. And personal organization is a contributing factor.

Of course, staying organized pertains to more than the desk and project folders. You — the remote employee — are just as much a part of the workspace as your computer and must clear your mind to be productive. However possible, do this daily — make it routine. Advice given by author and subject matter expert Brianna Wiest, ‘begin and end the day by taking notes; put your thoughts (and feelings) on paper and review your emotions’ — and how they impacted the day. This builds awareness and trains you to “go positive” during your most productive hours, creating an environment conducive to good work and good vibes.

Getting (and staying) organized calls for a commitment to oneself, accepting the ups and downs and knowing when to work — or when to take a break. So, along with the to-do list, outline your day as often as possible and pay special attention to your needs (i.e., breaks, outside communication, focus, inspiration, and finding flow). Ideally, getting organized will facilitate a sustainable workflow that aids in long-term happiness and satisfaction with work. Additionally, staying organized and in control of feelings and emotions is the key to crossing current goals off the list while preparing for what lies ahead.

Stay Active and Over-Communicate

Office chat… it’s often taken for granted by office-bound employees. But finding joy as a remote employee is partially dependent on talking with team members, often. Cats are great and all but they simply can’t provide healthy dialogue throughout the day. (Yes, we’ve seen the Facebook videos and were just as impressed as you. Still, you need more than moew-speak.)

A point well-articulated by the Ladders blog, successful remote workers establish an active morning, afternoon and evening routine, rich in team communication. This includes regular phone and video calls, even for the sake of clarity on a task. Additionally, get comfortable ending project calls with brief conversations about last night’s game or that ridiculously emotional episode of “This is Us.” Don’t worry, you aren’t losing focus for doing so; you are connecting with coworkers the same way an office employee would. We’ve already become avatars thanks to our new iphones. For the sake of joy, let’s preserve human-to-human conversations while working in the remote environment. ‘You’re going to be smiling and laughing less at work as a result of being alone, and spending less time around your coworkers. Do something to make yourself laugh.’

“You communicate too much,” said no remote team member ever. Strict meeting policy or not, consistent communication is a gift among those without a central office. It’s value is realized beyond the boundaries of team performance or project success. On a deeper level, communicating daily replicates the quality interaction employees require to remain engaged and productive. In fact, by establishing a schedule of one-on-one calls, team video chats, and project-performance round-table meetings, remote workers can derive more joy and feel better about their position.

Increased productivity and focus are a byproduct of consistent communication. Words shared by the studio’s Executive Director, “It’s about sharing good content when found, being inclusive, highlighting people’s accomplishments, encouraging them to share with each other, be funny, be accessible, let go where you can, and assist where you see struggle.” It may require more work, but communicating effectively leads to feeling more joy in the remote setting.

American author Chuck Palahniuk said it best, “Find joy in everything you choose to do. Every job, relationship, home… it’s your responsibility to love it, or change it.” When you filter out the many surface-level reasons people choose remote work (all valid), this decision almost always boils down to a search for happiness and joy. Fortunately, accepting the responsibilities associated with remote work grants you control over the physical working environment, and therefore the joy it provides. A design studio with creatives located across the country, Designing North Studios believes a positive space influences good work. So, if it’s joy you are looking for (along with cool team members and engaging projects) we think you should check us out.

First Orion Website Launch: UX Design & Messaging

Discovery

First Orion was building products with passion. They were on a mission to tackle the large-scale epidemic of scam and robocalls to consumer mobile phones. But you wouldn’t know it from their website or their messaging.

During the discovery process, as we learned more about First Orion, we realized that all of their differentiators were not coming through in their online presence.

First Orion Website Redesign | Designing North Studios

First, they are filled with real data scientists creating the algorithms that allow their specialists to analyze the data around the scam and epidemic of robocalls. Which, let’s face it, is real superhero stuff. And like any good superhero, being authentic about their mission, especially for a company like First Orion, is truly about ‘sharing what’s “under the cape.” And what’s under there is not just the data and the knowledge, it’s a palpable drive coming from their team to protect people. We felt it during discovery; the people at First Orion displayed a sense of passion for protecting us. Just as we communicated a passion to craft a solution for their current problem: an outdated digital presence, lacking a story, lacking a customer journey with these superheroes.

Designing North Studios Cape Design for First Orion

There wasn’t a person at FO that didn’t express a true desire to do the right thing. It was refreshing to see such autonomy around ethical decision making. They could see all the data, all the bad actors trying every second to get through to our phones, unrelenting, and it was so inspiring to unearth this amazing commitment to be part of the change, part of this kind of ‘protection team.’

The Design Challenge

Content is the biggest challenge for every project. But we have techniques to organize process. We introduced something new to our process this time called ‘priority guides’ that allowed the client team to not get distracted with visuals and really focus on the content and message. The design team was then able to mock-up wires with real content vs. your standard latin placeholder. It’s a hard technique, because most people can be very visual — but it forces everyone to read.

In terms of the First Orion voice, it flowed well for us after our interviews in discovery. There is quiet confidence, a humble pride, and a heartfelt knowledge that comes across from everyone. It was important for people to know that First Orion knows their stuff, they are careful with data, but that it’s all wrapped in a good sense of polite Arkansas humor. It makes you what you are: approachable. And this is what the new content communicates.

The ‘Aha! Moment’ — Yes, we had it

The Aha moment was the combination of our initial ‘superhero’ idea for website launch 1.0 combined with the transparency visualization. That everything coming through the phone would be in full color (or transparent) if your mobile carrier chose FO as their protection partner. Hence all the main areas of the website showing full color via the phone, black and white/blue-tint everywhere else. Illustrated well with the home video where a phone is being waved over a crowd of people seeing only color via the phone screen — and every other customer being protected with the FO logo on their phone.

Soon after we felt the superhero emerge for us as a creative team. We drew a cape on one of the data scientists, because we had written that heroics were emerging from their product line. From there, we were inspired to move away from showing real devices with real product shots, and we just sketched. The telecom space is crowded; everyone looked the same. We wanted to introduce simplicity but ensure that FO stood out from the crowd… We were moved by the First Orion mission statement and subsequent tagline (Transparency in Communication) to illustrate transparency and what that really meant. This led to our idea of the phone becoming a trusted source again, where in full color, you could see who is calling and why.

Designing North Studios UX Design for First Orion

A unique truth to this project: it was the client that inspired us most. They are superheroes, but not in a goofy way. Their “powers for good” are understated and authentic — like a sketch or doodle you make on a piece of paper. Because when you’re sketching or doodling, truth emerges. And we think the truth is pretty hip. So ‘hip’ just came naturally — feedback we received directly from First Orion upon launch: “The new website feels decidedly more hip than a traditional corporate website.”

Favorite Design Element

We love the subtlety of the cape. You find it in a few places; it covers (no pun intended) a few themes. It symbolizes that First Orion, carriers, businesses, consumers: we are all superheroes in this fight against mobile scam, robo, and spoof calls. Coming together is what makes us stronger. But it also illustrates that unlike many data companies who may have something to hide. First Orion wants you to see what’s under the cape. This aligns with their mission of Transparency In Communication — so the cape does its job in many aspects.

First Orion and Designing North Studios website Redesign

“We’re a hip, progressive, start-up company with a flair for creativity, said Traci Campbell, Corporate Marketing Manager for First Orion. “We’re packed full of professional and smart people, but we don’t need our voice to be overtly corporate.” The friendly style, tone and language begins to create a cohesive “First Orion persona” across all our digital marketing efforts, including social.” The cape is the perfect symbol for this message. But this benevolent character is non-fictional, and their powers help create super consumers.

The Final Product

It speaks to each audience uniquely now. What First Orion is to a mobile carrier is different for a mobile consumer. We crafted numerous journeys to the right message, the right product, the right information on how to be a part of this ‘superhero league’ in support of First Orion’s quest for complete transparency.

We met them and considered them true heroes in this battle. And believed they were truly fighting for us. So we positioned them as the heroes we knew them to be, succinctly explained why to each of their very important audiences, and hit the launch button so they could share their story everywhere.

