Over the course of 2021 and 2022, the creative team at Maark more than tripled in size and found itself spread across three continents. We were bigger, more dispersed, and constrained by a pandemic. We knew we would need to figure out a way for us to get to know ourselves as a team and to establish and share our design priorities moving forward.
Enter the Maark Design Summit.
In early April, the entire team converged for two days in Miami. Any tans/sunburns that we acquired have since faded. And any jetlag has since worn off for our international teammates. However, a newfound sense of camaraderie among our team lingers. Most important, a concrete sense of purpose binds us. Here’s how we arrived at both.
To begin our endeavor, we landed, Ubered to the hotel, and headed straight for tacos and drinks to get our creative juices flowing (because the best ideas are usually found at the bottom of a margarita bucket). Some team members had come a few days early to explore and/or to offset their jetlag, and they shared with us the sights and tastes they had already taken in. In a small restaurant just off the beach, we pulled tables together and spent the afternoon getting to know one another in the shade of the warm sun.
The next morning, we gathered in a conference room of our hotel to spend some time defining our goals as a creative team. Our VP of Creative Services, Alex Carr, walked us through the Maark design team portfolio and provided us with a history of Maark’s design journey, which was extremely helpful not just to new team members but as a reminder to those of us who have been here for years. We then had a few sessions that allowed us to deep dive into our creative process, research practices, and atomic design systems & developer collaborations.
We then began the process of determining our design principles. Every designer was given a stack of sticky notes and a pen to write design principles that they thought should shape design at Maark.* After spending a few minutes scribbling, we had found everything under the sun—from guiding values to poetic sentiments to cheeky one-liners.
We had covered a hotel conference room wall with a tapestry of our motivations, intentions, and expectations of our designs.
We took turns sharing our sticky notes aloud and began placing them on the wall.** We worked together to group themes and concepts as we went, not unlike a project idea generation workshop—a familiar method for us that provided structure to explore our many thoughts and to organize the bright pieces of paper that now decorated the conference room walls. Often this meant that stickies moved as new themes emerged.
To close our session, we were each given several dots to vote for the stickies that we felt were the most valuable and vital principles for our team. These were the words, phrases, themes, and concepts that we felt integral to design at Maark. Stepping back, we would see that in only one morning, we had covered a hotel conference room wall with a tapestry of our motivations, intentions, and expectations of our designs. For example:
“HAVE SOME FUN!” - Sometimes we cannot even contain our own enthusiasm for having fun. The fact that this sticky was written in delightful large black sharpie lettering only further proves our point.
"Everything we make is a reflection of our own level of personal investment” - Here, we see steadfast commitment to the quality of our work.
“Look at a lot of design + art to stay connected to current thinking” - We know that the world of design is constantly changing. Our team prioritizes an inclusive creative landscape that speaks to this moment in time, and we want our designs to reflect that.
“Can you explain this to someone better than ‘it looks cool’?” - This sticky speaks to the deep desire for logic and meaning to support each decision we make while designing.
We have since taken all of the stickies back to our office and are currently refining them into foundational design principles to guide our growing creative team. But we went to our homes across the globe with more than a pile of stickies full of ideas to show for those two days. We went home with a stronger sense of who we are as a creative team.
*It should be noted: After months and months of digital sticky note sessions in FigJam, I think many of us were awestruck by the paper-sticky notes backed with adhesive.
**A few more notes: a sticky note session is much easier in person—no one was accidentally on mute, and it turns out that the adhesives of physical sticky notes are just as effective as the digital “sticking” of notes. However, the text on digital sticky notes in FigJam is generally more legible and forgiving to those of us that struggle with penmanship.