One [Productive] Retreat

“Wouldn’t it be cool if…” is a phrase we hear a lot at One Design. While it’s often said within the context of a client project, this remark can also be heard around the studio in regards to internal initiatives. With as many ideas as our team has, many never get the time—or the man-power—they really deserve.

Earlier this spring we took a step back and thought “wouldn’t it be cool if we could put client work on pause, take a break from the studio, and go on a retreat where we could focus on some of our promising-yet-neglected internal initiatives?”

This time we executed.

The task at hand

Two weeks ago, the team headed to Three Oaks, Michigan, for an official retreat in a gorgeous Real World-style loft space connected to Journeyman Distillery. After voting on several promising ideas and dividing into small teams, we settled into our work. The teams developed their concepts over the next two days—crystallizing goals, sketching ideas, brainstorming, building, and formalizing long-term action plans so the work could continue after we returned. The results were shared back to the entire office for feedback at intervals throughout the duration of the retreat.

Bonding time

Business aside, twenty folks bunking together in a loft connected to a distillery guaranteed that there was plenty of fun to be had.

We went on a whiskey tour to sample Journeyman's entire suite of offerings, grabbed a few meals in between worksessions from local hotspots like Staymaker and Froehlich’s, and were treated to the culinary skills of Founding Partner Pat Griffin in the evenings. Indoor bocce in its most competitive form was nearly always in play, and an epic game of Horse brought out the competitive streak in the crew. We undercovered some hidden team talent when Project Manager Elizabeth O’Malley broke out world-championship-level Irish dancing, PM James Johnston delivered an epic rendition of Purple Rain with guitar in tow, and Social Strategist Gen Carter facilitated a table read of a TV pilot script she’s been working on (don’t get us started on the variety of accents the team brought to the table for their characters).

So after an action packed and exhausting weekend, one big question remains: where did we actually net out in regards to our internal projects? Here’s a rundown.


Project No. 1
What to expect when you’re expecting

Pitch: Create a pocket guide for clients embarking on intense initiatives, priming them for the emotional and logistically challenging journeys they’re about to take.

Why: Big initiatives can take a toll on clients, and they’re often not prepared for the journey ahead until they’re neck-deep in the process. Over the years we’ve observed that almost all clients follow a similar emotional trajectory, experiencing patterns of excitement, trepidation and anxiety almost as often as they experience delight.

Why not create a user guide—modeled after the parenting classic What to Expect When You’re Expecting—outlining some of the more complicated services we offer our clients? Let’s put it all out there from the get-go, so clients understand what they’ll encounter every step of the way—from the emotions they’ll experience in each phase to the role they’ll be playing throughout the process and how they can prepare in the months leading up to [project] delivery.

Where we’re at: We have a concept, content outline and pagination that supports one of our biggest and most emotionally-charged offerings. Next step is a designed proof-of-concept. Much, much more to come…

Project No. 2
automated status awareness application

Pitch: Create a simple, automated software solution that gives dispersed teams the ability to let each other know where they’re at and when they’re available without resorting to clumsy manually-controlled status settings—all while maintaining an individual’s preferred degree of privacy.

Why: We believe in a flexible work environment—One Designers manage their own schedules and have the freedom to work from whatever location makes the most sense to them. While that’s usually the office, on any given day we can be found working in a variety of locations – from Soho House to someone’s back patio. Tracking all of us down can occasionally get complicated, especially when schedules stray beyond the typical 9–5. We want to build a solution that mitigates the issue, making it easy to keep tabs on each other while respecting privacy.

Where we’re at: Over the course of the retreat sprint, the team built a fully-functional iOS prototype!

Stay tuned to our blog for more details
Our plan is to document both the software development and branding processes in detail, covering all of the successes (and obstacles) that we encounter along the road to a beta release.

Project #3
A digital learning platform

Pitch: Awhile back we built a lightweight digital platform for a client who wanted to make the process of learning easier. And who doesn’t want to learn something as simply and enjoyably as possible?

Why: We’re constantly asked to teach our clients and collaborators things, from how to use a CMS to how to live and breathe the values of your brand. As a company focused on interactive experiences, couldn’t we leverage technology to make that process more efficient, memorable and enjoyable?

Where we’re at: The outcome of the retreat brainstorm? A plan allowing us to work towards integrating our education platform into our service offering package as standard practice, creating a one-stop shop for our partner education and resources.

Project No. 4
One Dashboard

Pitch: Build a bespoke, digital dashboard for One Design HQ.

Why: Wouldn’t it be smart to centralize all of One Design’s most important information—from project schedules and conference room availability to social media notifications and an office dog tracker—in one highly visible place accessible to all, whether in the office or working remote?

Where we’re at: After a rapid-prototyping session leveraging Optimal Workshop to iron out the UX, we hashed through the design details while building out an MVP frontend app using React and corresponding Grape-based API to provide up-to-date data.

Next up we’ll continue to implement a variety of top-priority dashboard panels and API endpoints, documenting the process to make it dead simple for more people to get involved.

Project No. 5
2016/17 Holiday Card

Pitch: Even with the best of intentions, execution of a Holiday Card always comes down to the last minute. We should change that.

Why: The team always has big ideas for the Holiday Card, but we usually end up pushing design and development out until the last minute leading to late nights and frazzled nerves before holiday break. This year is going to be different. We love our clients, and this year we’re giving them a Holiday Card that’s guaranteed to dazzle ‘em.

Where we’re at: Concept done! Now we just need to rope in a few more team members and we’re on track to greatness.

Where to go from here

The plan is to continue working on these projects alongside our client responsibilities. And so far, so good!

Interested in learning more?
Subscribe to the ODC newsletter to stay up to date on where these projects net out. We’re excited to share our progress along the way!

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One Design Company is a research-driven design and development studio. For over a decade, we’ve explored the intersection of experience and technology—where powerful brands come to life. Want to learn more? Let’s chat.

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