Of course, the client always gets the last word: “FirstOrion.com has undergone a complete makeover, thanks to our own Corporate Product Marketing Team and the brilliant folks at Designing North Studios. They have worked countless hours to give a new look and feel to the website, designed in mind to speak to each of our unique audiences. The combined team put together a concept that paints our employees as the superheroes of call transparency, tirelessly crusading for justice against spam, scam, and robocalls and battling for people to trust their phones again.”

First Orion Website Redesign by Designing North Studios

Sharing her feedback on the redesign, Traci Campbell said, “The new site gives First Orion a fresh persona in the marketing world. It also got into the nitty-gritty of what First Orion provides to carriers, businesses, and consumers. This new space will allow us to provide more information to each of our customers in a way that speaks directly to them and lets us showcase our products in a new and exciting way.”

About Designing North Studios:

Designing North Studios is an interactive design studio focused on digital solutions for web, mobile, and branding initiatives. Our mindset: attention to small UX extras makes for big UX impact. A bit different than your average agency, we were started by UX designers and can engage in a project as a team (Hire-A-Team) — or you can rent one of ‘ours’ (Rent-A-Star) for yours. If you have a project you’d like to discuss or are in need of a *designing north star* for your existing team, give us a buzz or shoot us an email.

A Designing North Star’s User Story: As a Triumph Owner, I Want to Customize a Bike Into a Cafe Racer for the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride

As a boy growing up in the 60’s, the vision of leather-clad bikers whose only nod to safety was an apparent paper machè helmet, pushing their bikes to seemingly interstellar limits filled me with intrigue and abject terror. I never found the grease and dirt of the ‘Rockers’ to be that appealing. In fact, I was more attracted to the clean-cut ‘Mods,’ but motorcycles in all of their stripped bare glory were the things of wonder. I marveled at the riders’ willingness to take a perfectly fine Triumph Trophy and pull bits off of it in a quest to drop weight. I was in awe of their nonchalant chopping, welding, and improvising to achieve that ‘ton-up’ machine.

However, I was too young, too broke, and too scared that I’d indelibly change the motorcycle to get beyond a dream.

The term “Ton-Up Boy” may have been lost to the ages. It defined a rank assigned to young men who straddled stripped down, borderline Burlesque British bikes and hurtled themselves towards (and often beyond) the magic 100 mph through the streets of London. Blurred streaks of black leather, dripping grease and belching smoke in a race from the Ace Cafe to the to Hanger Lane roundabout and back–to a plate of egg and chips.

Ride the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride and Raise Awareness for Men’s Health | Designing North Studios

The Project

Skip forward many years of owning and riding motorcycles, acquiring mechanical and technical knowledge that could at least get me started from the side of the road (pending inevitable failure), and my thoughts returned to the ‘Ton-Up’ dream. Obviously achieving the magical “ton” nowadays is less of an accomplishment than putting your underwear on correctly, but locating a motorcycle that resembled the “ton up” machines of my youth provided a happy challenge. And building one was, to me at least, the final act after years spent gluing plastic model kits together.  

I spent some months scouring the internet for information on building a Cafe Racer. There’s a lot of info, I mean shit loads, and determining the best advice whether it was written by Jethro the hammer wielding yokel or Slick Jimmy’s Custom Foot Peg Emporium was a significant task. Companies like Ryca Motors sell awesome kits for you to quickly create your dream Cafe Racer but I wasn’t ready for anything remotely as professional just yet. I eventually pulled enough information together to create a vision of my project bike and how I might achieve it.

Fortune came my way via my good friend Rey Sotelo of Hollister Power Sports. I purchased an Indian Chief Vintage from Rey a few years back and never regretted the decision. Rey knew I was in the market for a donor bike and offered me a deal on older Triumph Legend TT, which had been received on a trade-in. A sit-up-and-beg cruiser wasn’t the most obvious donor choice for my cafe racer project but it was cheap so it meant that I didn’t care if my hammering, slashing and slobbering screwed the bike into oblivion. At a minimum I would gain some experience and most importantly, confidence.

So without a blueprint, clear project plan, or 50% of the tools I needed, I set about transforming a 1999 Triumph Cruiser into a rat-stripped Cafe Racer for my own sheer indulgence and pleasure.

Ride the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride and Raise Awareness for Men’s Health | Designing North Studios

The Build

Not only did the internet (kudos to Jethro) provide great project information, but without it I would never have been able to find the parts and equipment I needed for the build (what the hell did we do before Tim Berners Lee?). I am still blown away that I can lounge on the sofa and surf a catalog of parts from 2WheelPros.com or find assembly diagrams at Pandoras, hit a button and a friendly delivery service drops the bits at my door. Without companies like Texavina who not only hand made my new saddle but most importantly had the originally seat pan models to ensure a ‘true’ fit, I would have been screwed.

Skip forward again a few months and while I don’t think the bike will ever truly be finished, I do have a working manifestation of the vision I set out to achieve. It’s never going to be a concours d’elegance entry (even for my pre-industrial revolution eye it’s a bit rough around the edges), but it’s a rideable accomplishment that I would sooner massage my nether regions with a cheese grater than wind it up to the magic ton, but it runs and looks good enough and I did it on my own. Now what?

Ride the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride and Raise Awareness for Men’s Health | Designing North Studios

The Purpose: Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in men. And The Movember Foundation is the largest funder of prostate cancer programs in the world. Additionally, prostate cancer only affects men, as women do not have a prostate gland. Risk factors in developing the disease include:

Age: The older a man, the more likely he is to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. If you’re 50 or over, chat with your doctor about PSA testing.

Family History : A man with a father or brother who developed prostate cancer is twice as likely to develop the disease. If you’re 45 or over and prostate cancer is in your family, you should strike up the conversation about PSA testing with your doctor.

Ethnicity: Prostate cancer has an increased occurrence in men of African and Afro-Caribbean descent.

For more information on prostate cancer including symptoms, testing, treatment options, and support resources, head over to the ‘men’s health’ section on Movember.com.

The Purpose: Suicide Prevention

3 out of 4 suicides are men. And 510,000 men die from suicide globally each year — That’s one every minute. This has to change.

The causes of suicide are complex. There’s no single reason why men take their own lives, but we do know that by improving overall mental health we can reduce the risk of suicide. We need to address untreated mental health conditions among men.

Too many men are toughing it out and struggling alone. There’s no shame in checking in your own mental wellbeing, and those close to around you. Our friends over at Movember have produced some handy guides that might help take the sting out of broaching the subject.

Ride the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride and Raise Awareness for Men’s Health | Designing North Studios

The Goal: Ride my Bike and Make a Difference

Early in 2018 I read about the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride. A group of “…distinguished gentlefolk in over 650 cities worldwide will don their cravats, tustle their ties, press their tweed, and sit astride their classic and vintage styled motorcycles to raise funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer and men’s mental health.” To date, the Distinguished Gentlemen’s Ride has raised $4.85 million to support these causes while looking good at the same time.

Now I’ll admit that I’ve been a Mumford & Sons fan since first seeing them appear with Bob Dylan and the Avett Brothers at the 2011 Grammy’s, so the perhaps tenuous tie-in between the well-heeled motorcyclists of DGR, the Mumford-esque feel of the event and Marcus Mumford’s own passion for bikes prompted me to actually do something with my new creation (the Cafe Racer). I have almost convinced myself that I built the bike for such an event. It looks like it was made for it. This shabby, half-arsed project might just complete its life by actually doing some good. This wasn’t something I set out to do. Shit, my only intention was to build a rad bike. But in realizing a worthy end to the project it both closes the build and opens a door to give hope for someone, somewhere, to live longer. And I feel damn good about that. I know it’s not the intention, but it feels a little like I’ll be supporting this great cause and simultaneously fulfilling my Cafe-Racer dream while dressed up as Don Draper.

Pretentious? perhaps.

But if you want to show your support for a well intentioned Mumford-biker-wanna-be then please donate here: https://www.gentlemansride.com/rider/NigelPeacock

Story by: Nigel Peacock

Subscribing to the Agile Mindset: a Clear Opportunity for UX Designers and Developers to Make Great Products

A collaborative relationship using agile methodology among digital designers and developers can ultimately be the biggest factor separating a good final product from one that is great. Of course, this perspective assumes both teams are authentically agile, and embrace the Agile mindset using Agile strategies — yes, Agile is equal parts culture and lifestyle. All or nothing. Traditionally, using the same word four times in one sentence would be considered excessive; however, in the digital environment, designers and developers must be agile and do Agile, embracing the word as both an adjective and noun.

