Most internships begin with a day of getting introduced around, setting up your company email, reading the company handbook, and hoping someone-anyone-will find you something to do. Not at Mad*Pow. My first day coincided with its first Design*Slam. After being in the office barely an hour I joined half of the Boston crew on the fifth floor conference room to commence Design*Slamming. Suddenly I was sketching, sharing ideas, and making jokes with people who up until this point I only knew from presentations and articles.
We set out to design an office status board to display progress on projects. Over the course of the afternoon the concept morphed to center around people rather than projects. We named the app MOM: Mad*Pow Operations Monitor. MOM brags to the whole office about her kids’ accomplishments. At a glance MOM can tell you who’s in, who’s in the other office, who’s working from home, and who is so busy that they should only be disturbed in the case of nuclear war. MOM also makes it easy to share lunch plans; and monitor people’s feelings about the office thermostat, which I learned was a frequent point of contention.
It was an intense day and at times the project seemed to be completely off track. We faced feature creep, lack of consensus, the ubiquitous desire to incorporate touch-screen technology, and a very tight deadline. But the talented and energetic people around me kept us moving in the right direction. Using elements of design-studio and hundreds of sticky notes we were able to simplify and focus on the heart of the idea. By the time I left, I had seen a concept evolve from a speck of inspiration to a well-formed, useful and engaging proposal, complete with wireframes, a feature list and some practical ideas for implementation. And, because the app is geared to enhance interoffice productivity and camaraderie at Mad*Pow, I learned a lot about how the company functions.
The next morning the adventure continued as the Boston Mad*Pow team made its way north to Rye State Park on the New Hampshire shore. For a woman from the desert, that was pretty exciting in and of itself, and my fellow travelers heard me comment on the sea air, the scenery and how much I Iike the ocean several times before we even arrived.
First up were presentations by the six Design*Slam teams. With no electricity available people got creative using posters with pop-up book techniques, live testimonials, skits, props and the ever popular men in silly wigs. Each team’s ratio of marketing folks, visual designers, researchers, creative technologists and UX designers influenced both the presentation style and the strengths and weaknesses of each concept. I heard more than one person comment that this is why all of those skill sets are necessary to a successful project. All six ideas showed a bent for using technology to make life better for everyday people, whether they be parents, volunteers or Mad*Pow employees. In the end, the team with the silly wigs won the much-coveted Design*Slam trophy. Everyone, however, got a t-shirt baring the Hulk Hogan-dinosaur Design*Slam graphic. I am wearing mine as I write this.
The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to eating, drinking and celebrating. The centerpiece of the festivities was founder, Will Powley, bent over boiling pots, cooking fresh lobsters for all in attendance. Over lunch Mad*Powers took turns toasting colleague’s achievements and hard work. There was even some good-natured rivalry about who received the most shout-outs.
For a brand-newbie the Design*Slam and lobster bake was an opportunity to meet lots of people, hear about on-going projects, and experience the culture that unites Mad*Powers. I am looking forward to Monday morning.