What kind of “music” can we make together?
Designers and non-designers from across the company spent three days focused on teamwork and harmony to learn, grow, practice, play, bond, and do some good for others.
Create the most engaging and rewarding design team event ever. Provide attendees the chance to grow their design knowledge and skills, learn from creators and educators from outside the company, recognize each other's contributions and accomplishments, and give back to the local community using our unique capabilities.
Lead the effort to craft and host the three-day event from concept to completion. Source and secure internal and external thought leaders, makers, and educators. Design activities to help a nationally-recognized performing arts high school address their real-world challenges. Design and present new individual and team awards. And facilitate live panel discussions.
I used the team's input to develop a creative and content strategy. Then I went divergent in thinking, exploring themes and brainstorming ideas to form cohesive concepts…
As I developed the ideas, I shared the thinking with design leadership team to get their feedback. We discussed and narrowed down to “Music” as our creative platform. Planning and production was underway.
We considered every aspect: budget, location, attendees, speakers, content, contributors, swag, activities, agenda, food, event marketing, awards, technology, and travel.
I worked with two wonderful teammates, Sherri and J.B., to craft a three-day schedule and content framework based on our design process and connect everything to our event theme. Each day had a sub-theme to organize information and activities.
Time to divide and conquer. Sherri focused on event logistics, food, and budget. J.B. took ownership of swag. And I started to source and coordinate internal and external speakers, develop marketing collateral, research ideas for team activities, and craft the visual design and presentation materials needed for a seamless attendee experience.
I developed a bold and expressive look and feel aligned with the creative strategy. From this visual design language, we started crafting marketing communications, “sales” decks to share with potential stakeholders and speakers, and resource libraries for everyone creating content. With a clear creative direction established, the presentations would be compelling and coordinated.
Create visual assets early as possible in the process to share with production partners. These creative elements helped speakers and event planners understand what the event was going to look and feel like, and how best to make independent, informed and timely decisions.
Next, we needed to identify and persuade external speakers to share their journeys to inform and inspire the team.
We looked for talented professionals who could provide a unique point of view, impart valuable learnings and lessons, tell great stories – all while (hopefully) tailoring their message around customer-obsession and event themes.
We hypothesized that musicians share many similarities to designers, working through the process of going broad, narrowing, testing and learning to arrive at solutions that meet a diverse set of goals or needs.
Fortunately, through a salty combination of perseverance and luck, we found and convinced several amazing people to take part in Design Week.
Finding the right speakers takes a lot of time and energy, but when it works out, compelling presenters can deliver the desired attendee experience like nothing else.
Throughout the weeks leading up to the event, I collaborated closely with external speakers to achieve several important goals. The audience experience had to be engaging, so all content and activities needed to be relevant, provocative, beneficial, and delightful.
For example, our featured external speaker, Steve Schrag, went beyond simply sharing his journey as a musician, small business owner and educator. He also participated in the team activity as a contributor and “customer." Steve was a great partner. He thought like a designer, wanting to better understand our goals to formulate a thoughtful plan for his participation.
Additionally, as a design team, we wanted to give back to others in a unique way this year, so we needed to understand the types of issues and problems he faces in teaching to effectively create a worthy team challenge. Steve and I discussed ideas, goals, and plans over a couple of weeks. A good amount of prep work led to a highly-successful integration of inspiration and information.
Once we established and confirmed a solid lineup of internal and external speakers, we developed all production elements: posters, emails, presentations and, most importantly, sweet swag and awards to recognize the team's efforts, contributions, and accomplishments.
Now, everything was ready to go. Showtime.
Our approach for giving back to our community during the event was to maximize our time and talents together, helping Steve address two big, important problems he faces at work. Attendees could select either problem to focus on and we broke up into groups. We spent the next 6 hours rapidly learning, defining, ideating, experimenting, and iterating.
The next day, each team presented their thoughts, ideas, and experiments back to Steve.
The team did amazing work. They empathized. They collaborated. And they practiced our design process with remarkable enthusiasm.
Steve was impressed. He left the event with new perspectives, clear and actionable next steps, and a lot more than he planned for.
The team responded positively, too, with the highest satisfaction scores ever.
And this team rocked! It was a great show. In addition to what worked well, we also collected feedback on how to make the next one even better.
Based on the hits from this event and new ideas and themes on cross-functional partnership, the 2019 Design Week event did not disappoint. Event organizers raised the bar again by building upon successes and learning from the previous year, transforming the event atmosphere and inviting a fresh mix of phenomenal internal and external speakers to inform and inspire the team, push our design capabilities further, and cultivate a stronger growth environment.
I'm proud of what we accomplished and forever grateful for the opportunity to lead and learn.
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