Adaptability, pace, and continuous improvement are often the words spoken when describing the advantages of using agile methodologies for development teams. And on a similar note, a UX practitioner might be heard describing their process as incremental and iterative with a focus on thoughtful features requiring sprints. In both instances, there’s an understanding that the customer must be heard and the end-user must be happy.

So, although differences between these two departments exist, each having slightly different needs (such as constant communication among developers versus time for research required by designers), a partnership with shared goals is most conducive to fostering the agile environment. Most important, we believe UX designers and developers can occupy the same sandbox in harmony, creating a much more productive environment than if they were separated. Reviewing the thoughts and advice presented by industry experts, we have identified the most important factors to consider when integrating design and development teams in an agile environment. This is how both teams can subscribe to Agile:

Co-design and Co-create

Participatory design, as it is referred to within the design community, describes the act of stakeholders designing with one another rather than in separate silos. An important detail for truly agile teams, this shared or co-design activity serves to meet the needs of end-users and most importantly, guarantees that solutions are usable and rewarding.

However, a nuance of co-design as it relates to cultivating an agile environment, practitioners should bring developers into the design process and developers return the favor for designers. Similar to making smart financial investments, designers can approach co-design (participatory design) with a give-a-little-get-a-lot mentality. By sharing important details, explaining their significance, and proving their value, designers can set the tone for inclusivity on most projects.

Co-creation on the other hand, the act of bringing people together for a mutually inclusive outcome, is critical to the modern agile team of designers and developers. In essence, this concept emphasizes that design and development should happen simultaneously, with both teams sharing responsibilities and working in unison for a more valuable outcome. A transformative experience for agile teams, co-creation motivates project members to be involved in each others work. And that’s the secret sauce. The more developers believe that designers are listening to capabilities of the technology, the more engaged they will be when receiving requirements — the fruit of user research and customer journeys.

As the agile development cycle illustrates, design and development shouldn’t happen in succession. These two teams of practitioners should place equal importance on planning, research, design and development, ultimately allowing them to successfully co-design and co-create — the embodiment of interaction over process.

Flexibility for All

A collaborative relationship between digital designers and developers, one that embraces agility, is dependent on everyone embracing the art of showing flexibility. Unlike waterfall methodology, agile values interaction over process, forgoing strict rules to allow for continuous iteration and change. Of course, some processes still exists in the form of research. Both designers and developers should “have the ability to respond gracefully to change,” says the Norman Nielsen Group.

The truth is, if just one person rejects this mindset the team and therefore company is not truly agile. This is often a common misconception made by both internal and external stakeholders; it’s either all in or not in at all. Therefore, for modern technology organizations or digital design firms where the design and development teams live under one roof or in close proximity, project success is largely determined on everyone’s ability to expect, anticipate, and invite change.

Through the lens of a UX professional designing in a healthy agile environment,

“Flexibility is dictated by how comfortable developers are with UX designers working ahead of sprints, especially on user-research and thoughtful design ideas,”

says Lisa Peacock, Executive Creative Director of Designing North Studios. “Being in-sync doesn’t necessarily mean working at the same pace; teams can still be on the same page when designers gather optimal information and data to effectively report back to DevOps.”

Similarly, flexibility also represents designers’ efforts to respect managed task lists and development timelines, as well as having mindfulness towards how many iterations are too many. Additionally, agile teams outperform the rest when they “win” at the game of trust. Of course, designers must understand that trust is earned not granted.

UX professionals are at the mercy of the user but wouldn’t have it any other way. The user-above-all-else mindset is one that values research, real-world testing, and solutions-crafting to make experiences pleasant and memorable, especially for digital products. Although this mindset is largely driven by creativity, important processes exist to uncover key requirements for the project, and designers should validate these requirements with developers using transparency. Supporting sentiments from the Nielsen Norman Group express that “UX professionals must rigorously validate design ideas, improve them, and communicate that rigor to the rest of the team in an honest and approachable way to gain developers’ trust.”     

The User is the ‘North Star’

Agile teams that seamlessly integrate both UX practitioners and developers wholeheartedly believe in the power of the user. In other words, their work evolves with the end-user at the center, from beginning to end. This inherently adds immense value to the groundwork a UX designer is accountable for: user-research and user-testing.

Many industry professionals fail to recognize that UX design is more scientific theory with well over 20 years of practice behind its title. In fact, the UX community should be looked at as a body of knowledge in its own right that is approached with well tested theory and dedicated practice. From a client’s perspective, it’s not easy to differentiate between all designers while identifying exactly what expertise they need for their project. And often, this is true for developers as well. This explains why a large number of predominantly visual designers (or UI designers) have filled the gap in supply and demand with a quick transition into the UX field. Unlike teams that “get UX,” teams that don’t do agile well will likely fall into this trap and ultimately serve up a biased solution to a real and complex user problem.

A team of UX designers and developers thriving in an agile environment views user behavior as a framework, mindset, and strategy. They measure their work in unison with data to ensure that final products are best for users rather than a reflection of what one person assumed to be the best solution. And like all good things in life, the balanced application of UX knowledge is viewed as a principle rather than input on thriving teams. Any potential gaps between design and development are quickly filled by finding common ground — understanding of the user’s needs. Specifically, the acceptance that thoughtful and considerate design details are paramount to a great final product, and the time it takes to craft these details respects the speed required to remain agile. As a good mother says often, “everything in moderation.” This couldn’t be more true when weighing time constraints versus the need for thoughtful details.

The simple truth is that digital products are most useful when UX and development teams effectively operate with each other, embracing the agile mindset. A key factor to all digital solutions: specialists are needed when building complicated things. More specific to our discussion on thriving agile teams, specialists should understand and embrace each other’s work and most importantly, want to work together for the greater good of the end-user. With the right people in place and the right leadership to guide these people, the critical factors of speed, efficiency, and detail can in fact exist harmoniously. So, as it stands today, agile environments most conducive to long-term success are defined by co-creation, flexibility, and a user-centric approach. If your team is currently in the process of applying agile or wants to understand what techniques should be used, these core factors offer a great starting point for integrating the complex roles among practitioners.

 

Pick Your People, Your Success Depends on it

As one of the NFL’s most prolific leaders, Aaron Rogers said it best, “Surround yourself with really good people. Because the people you surround yourself with are a reflection of you.”

The application of this message for your life may be slightly different than Aaron’s, but the end result remains the same: the people you pick will largely influence your success in life, including the levels of happiness you experience — so pick’em wisely.

From Aaron’s football field in Green Bay (with ten other teammates) to our design studio in the San Francisco Bay Area (with an ensemble of creatives), we believe the most influential factor in determining success is choosing the right people: the people you work with, partner with, and associate with.

It’s a mindset we carry into every client project, using it to make “game-time” decisions: do we go for it — or not? Do we submit the proposal — or direct our attention elsewhere?

Rarely does it fail us.

Because (in the words of legendary NFL coach Don Shula) “The one thing that I know is that you win with good people.”

So, using our mindset as guidance, let’s take a look at what it means to pick your people.

Who You Work With

Success doesn’t occur in a closed work environment. Remote or on-site, cultivating a functional team that jives is dependent on laying the initial foundation: choosing the right people.

And more often than not, this choice aligns with a specific mission statement. That is, you choose to work with individuals who align with the company purpose — and/or — business culture.

For example, Patagonia employees are hyper-involved with the recruitment of new team members, often inquiring about one’s interest in the environment and sustainability, even asking prospective team members to consider the footprint of their application materials — the potential waste involved.

If you read Patagonia’s mission statement (“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis’), you can see why they have been successful over the years: pick good people and let those people choose who they want to work with.

As the Executive Creative Director for Designing North Studios, Lisa Peacock is viewed as the architect for the current team of designers, strategists, and creatives that all work together today. But we must reiterate, this didn’t happen in a vacuum.

When selecting her starting team, Lisa relied on the designing north mindset to guide her through the growth process:

“It takes dedication, commitment, and most importantly, really good people to make a design studio tick” she says.

“I always knew that the people I was looking for to work at Designing North Studios would be my Designing North Stars.”

