Here at Home, we are all given a yearly personal development fund to help realise the very best versions of ourselves – both as an employee and individual. The logic is simple: fulfilled and stimulated people make happier Homies.
This year, I decided to do something a bit different. Myself and Dave North (fellow designer at Home) applied for a week-long residency at Designers On Holiday (DOH), on the beautiful Swedish island of Gotland. We were joined by lots of different types of designers including graphic, product, architectural, interior, textile and industrial design, as well as a chef, artist and photographer.
Nestled between farmland, wild-flower meadows and the ever-present sprawling pine forests is a 15-acre site which provides a unique opportunity for practising creatives to come together, collaborate and experiment with different ways of designing and building elements of sustainable, off-grid living. The projects that get designed and built while you’re there become permanent site features. Some of the existing structures include 18 tents, a solar powered shower, micro cabins, a bread oven, outdoor cinema, terracotta kiln, pavilion and, of course, a Swedish sauna.
With only a week at our disposal, we wanted to leave behind a permanent feature for the camp which would help bring people together on the site for years to come. One of the projects on the agenda this year was a communal dining table and seating for 18 people on the pavilion. This seemed to fit the bill perfectly and also tied in nicely to our Home-cooked Wednesday lunches.
Working alongside us was Ismael Velo (a product designer based in Amsterdam) and Tom Gottelier (one of the founders of DOH). Together, we devised a simple design using the abundant, locally sourced pine, that would echo the pavilion’s aesthetic. The design could also be easily dismantled for storage – a requirement for the camp.
One aspect of the experience I loved was the collaborative mindset which helped us arrive at a better solution than we would have achieved on our own – aligning perfectly with the way we love to work at Home.
“Companies that promoted collaborative working were five times as likely to be high performing.”
Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) and Rob Cross,
Edward A. Madden Professor of Global Business at Babson College.
Being able to solely focus on one project with other designers from a range of disciplines, gave us a unique insight into how others approach a design problem. Key takeaways from the experience for me were:
- Using a design sprint style approach, with rough sketching to gain consensus, allowed us to quickly reach a final design concept.
- The open culture of the camp encouraged everyone to feel like a meaningful part of the process (no matter what their skills or relevant experience). Everyone talked, listened and learnt on the job.
- Exploring local resources and suppliers informed our design. This helped us produce the most sustainable solution and minimise waste.
- Visiting different places across the island to brainstorm ideas helped us relax and allowed creativity to flow through the idea generation process.
- A team that eats together and shares ideas in the process, has fun, and works together towards a common goal, will likely exceed expectations.
- Building quick prototypes helped us gain a clear understanding of how the table would function and perform.
- Finding ways to help make the production process more efficient saved a lot of time. For example, we made a corner jig to achieve perfect right angles every time.
- Getting others from the group to test and feedback on the design at key stages helped us understand what worked and what didn’t.
- Working on the project from initial sketches right through to final build made for a great learning experience.
- There is great satisfaction in seeing your work being used and enjoyed in the real world.
One of the central aspects to the experience that emerged during the week – and something we also do at Home – was placing a real emphasis on communal eating. The infamous words ‘the team that eats together, stays together’ rang truer than ever, as we discussed ideas, designs and possibilities over every meal. Having this important time together between people strengthens bonds, allowed us time to relax and think problems through. It creates an important workplace culture where people can lead happier and healthier lives.
After reading an article a while back on the Harvard Business Review about ‘team building in the cafeteria’ I couldn’t agree with this more:
“Everyone understandably wants to build higher-performing, more cohesive teams, but there has to be a better way to do it. And now it seems there is. Researchers led by Kevin Kniffin, of Cornell University, say they’ve found a deceptively simple method: Encourage teams to eat together.
…Kniffin and his colleagues point out that eating is such a primal behavior that it can be extraordinarily meaningful, even if most of us do it three (or more) times a day.”
Further reading from the article via: https://hbr.org/2015/12/team-building-in-the-cafeteria
Highlights for me were the inspiring company, great food (with many ingredients sourced locally from the island), fika – a twice-daily break that centres around cinnamon pastries and good coffee, the amazing never-ending Scandinavian sunsets, swimming in the Baltic Sea (not as cold as you’d think), and the real opportunity to reconnect with outdoor living. We’ve come away energised and inspired, keen to bring these thoughts and practices back into our own work here at Home.
You can find out more about the experience and apply for next year via: http://designersonholiday.com