Design Sprinting with National Benevolent Association

July 03, 2013
I have been in the client shoes before, and I understand it can be scary as hell to hand over the brand you champion every day to another team. Here's the deal though: it doesn't have to be that way. At SmallBox, we simply don't want to be the agency that takes a few basic parameters from the client before retreating back to a black box to do the work. When we chose our core values, collaboration was an easy pick.

Our path to collaboration:
We first got hooked on collaboration as we embarked on internal endeavors like 24 Hour Web Project and Factory Week. These cultural institutions allowed us to challenge our traditional roles and ways of working, and resulted in deeper collaboration than what we had experienced in our normal work processes.

Inspired by these projects, we began auditing our entire process for client work. We asked ourselves questions like:

  • Can we use these sprinting techniques when client projects need intense bursts of focused work or have a quick timeline?
  • Which collaborative and design thinking techniques will help us get to better solutions for our clients?
  • What can we do to involve the client in more meaningful ways?
Workign and laughing with our client National Benevolent Association

Bringing a collaborative sprint client-side:

We'd already experimented with these things when we welcomed National Benevolent Association (NBA) as a client earlier this year. With their team being dispersed throughout the country, these techniques, which we've come to call our "collaborative toolkit," were just what we needed to launch our discovery and branding project with them. We blocked out time for a two-day design sprint, and hosted their leadership team here in Indianapolis.
Knowing we wouldn't be able to get this group together in a room again soon, we packed our days full of collaborative exercises to gain as much insight and direction as we could. We facilitated conversations that allowed us to quickly grasp the rich history of their organization. Our creative director, Leigh, led us through a "north star" session that helped define organizational purpose, as well as understand their goals for the future. We whiteboarded through some fun word-play, conducted a collaborative wireframe sketching session and more.
A peek into one exercise:
Because a re-brand is a major part of what we're working on with NBA, we wanted to include some visual exercises that would help us begin to define the feel and tone of a refreshed brand. Lydia, our champion of the collaborative toolkit, facilitated a fun collage session that started with both of our teams gathering around piles of magazines.

Design Sprint with national Benevolent Association

With a timer running, we had 20 minutes to flip through as many pages as we could and tear out images, phrases, fonts or colors from the magazines that we felt represented the direction of the new NBA. In the end, we organized our choices into clusters, and explained to the group what compelled us about our choices.

At the end of the exercise, each stakeholder in the project had articulated what they liked, what they didn't like, and why. Similar photography styles, textures, color palettes and other themes emerged, which provided incredibly valuable initial design direction for our team. (Stay tuned for their new brand - it hasn't launched just yet!)

Design Sprint with National Benevolent Association

Living out our core value:
Exercises like this have added meaningful interaction, providing more time for us (our team and the clients) to laugh and learn together. In doing so, we get more connected to the work and outcomes.

It's been more than a year since we chose collaboration, along with curiosity and growth, as core values for SmallBox. I have marveled at how, once chosen, we have begun to live out this core value in deeper ways, and expanded our collaborative toolkit beyond what I could have imagined.


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