Finding these people, attracting them, and creating a studio environment wouldn’t have been possible without a shared purpose: really good people coming together and displaying their talents, and delighting clients in the process.

To this day, our studio members add a little extra to everything they do — it’s who they are. Their career, how they live, the relationships they nurture — it’s all influenced by delivering results just north of expectation, embracing the small details throughout any process.

This approach, believe it or not, really does add happiness, success, peace, and love to the global experience — which for us, is the biggest UX of all.

Who you Work for

Whether choosing who you work with — or for — the premise remains constant: it’s important to pick your people. Remember, your success depends on it.

Speaking to the strength of today’s most successful companies, the ability to inspire employees around a mission is a powerful tool. In fact, this messaging helps influence a person’s choice with regard to employment or collaboration.

Similarly, this inspiration often permeates throughout an industry, reaching potential partners, clients, and firms who are out there searching for ideal work — and people.

In essence, they’ve learned to choose who they complete work for, connecting the dots between happiness and success by way of affiliation, fulfillment and satisfaction — a result of associating with like-minded, purpose-driven people.

Hipcamp showcases this mindset flawlessly: Reviewing their checklist for prospective talent, the first — and most crucial — bullet point reads:

“As a team, we’re committed to striving toward and evolving these shared values in ourselves and in other team members.”

Through this lens, working for an employer versus client may share more similarities than previously thought.

In both scenarios, a conscious choice is made to spend significant time working; choosing people, teams or companies that strongly align with your values offer the reward of time well spent, elevating the human experience.

Your human experience.

Using our studio example, choosing a project (who we do work for) is an extension of who we choose to work with as individuals — those who relish in the small details and strive to deliver effort that’s a hover above expectation. Values, mindset, and even subject matter all deserve attention when making this decision.

We know from experience: Alignment with a client’s mission equates to optimal engagement and communication, the pinnacle of choosing who we do work for, especially in the journey-crafting business. Essentially, we look for that mindset in all directions, be it freelance talent or the ideal client.

Our best partners, for example, understand world challenges; are dedicated to the future of education; and are passionate about heading in the right direction — their projects reflect this ideology.

Others have been voted the most ethical companies by industry and peers.

Some even challenge traditional business norms in order to lift entire communities from poverty. It’s all really good work that deserves to be supported with passion and commitment from fellow believers. That’s us!

Ultimately, choosing who receives your time and energy can significantly impact your feelings of success. Money aside, it’s an opportunity to enrich the human experience with a sense of purpose, satisfaction, and belonging.

If you are like us, you want more of this. Not just for yourself, but for others as well.

Who is in Your Network

Interconnectedness. Support. Opportunity. Exposure. Everyone wants it, but few know where to find it. And crafting the right network is a crucial step towards experiencing personal and professional success.

Fortunately, personal and professional networks function to serve the people who maintain their existence — you! Of course, networks require cultivation — and grow best when crafted with care and intention, with a greater-good value proposition.

We aren’t the first to proclaim the importance of networking for a successful career. In fact, current research reinforces the importance of face-to-face networking for career growth.

Even with a plethora of technology tools, the human component remains most valuable. However, if you expect your network to have your back, there’s one factor you should pay extra attention to: the people!

That’s right, a network is only of value if you can build it with the right people.

But how do you decide who is right for your network? Well, why not start by looking to the people you choose to work with — and for. Chances are good they know exactly where you need to be networking.

As creatives living with the mindset, many of us share ties to the same networks embedded within the digital design industry.

Past jobs, current friends, old co-workers, etc., they all shape who we are in the present and influence who we will become in the future.

That’s the beauty of cultivating a network reflective of your true values and interests: It’s always working for you — much like smart investing.

However, pursuing interests by way of networking will present person challenges. Always keep your eyes peeled, there are limitless temptations of money, greed, and fame within various industries these days.

Take the tech startup community, for example. From hidden agendas to a plethora of funding channels, it’s not uncommon to witness the suppression of values in the name of making investors smile.

It’s OK to be stubborn.

It’s OK to be picky.

It’s OK to vet before welcoming new members — it’s your network! And it’s “health” depends on you. So be patient. Cultivate and curate on a regular basis.

Collaboratively, we branch out to meet new people, learn of new opportunities, and even cross digital borders, accessing other communities of interest; let’s say from a design community to a primarily tech community, for example.

If your visualizing an imaginary “jump” from one social channel to another — let’s say, instagram to LinkedIn or Twitter to Vimeo — you are spot-on.

Each community brings new introductions and opportunities for connecting with good people. People chosen by you.

From the American Marketing Association (AMA) to the Professional Association for Design (AIGA) to DribbleBehance, and even LinkedIn, these communities shape the larger network we associate and interact with — and call our own. These are the people we choose to associate with.

Designers of various disciplines (UX, UI, XD, IxD), Illustrators, graphic artists, writers, videographers, creative directors, etc., all form the design “arm” of our individual networks.

Similarly, each person may have complimentary network extensions created with connections from previous employers and friendships.

Using the studio for reference, part of Lisa’s network may offer consistent resources in the form of design projects for the team to work on, while that of a team member may uncover new freelancers to join the team, further growing the studio’s presence.

Their titles may only identify their outer layer (what we see on paper) but their work and communication symbolizes what lies beneath. A mindset for success.

Picking your people is undoubtedly one of the most important decisions you will make in life. Viewed as an opportunity to control destiny, this responsibility is ongoing, surfacing every time new relationships are made.

Who you work with, who you work for — or complete work for — and who you form a network with all play an active role in shaping what success looks like for your life. If you haven’t figured it out yet, people are the second most influential component of your life.

The first is you.

So go ahead, get out there and choose wisely.

Your future-successful-self will thank you.

 

Finding Your Flow Like a Designer With Advice From an Executive Creative Director

What is flow? What does flow mean? And how on earth can flow be experienced? (Outside of the Progressive insurance commercials).

For the longest time, these questions lingered among the team at Designing North Studios as we navigated the sea of creativity and requirements each project demanded. But that was then. Now, with the guidance of our Executive Director, Lisa Peacock, our team has learned how to position our schedules to find our individual flow. And you can do the same: by following our lead!

Whether flow is a new term for you, or you simply haven’t had the time to explore it prior, we have some advice on where to start and how to access it again in the future.

To start, let’s cover the framework we use to understand what flow is, using this ‘pitch’ from Lisa:

I have to be ready to find flow. I don’t do this consciously, but if I analyze my behavior in retrospect – I get visually geared up to focus. So, focus and flow go hand-in-hand, with a need for focus before I can expect to feel “in the zone.

I need to first get control of my environment, this includes that everything around me is visually pleasing – which brings about a calming effect (that includes noise and movement as well) to create an internal organization of thought. Feeling the calm allows me to jump into the storm of flow where my immersion in whatever I’m doing goes unnoticed until I’m done with my work. That’s the funny thing about this concept, I never know I’m inflow until I’m on the other side of it. It’s like you’re asleep, and then you snap out of it! Being interrupted in flow is tantamount to being woken up suddenly in your sleep. Like my cat Dave Mason does at least once a week.

Flow Explained

As it relates to our psychology, flow is a state of deep concentration that causes time to “stand still” or “fly by” — figuratively speaking, of course. As it relates to our studio members, flow is a state of mind where our actions and cognitive thoughts progress with seamless transition, providing incredible satisfaction and enjoyment in what we are doing. And according to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow is a finely tuned sense of rhythm, involvement, and anticipation.

Finding flow during a project is a pinnacle moment in identifying what makes youtickas a creative. This sweet spot for concentration allows complete immersion into any activity, although we most often relate it to working. But much like working on your favorite projects, it indicates a correlation between happiness, interest, and performance. For example, if you love the outdoors and dislike confined spaces, flow likely won’t be experienced in an office cubicle (unless of course, your office is filled with puppers, friends, ping pong and catered lunches). So when you try and make sense of this concept, think of flow as a placewhere you go when it’s time to do your best work; be your best self; and connect with your calling. In short, when the opportunity presents itself, go with the flow.

