Innovation rarely happens in a vacuum. It usually starts with an individual brave enough to contribute an idea and a team inspired enough to make it great. This blog provides a forum for all Centrons to contribute ideas, make suggestions, ask questions and inspire others. There are no boundaries. To participate, all you need is the desire to build great products.

Design Retreat: From Centro to Camp Wandawega

Designing in the great outdoors is not ideal but it’s also not impossible. With accommodations suited for “low expectations” and Wi-Fi speeds not to be envied, the Centro Design Team trekked to Camp Wandawega and not only came back stronger as professionals, but also as a team.

Camp Wandawega logo on the front of a canoe.

Camp Wandawega is not advertised as a luxury resort. In fact, the camp’s Manifesto of Low Expectations makes it perfectly clear:

We’re not a proper resort by a long shot. We’re just carrying on the timeless tradition of connecting people to the simple pleasures of simpler times.

Certainly there is truth in that statement, but there were several reasons Camp Wandawega made sense when determining where to host our retreat. The camp is located only 2 hours from the Chicago office, the accommodations were affordable and the location came recommended by a fellow team member.

The great outdoors were a perfect setting for building team camaraderie and exploring design. Escaping from the city and experiencing a little nature is beneficial for anyone’s health.

Planning the Retreat

Preparing for the three day retreat involved a team effort. A steering committee was formed to help plan the following areas of the trip:

  • Activities
  • Documentation
  • Equipment
  • Facilities
  • Food
  • Transportation

Food had to be bought and dietary needs considered, which made planning and shopping for meals a complex task. Also, gathering all the equipment for cooking meant that there were a lot of boxes to bring with us to camp.

On top of that, two full days of work and team building activities had to be planned. The trip was important for building team relationships and exploring design in a setting outside of Centro, but the combined efforts of the team in planning the retreat also helped in strengthening relationships.

Working in Wisconsin

To say the design team worked during the retreat to Camp Wandawega is an understatement. With computers at hand and a slow Internet connection, the team patiently waited for their VPN connections to activate and their email accounts to synchronize. The groundskeeper would later say that ours was one of the only teams to actually get work done during a Wandawega retreat!

A Centro design working session at Camp Wandawega
During the AMA, the group critiqued the current design of our application.

Work continued into early afternoon most days, and some designers even worked into the evening. At times, the group was so engrossed that fun activities such as hiking and playing bocce were rescheduled or removed to make time for additional team-specific and/or individual work. Group work activities involved:

During the AMA, the group discussed how—from a design perspective—our application arrived at its current state. Team members asked a range of questions regarding platform workflows, color choices and component designs and also made suggestions for how we could improve the design of application in the future.

During the Competitor Survey the team gained a better understanding of how our application differs from those of our competitors. As a team we agreed that we were on the right track, but this exercise allowed us to brainstorm a few features we think will set Centro apart from the rest.

Christa works into the night with George the racoon
Christa works into the night with a little help from George the racoon.

Individual work and team sessions were also scheduled. Despite the retreat’s schedule, team members were still expected to meet their deadlines. Designers could often be found huddling (for warmth?) over their computers working quietly and with great focus. Some even worked on into the night, forgoing rest and relaxation until later on in the evening (after it had been thoroughly earned).

Stay Tuned…

Though we did do a lot of work during the retreat, we also made sure to have a lot of fun! From sunset boating to midnight bocce, treehouse board games to toxic bucket challenges, we made the most out of our Wandawega experience. More on those activities in the next installment!