Watch how one artist/athlete explains her perspective on flow:

You can’t force yourself to find flow, but you can:

  1. Clear your mind with a ritual that relaxes your thinking (monitor your routine and identify what works and what doesn’t). (For Lisa it’s a full coffee press and morning emails answered)
  2. Organize your day, every day — alleviate tension from the to-do list (Lisa uses 1 to-do app called Swipes — that goes back years: everything from current client project to-dos to buy paper towels to remodel the master bathroom. The ‘swipe’ to complete the ‘do’ is elation, but the pressure feels minimal.)
  3. Build a wall between distractions (i.e., put the phone away; use headphones and close your email!) (We all know if we don’t hear from Lisa right away, she’s not ignoring us, but rather in flow — which acts as a strong reminder to get there ourselves.)
  4. Identify your ideal setting — where do you work best? What do you need around you to feel at ease? (The overwhelming DN team ideal setting means animal close by, or a window setting that allows for ‘California Dreamin’)
  5. Practice with your attention span — reduce habitual media checking! (We’re on Slack for Teams and rely on each other to share anything really important in our #creative channel — good news being, it’s there when we’re ready to check it.)
  6. Record your moments of flow after the fact — analyze the situation and try replicating it. (During the research for this article, the DN team decided to create a #flow channel in Slack so that we could share what moves us in and out of our creative selves. #stuffworthsharing)

Common Side Effects of Flow

Most critical to a design profession, flow can increase artistic creativity.

When you are “in the moment” with strong focus and good energy the creative brain comes to life. With less thought capacity being consumed by stress and tension, you are left with more creative juices for self-expression and creative production. This is all according to science, of course.

Flow eliminates the suppression of ideas. You are sitting at your desk when a good idea, better yet, a great idea strikes. Your instinct is to tell someone but as you prepare your words doubt creeps in, and you eventually scrap the idea. Unfortunately, this happens often — way too often. And you know why? Because you weren’t in flow. When you are in the zone doing what you enjoy and experiencing satisfying results, doubt, fear, and uncertainty doesn’t stand a chance. In other words, your ideas are free to surface and come to life.

Flow can reveal your calling your ideal workWe have learned that finding flow often occurs during a stimulating or enjoyable activity. Be it work or play, there is enough interest and happiness involved to tune out everything else in the world, leaving room for complete focus. And so, every time flow is experienced, write it down with a description of what you were doing and where; make it a routine, you will likely begin to understand what you should be doing more of in work or life. This step is all about practice and repetition.

Flow positively affects your mood. As simple as it sounds, flow feels really good. Every time you come out of it you want to do it again, wishing that every day could be filled with these moments. When the brain is happy the heart is happy, therefore you are happy.

Flow can increase your performance. From designing a website to running a marathon, flow allows you to be at your best and do your best work. This concept is connected to focus, motivation, and drive; when you are motivated to do something (usually by a perceived reward), you focus on getting it done and are driven to do it well. It’s not just theory, if you learn about what you enjoy doing, you can do more of it, and do it well. But don’t just take our word for it. When you discover your flow, compare your performance on that task to one from a less memorable time; it won’t take long to “connect the dots.”

Flow motivates you to design your life. Designing your life isn’t easy. And deciding how and where to begin can be the hardest part. But finding your flow adds clarity to this process. In creating the life you want to live or the life you dream of living, you need to know what interests you, what you are good at, and what is most important to you — flow can answer all of these questions. Next time you are “in flow,” go with it, and take note of how you got there. These findings will point you in the direction your life needs to go in order to feel more happiness and create your purpose.

Flow makes you a more passionate person. Using artistic creativity, sharing good ideas, doing ideal work, being in a positive mood, achieving higher performance, and designing the life you want, in combination, help to make you a very passionate person. And passion can be applied to everything, not just work. When flow is influencing life in the most positive ways, all other aspects of life align — life is good.

The point is, all of these factors culminate to designing a better you, a you that has more to offer this world. A you that cares for the well-being of a community or team. A you that wants to not only see a brighter future for all, but is also willing to contribute a bit of extra effortto design the best life imaginable. And in return, you will live a life that hovers above the rest. At least that’s how we see it. Would you like to see our vision in action? Please, get in touch.

Designing Your Life Using Artistic Creation; a Lesson in Mental Clarity, Empathy and Fun

Have you ever thought about designing your life? Essentially crafting a “tomorrow” that gets you excited, feeling ready for what’s next. If you have, good for you — you’re one step ahead of most. Our tips will keep you moving forward. And if not, we can help you get started. Echoing the words of every parent, “You aren’t getting any younger!”

The most common question we encounter is where do I begin? And from our many experiences in the design studio, working with others to develop the ‘designing north mindset,’ we can confidently say that artistic creation is a great place to start.

As American writer, filmmaker, philosopher and activist Susan Sontag once said,  

Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.

She was talking to you. Yes, you! And like Susan, we believe in you because you are artistic.

Whether you just smiled in acceptance of this warm complement or smirked and replied, “yeah… right — that’s me,” the truth is that artistic ability resides within you, and with a little bit of time and practice you can experience the many benefits associated with it. One of which is the ability to design your life, creatively building out a plan and executing specific steps to reach your goals outlined in that plan.

So how exactly can this be done?

Well, unlike most aspects of life, art is entirely subjective; it is not confined by boundaries nor does it adhere to strict qualifications. In fact, if you were to paint, draw, build, or design something (using your creative brain, of course), you have the freedom (and right) to call it art. That’s the beauty of it! Art empowers our minds to think beyond what we know and reach for our curiosities.

Using a digital experience presented by The Washington Post, This is Your Brain on Art

As one freelance artist puts it,

Pursuing art is a really great analogy for the rest of life, some days you make that beautiful painting or the sun is out perfectly, and other days you are really in the throws of life.

It’s subjective nature is best understood by the way architecture or fine art can elicit completely different responses from people. We once stumbled upon a quote that read, “architecture is the art of wasting space beautifully.” Our perspective on creativity changed from this day forward. Now we help others craft their ideal life, putting their artistic skills to work.

Artistic Creation Organizes Emotions and Feelings

During her TED Talk “Powerful Art Activist,” artist, Zaria Forman related human actions to behavioral psychology, explaining why humans take action and make decisions based on emotions, above all else. Zaria also shared her belief that art is one of the most effective methods for reaching our emotions. In other words, art can be a tool for accessing feelings you never knew existed, or that you have been trying to reach for years. Hint: you will need these to begin designing your path forward.

But how does the act of creating something (anything) through artistic ability impact your emotions and allow you to uncover feelings?

The answer can be experienced when you first clear your mind and dedicate yourself to the act of creating. You see, artistic creation is free of rules; the only limitations are the ones you impose on yourself (so, stop it already!) — this is a refreshing change from most of life’s responsibilities. Whether you pick up that pencil, pen, brush, tool, mouse or instrument, in that very moment you are actively making sense of whatever thoughts or ideas you have stored away. And often, these ideas are the result of things you have felt, heard or seen at one point in time.

So, when you tap into your creative brain, to physically create, you allow yourself the time and mental capacity needed for reflection, adding context to life…your life. It’s this self-reflection that gives way to reasoning which leads to understanding, which results in a feeling and finally translates into emotion. We need this process as humans. If we don’t get it, tension and frustration slowly creeps in. Hint: some tension and frustration is natural; however, if it’s constant you likely need to design a new plan.

As you will see, artistic creation is a powerful tool that you have access to — you just need to learn to use it. When you do, it can offer clarity on what “living” truly means to you.

Artistic Creation Cultivates Empathy

Have you listened to those prescription medicine commercials for stress or depression that usually end with a lengthy curated list of terrifying side effects? And somehow they play it off as though it’s no big deal.

Well, you might be surprised to learn that using artistic creation is also synonymous with a long list of side effects, but not the type you should cringe at. In fact, they will probably bring a smile to your face. The cultivation of empathy is a prime example; being creative in an artistic manner allows you to learn to be empathetic, and if you already have a high level of empathy it increases your ability to reason and adapt to other people. Hint: working well with other people is a sure way to get to where you want to be much quicker. In essence, don’t be afraid to collaborate. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

This idea is also linked to self reflection, as turning experiences into a tangible, creative form (art) forces you to remove yourself from the problem (not so fun) and inspires an openness or mindfulness towards others. As you create and accept the subjective nature of art, reactions towards others become more sensible, and the concept of understanding becomes less confined to strict rules or the reliance on what we know versus what we have to learn. And yes, there is in fact an undiscovered world out there for you to explore, and having empathy will make it much more enjoyable. Remember, just because it’s unfamiliar doesn’t mean it’s not for you.  

When you begin sharing your creativity with others or allow others to share theirs with you, skills such as collaboration, communication, and problem-solving will become second nature thanks to empathy.

As you work on your artistic craft, try creating work from a different perspective, maybe one that challenges your routine or go–to process. Think about people you look up to; someone you are intrigued by; or a piece of work that can reach many different people who may interpret it in different ways. Can you adjust your perspective to meet their preferences? This certainly isn’t easy, nor is it intended to be. Creating for others draws you out from your comfort zone to look at a world that is filled with unfamiliar ideas, values, and behavior. This builds empathy. This builds character. This makes you a more effective designer. And you can’t design your life until you think like a designer.

Artistic Creation is a Process for Fun

That’s right, FUN! For so many activities in life, especially daily routines, the word fun rarely creeps its way into the equation. This is why, when you finally discover the fun of creating, especially using processes you share with others, it feels really good (all tingly inside) and nothing like work. And… It feels easy; it’s accessible; it doesn’t cost very much apart from a few tools or supplies, and you can fit it into your schedule. So when you learn to make time to create you are actually learning to have fun. See, doesn’t that sound fun?

We recommend making time for artistic creation for the same reasons we recommend drawing at work or taking pictures on the weekend: these activities offer stimulation and pressure you to respond with feeling and emotion without fear of being wrong or the criticism of screwing up. Remember, art is subjective. If you say it’s art, well guess what, it’s most definitely art. Others like you will embrace this mindset.

Artistic creation also alleviates too much exposure to “the process.” Think about your job or school, they are defined by some sort of process that gets you from here to there, or from this beginning to that result. And that’s fine for some things in life but doesn’t it seem like we have created a process for everything? Sure it may increase efficiency, but usually at the expense of fun. This is why artistic creation is such a valuable activity to explore. The process of creation and using artistic abilities to express the meaning behind your thoughts and perspectives can be wildly rewarding, especially when those around you recognize and appreciate what you’ve created. Once you share this excitement you will want to experience more of it. Although being creative can still a process, it’s acceptable to omit the parts that don’t suit you and just do the ones that are enjoyable… don’t try that in the office!

A critical step in designing your life, sometimes you have to re-learn how to have fun, a mindset you were told to “grow out of.” With the help of societal pressure (yeah, it’s society’s fault!) we over-fixate on hard work and production and fun never has an opportunity to surface. But with a small mindset shift you can adjust your habits to make room for that feeling we all seek in our lives: fun.

Artistic Creation Transcends Reality

This doesn’t happen often, but we are in fact encouraging you to be unrealistic. Because why not! Through learning to make time for artistic creation to expressing yourself and developing empathy to accepting that it’s good to have fun more often than not, leaving reality behind becomes perfectly acceptable behavior. In fact, it makes you a more desirable person to be around and therefore a more desirable person to work with. It doesn’t matter if you have been an artist for years or are just getting started, it’s OK to “go rogue” or “get wild” using your artistic abilities — the result will likely be more interesting to others.

Artistic creation is an invitation to think way outside the box. Think about how you live your life today and compare that to how you would like to live your life tomorrow. Best of all, think about what you do to earn a living compared to what you wish you could do to earn a living. These are the thoughts that make artistic creation so much fun, and they serve a valuable purpose in fostering all of those “unrealistic” ideas that most people don’t want to hear about.

For example, about two years ago I mentioned to a friend that I wanted to build a small container home where my wife and I (and at least one dog, maybe four) could work/live in a modern studio that perfectly fit our needs. You know what he said to me? “Get real.” So I decided to create a Pinterest board solely focused on this vision, and continue to complement this by writing about what this life will look like when it’s actualized. Fast forward one year and I now have all the urban planning and building information required to find out perfect plot. Not to mention detailed boards of what I want every square foot of the home to look like. I even have a list of companies willing to get started on the project — thanks Pinterest!

Case in point: artistic creation lets your mind trespass on ideas we train ourselves to think of as “off limits.” The farther into your dreams you dive the more reward you are likely to experience. So, whether you are a realist or surrealist, practicing artistic creation lets you freely transcend the two worlds without criticism. Simply put, it trains you to embrace the unexpected, a concept best described by an inspirational young man (Sef Scott) from Plano, Texas. “Remember, if you are following in someone’s footsteps, you will only get where they want to go.”

High school senior with autism, who is usually nonverbal, delivers an 'unexpected' speech

High school senior with autism, who is usually nonverbal, delivers an 'unexpected' speech that steals the show at his graduation ceremony."Do the unexpected. It is your life that you are living, not anyone else’s, so do what fulfills you." https://abcn.ws/2LQIfj4

Posted by ABC News on Thursday, June 14, 2018

Artistic creation will set you on the journey of designing the life you want. It’s an intangible tool that nobody can take from you. It has the power to uplift suppressed emotions and bring feeling to a mind that was left for numbness. By simply practicing with art you can learn to be empathetic and collaboratively share your ideas with others.

No matter the form of artistic creation you seek, the process is unlike most others — it’s fun! And possibly the most important benefit of all, actively using your creativity will provide a valid reason to be unrealistic and, just for a moment, see things the way you dream them to be. It may be just the tool you need to turn a dream into reality. Now, get designing.

 

Five Artists Designing an Emotional Response to Ocean Plastic

Plastic waste — it’s everywhere! Every ocean. Every beach. Every river. Every community. It’s even in your drinking water. (Deep gulp. Swallow. Raise eyebrows and open eyes wide — yeah, we had the same reaction.) In fact, current research (A global inventory of small floating plastic debris) estimates that every year 5 million to 13 million tons of plastic ends up in the sea — picture that for moment; in reality, it’s far worse than what we can visualize. Even so, the production of single-use plastics continues to increase across the globe as humans find it difficult to forgo a convenience-based lifestyle for something a bit less harmful on the environment. We are all guilty. Still, we all have the power to reverse this trend. As Captain Charles Moore said in response to discovering the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 1997,

Humanity’s plastic footprint is probably more dangerous than its carbon footprint.

From corporate programs to government regulation, many people (and groups) are showing intense interest in reducing plastic waste, or better, stopping it at the source. And this mindset absolutely makes all the difference. Clearly, we need more of this thinking.

We need large populations to form emotional bonds with the places most affected by plastic waste: the ocean. We also need people to better understand the ocean’s role in our health and survival. Although educational efforts have made progress, it’s the creative lessons that seem to resonate the deepest, the non-verbal forms of expression which strike a nerve and influence action. Much like the classical lessons we all learn from the humanities, art has proven to be a powerful tool for communicating the dire need for immediate change on how we use and discard plastic waste.

From developing a sense of what activists and designers are currently doing to communicate their concern for the plastic-waste issue while inspiring others, it’s clear that artistic creation is the preferred channel of expression. No paid ads. No digital strategy. Just art. Art that incorporates the physical pieces of plastic removed (by hand)  from a local beach, river or the stomach of a dead seabird — harsh. These may be creatively-gifted minds, but they are keeping it real. And somehow transforming a dark problem into a pretty call to action.

The Designing North mindset speaks to our belief that everyone is creative in one way or another, and by practicing artistic creation, a person can design a life that’s more enjoyable and fulfilling, even if it entails tackling the heart-wrenching reality of ocean plastic.

The following artist-driven projects are some of the best ocean-plastic campaigns on earth, especially with their success in transforming the way people are educated about the severity of plastic waste. These people — artists, non profit organizations, and activists — are making a real, measurable impact in the world by designing a life that promotes sustainability; a life where art speaks louder and with more authority than words ever could; a life of creativity and learning in the name of environmental healing. Let’s find more of these creators. Let’s celebrate them — now and forever.

Angela Haseltine Pozzi: Washed Ashore

Prior to attracting hundreds of volunteers, it was just Angela Haseltine Pozzi. An Oregon native, Angela was moved to do something about the relentless waves of plastic waste washing up on her local beaches. As an avid beachcomber, it was only natural for Angela to begin collecting ocean plastic and transforming it into artistic sculptures for others to see. Little did she know her heartfelt creations would create such a widespread movement for others to join. As an artist and activist, she designed a community doing what she loves most: advocating for the ocean environment.

As a multi-talented community of activists, artists, and recycling “pros,” Washed Ashore offers a clean perspective towards removing plastic from the ocean: even small actions make a positive difference.

We collect trash that has been removed from beaches through volunteer community cleanups. This trash is then washed, sorted and prepared for the creation process. Each sculpture is designed and directed by a professional artist and then formed through a collaboration of Washed Ashore team members, volunteers and students.

A work of art is born. From tons of plastic pollution, monumental sculptures have arisen to awaken the hearts and minds of viewers to the marine debris crisis.

Their plastic art is making a difference:

  • 90% of marine debris is petroleum based
  • 95% of all debris collected is used in the artwork
  • 300+ miles of beaches cleaned
  • 60+ sculptures have been created
  • 38,000 pounds of marine debris has been processed
  • 14,000+ hours have been contributed by volunteers
  • 10,000+ volunteers have participated

*Stats by Washed Ashore 

Washed Ashore plastic whale exhibit

Of course, you have to see the Washed Ashore Traveling Exhibit for yourself — and possibly walk ‘through’ the skeleton of a whale made completely from ocean plastic. How cool would that be!

 

Alejandro Duran: Washed Up Project

Washed Up Project

Mar (Sea), 2013, Alejandro Durán

The beauty of Mexico’s Caribbean coast is undisputed; but the influx of ocean plastic washing ashore isn’t adding to this appeal, especially since the local population has little control over how much plastic arrives on these beautiful stretches of coastline. Documenting the litter firsthand, Alejandro Duran, a photographer and artist from Mexico, has “identified plastic waste from fifty-eight nations and territories on six continents that have washed ashore along the coast of Sian Ka’an, Mexico’s largest federally protected reserve and an UNESCO World Heritage site.”

Best identified as a ‘plastic artist,’ Alejandro collects plastic debris, organizes it and creates an installation depicting the influence that the trash is having on the local environment. Beautifully described on his website,

At times he distributes the objects the way the waves would; at other times, the plastic mimics algae, roots, rivers, or fruit, reflecting the infiltration of plastics into the natural environment.

Washed Up project

Brotes (Shoots), 2014, Alejandro Durán

Although his creativity and artistic touch is beautiful, his greater goal is to educate and influence others to notice the problem, influencing change through awareness. Not many people take just a few minutes during the day to realize the immense crisis our planet is facing regarding plastic waste. There is no such thing as a safe zone; UNESCO World Heritage site’s aren’t immune to pollution. But with the mindset, determination, and creative abilities of Alejandro, a more positive future with less plastic waste is possible. And just maybe, enough people will share his work to influence a community to create the change needed to save this one-of-a-kind landscape.

Chris Jordan: Albatross

The way photographer and artist Chris Jordan sees it, plastic waste is a ‘gut-wrenching tragedy.’ And although this project is much too serious to be characterized with a witty pun, “Albatross” is a visual journey into a grim existence for one species of seabird (the albatross) that’s being devastated by ocean plastic. As Chris discovers, his annual journey to the remote Pacific where he and his team document the cycle of birth, life, and death of Albatross and their chicks, is far more than a reminder of the impact humans have on the environment and creatures that inhabit it. It’s a catalyst for the intimate connection that many of us feel with this earth, inspiring real people to take notice and change their habits for the benefit of others, both human and non-human.

Both behind the lens and on the screen, Chris Jordan takes viewers on a visual expedition that’s both heart stopping and difficult to comprehend; it’s a compelling narrative which demands an emotional response towards unnatural death and a problem so immense that it tends to be swept aside.

Where most documentaries drop off, Albatross guides viewers with a lyrical journey to a place they have likely never been. So the question remains, will this film move you to be the change you want to see?

Liina Klauss: Salvaged Flip-flops

Liina Klauss Salvaged flip-flops art installation

Liina Klauss

With the help of Potato Head Beach Club — a resort location offering some of Bali’s best sunsets and tropical-modernism vibes — Art activist Liina Klauss is  using artistic creation to communicate the harsh reality of marine pollution. Giving life to this project, Klauss enlisted a small team to collect 5,000 flip-flops (soles) from Bali’s west-coast beaches. After a series of six clean-ups, sorting, and two weeks of constructing the installation, the large-scale “color-wave-sculpture” now rests on the beach club’s property and serves as a reminder of what Potato Head stands for: ‘providing good times and doing good in the world.’ Additionally, no detail was overlooked during the creation process, even the frame used to join the flip-flops was made from sustainably harvested bamboo (IBUKU) and thread constructed from recycled bottle caps. For those lucky souls traveling to Bali this year, you can experience this installation in person through the end of the 2018 summer season. But remember, please keep your flip-flops close, they are yours to keep and the ocean has no use for them.

Although this display of marine debris serves as a reality check for us humans, Liina has a specific message she wants to convey: “I want to show people a different perspective on what we consider ‘rubbish,’” says Klauss. “Everything we throw away comes back to us (via the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil we grow crops and raise animals on). Flip-flops are just one example; there is potential within all these materials we waste and consider worthless.”

About Liina Klauss

A German artist living in Hong Kong, Liina Klauss specializes in creating installations and paintings made from man-made waste. An environmental artist to the core, Liina’s ultimate goal is to raise awareness for the threatening impact humans have on nature; and It just so happens that colorful salvaged sandals happen to be in abundance at the moment.

Mandy Baker: Photographing Marine Debris for Science and Activism

Mandy Baker

Mandy Baker

Scrolling through her detail-oriented instagram feed, it’s no secret that award-winning photographer Mandy Baker is a true storyteller, one that has dedicated her craft to documenting the adverse effect marine debris has on our environment and wildlife — such as seabirds. However, there’s much more to this story than just an artists perspective; Mandy has made it her mission to increase the “shock value” that people have when they see marine and plastic debris. She does this by coordinating her work with scientific projects, integrating factual statistics with undeniable artistic talent. The two really is a lethal combination, and it’s hard not to be engulfed in emotion when viewing her final product — a brilliantly composed image of finely curated plastic particles swirling in what appears to be complete emptiness. Could this be a visual metaphor of what is to come for our oceans if no action is taken? Oh. And did we mention — the plastic is often sources from the stomach of a deceased Flesh-footed Shearwater?

About Mandy Baker

The aim of my work is to engage with and stimulate an emotional response in the viewer by combining a contradiction between initial aesthetic attraction along with the subsequent message of awareness. The research process is a vital part of my development as the images I make are based on scientific fact which is essential to the integrity of my work. The impact of oceanic waste is an area I have documented for more than 8 years and am committed to pursuing through visual interpretation. In collaboration with science I am hoping it will ultimately lead to positive action in tackling this increasing environmental problem which of current global concern.

These five artists are designing a response to ocean plastic in the most creative way possible. They are providing a pretty solution to an ugly problem, and educating the public in the process. In sharing their work with you, we ask that you take a moment to reflect on their work and ask yourself, what can I do to make a difference? How can I add a little bit of extra effort to create positive change in the battle against plastic waste?  We know you have it in you. You are designing north.

The First and Most Important Step in Designing a Remote Creative Team

So, you want to design a team of remote creatives… Well, it might be time to throw a party. That’s right, a party. Not the advice you were expecting, was it?

Throwing a party is the first and most important step in designing a remote creative team. Experience shows, distributed teams happily collaborate using technology tools (thank you, Slack, Trello, Invision Studio, and Harvest to name a few) but often miss out on the face-to-face interaction physical studio-based teams view as “the norm.” And although “going remote” is a choice, it can result in forgoing the group lunches, holiday parties, and birthday celebrations, a.k.a., the fun stuff.

These informal events help build comradery and reduce tension from the uncomfortable nature of group introductions — more so than a Skype call, or worse, a GoTomeeting! Of course, some virtual tools provide a robot friend to say hello every now and then or find a misplaced file — just like Slackbot (the trusty bot for all Slack users — and yes, it knows it’s just a bot). (Slackbot! What’s my password?) And although this introduction or assistance can be welcoming, humans need a more personal touch when meeting for the first time. They need to experience the benefits of inclusive design.

As we have already hinted, design leaders of remote teams need a trusted solution for assembling their ensemble of creatives. So, with a proof of concept to present, take our word for it: throw a party to begin designing your remote creative team.

While your at it, start them off with something memorable. Something clever. Something deliciously out of the ordinary.

A Party Proof of Concept

Designing North Studios Event -- Night of the Roundtables

A master of PPC (no, not pay-per-click — get your mind out of the marketing gutter), Executive Creative Director, Lisa Peacock, is also the head “chef” of party design here at Designing North Studios, the crafter of our party proof-of-concept (PPC) coined “Night of The Roundtables.”

Planned for the introduction of a newly formed remote team, this concept was designed to reduce barriers and cultivate the most simple aspect of a good time — fun! Fun through eating; fun through listening; fun through conversing; and most important, fun through being. You heard it right, we believe that every team member has a right to just be. But, they better have fun doing it if they plan to be happy and be productive for the long-haul. Ok, enough fun. On to planning.

Throwing The Party — “Night of the Roundtables” Style

Designing North Studios Event -- Night of the Roundtables

Establishing the tone and setting the mood, this is the best (and really, the only) place to begin. Each person has a purpose on your newly formed team, so provide them with a purpose for being at the party. As Head of Knowledge at First Round Capital, Anita Hossain advocates designing the conversation for thought and complexity. This translates to a carefully curated list of party guests and attendees, steady moderation, thoughtful topics, and a safe environment — with the goal of facilitating meaningful exchange.

Make it Memorable (Make People Dream)

Designing North Studios Event -- Night of the Roundtables

Focused on accelerating the relationship-building process, “Night of the Roundtables” began in a garden oasis surrounded by artist studios with an open-air cafe. After all, this event was designed for designers, who regularly focus their energy on all sorts of creative projects; an environment conducive to building a creative yet comfortable atmosphere was key. And with extra emphasis placed on visual stimuli and sensory objects, guests were introduced to a discrete yet impactful driver for grabbing and holding their attention. As the studio’s design leader, Lisa was already subconsciously communicating with this new team without saying a word (but rather, atmospherically).

So, as it relates to your party design, use her tactic and don’t hold back. Knowing how to drive your team’s motivation is invaluable knowledge. However, visuals are always more valuable than words when experimenting with this — communicate with them from the get-go by crafting an environment filled with special details. They might just carry this visual memory into the workspace.       

Make it Transformative (Make People Get Real)

Designing North Studios Event

Making a lasting first impression on guests is only the beginning; having an impact is equally important to the overall party experience. As both Lisa and Anita share,

perfecting this detail requires continuous iteration, building upon what works and erasing what doesn’t. In order to have the intended impact, guests must be transformed from a pre-party state of mind to a post-party state of being. And it needs to feel real.

Designing North Studios “Night of the Roundtables” surprised guests with hospital wristbands in place of “Hello My Name Is” stickers. Of course, these wristbands were far more revealing than the “authentic” barcode type you might find at the nearest ER (what are we, products on a shelf?…), clearly marked with each person’s previously identified addiction — a talking point well suited for cocktail hour. Or in this instance, an hour of storytelling.

Storytelling is a powerful tool, especially when paired with empathy and listening, and every participant of “Night of the Rountables” learned more about fellow guests than they expected — in a fun way, of course; they were all co-workers facing addiction together.

Designing North Studios Event -- Night of the Roundtables

A lesson learned during this opening activity, the pre-party reconnaissance unearthed many of the creative opportunities Lisa used to break the ice. Something Slackbot hasn’t been programmed to do. Can you imagine signing up for a new communication tool and being greeted with: “Well that’s impressive… you haven’t missed one episode of A&E’s ‘Hoarders’ in five seasons. What has you so hooked!?” In all seriousness, wouldn’t you want to know if your fellow copywriter spent a measurable portion of his paycheck on vegan chocolate chip cookies to enjoy with his daily 2pm coffee break? Don’t judge…   

Cutting through the fluff and convincing people to get real — it’s the basis of having a transformative in-person experience. But, as Anita Hossain has identified, there are four important factors to keep in mind when designing an event and expecting it to have this impact: intention, structure, vulnerability and utility.

Make it Collaborative (Make People Fearless)

Designing North Studios Event -- Night of the Roundtables

Moving on from heartfelt conversations about one’s guilty pleasures turned addiction (ahem, vegan chocolate chip cookies and pour-over coffee), hungry guests were presented with menu options for the evening: Lanced Armstrong; Mini HTML; Jesus’ Treadmill; Fowl Ball; A Mazing Grace – all without explanation. Adding suspense, small wooden tokens (referred to as a round “Tuit”) were handed out by the evening moderator with little explanation other than a hint at their future worth as food arrived from the night’s gourmet chef.

Of course, this was all by design, part of the structure that enticed people to mingle and cultivate conversation — outside of the yawn-inducing “hey there, what is it you do for a living?”. After all, the very nature of designing a party of this sort entails curating your guests, likely around a shared professional background. Guests were aware of everyones association to the technology and design field, but that was the extent of it. They would soon learn who their team members really were — unique, thought-provoking individuals.

Designing North Studios Event -- Night of the Roundtables

As the first of four courses made their way from the kitchen, guests found themselves with odds and ends of a complete dining experience — some received utensils; others a salad; and for a few lucky ones, a glass of beer was all that arrived. It didn’t take long for the purpose of wooden tokens (round Tuit) to become clear. It was time to barter.

With the evening segmented by dinner courses and exercises, guests quickly overcame any fear of feeling awkward or exposed (quite frankly, everyone was having too much fun to give a damn), revealing their resourceful nature in the name of free gourmet food and obtaining the proper tools to enjoy the delectables with decency. (You wouldn’t eat with your hands on the first date… or would you?)

With trust earned and comfort levels peaking, it was time to add another element, effectively peeling back the layers of each team member — when the true psychological icebreakers should be introduced, opening the door for deeper connection and understanding of one another.

Make it Unifying (Make People Trust You)

Designing North Studios Team Party

With his charming British accent, Head of Technology, Nigel Peacock, took to the microphone and began asking questions guests didn’t see coming, questions revealing who everyone really was — as living, breathing, laughing, and happy human beings. As Anita Hossain explains to her clients, this is the best time to introduce a thoughtful exercise that fosters empathy, openness, and willingness to share.

Using his welcoming personality, Nigel called upon guests to answer questions along the lines of: 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? Of course, having a true charmer on the asking end of questions such as these makes all the difference. Leaving guests with no choice but to think on their feet, this exercise revealed just how confident they really were. As intended, responses revealed some of the quirkier aspects of the evening’s personalities — the byproduct of a safe atmosphere.

Designing North Studios Event

By the time it seemed impossible to conjure up another moment of mutual embarrassment, guests were asked to locate their last wooden token (a round Tuit) and inspect it for a star. As the scramble commenced and neighbors signaled the winners like a heated climax to community bingo night at the local retirement home, three fortunate souls came forth and were gifted generously: 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.

Everyone was reminded that there were no losers at this party. Through all of the meals, games, and revealing roundtable discussions, everyone had gotten ‘a round Tuit’: the main reason for being at their tables, a part of this special group and special night. They were all the stars of the studio. Designing North Stars.

Designing North Studios Event -- Night of the Roundtables

So, although this group understood they would spend the majority of their time communicating by text, email, and virtual chat, the party imprinted a mindset on them, one that required no further explanation. It was a feeling. Everyone was seasoned enough to know that the real value of this studio revolves around time spent with others, working with people who are happy, love life, are passionate about what they do, enjoy a good laugh, and always adding that extra effort – that hover above good enough. People who can check their egos at the door.

The Takeaway

Designing North Studios Event -- Night of the Roundtables

Few guests realized 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. They were simply a bunch of creative people taking a little time out for amusement. Roundtablers. Where no one was king, but everyone was a beloved knight. Each finding ways to pay it forward and support their new team members.

Now you see: throwing a party is the best way to design a team of remote creatives. With your new understanding, it’s clear that a generic party won’t do; you need a well planned event with exercises that move people and reveal a shared mindset. No matter who your guests are or what they do, use the factors above to throw the best damn party you possibly can. Make people dream, get real, be fearless, and trust – that your next party will be one they will not miss.

 

 

 

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