What does one do upon the introduction of a new component library into daily work practices? Set up a super fun, “Great British Bake Off”-style Creative Jam, of course!
Come again? You may be thinking.
That’s right. We decided to shake things up one day by taking an afternoon to create and learn together. Inspired by the Adobe Creative Jam that we attended earlier in 2018, we split up into four teams and set a tight timeframe to create some real, working websites based off of our handcrafted — and hilarious — creative briefs (written by the amazing David Kusiak). Each team consisted of a Designer, a Developer, a Producer (Project Manager), and a Project Owner, and they had just short of 3.5 hours to go from introduction to presentation.
For the past few months, the Eastern Standard developer team has been creating a library of web components that can be repurposed and applied across multiple projects. If you’re not familiar with web design and dev systems, you can think of this component library like legos: The same pieces can be used to build a car or the Millennium Falcon! But just because these components can be reused doesn’t mean that they’re generic, and that’s where our Creative Jam comes in. One of the primary goals of this challenge was to see how far our teams could push the components to meet a variety of objectives.
By combining, modifying, and styling the components, our teams were able to create unique work for the vastly different (made-up) brands below.
We had four fictional clients with specific audiences and offerings:
∙ Ex’d — an app that helps individuals excise an old significant other from any digital platform you give them access to
∙ Prepper Pack — a monthly subscription service that curates the best in survival and emergency gear
∙ CricKIT — a meal kit delivery service that uses crickets as the primary source of protein in their recipes
∙ AIthlete (yes, AI, as in artificial intelligence) — an app and that uses artificial intelligence to design weekly workout plans based on current fitness level, goals, historical progress, and other users
So how did we determine whose work was truly top notch? There were four main criteria:
1. Team Presentation: Ability to speak to design and build decisions
2. Meets stated project goals in the creative brief
3. Innovative use of component library
4. Level of completion
(Trust) The Process
The first 20 minutes included discussing roles and initial concepting. The Designer led the concepting conversation. The Producer was tasked with organizing team discussion, providing observations, ideas, and conversation structure, as well as unblocking team members. The Dev worked with the Designer on approach to handoff. The Owner provided strategy input.
After getting to work, the teams were required to constantly re-estimate and evaluate the process and, at every point, each person on the team had a specific job to do and goals to meet. (And, of course, throughout the process, we provided many snacks to make sure they had sustained energy for these tasks!)
Near the end of the jam, the teams were instructed to ask themselves: Have the designs introduced unnecessary complexity? Do you have the bandwidth to push anything further? How are you doing with timeline and estimate? Just as with a real-world project, evaluation is key, even — and maybe especially — in later stages.
As one could imagine, we had some pretty incredible sites, for only 3.5 hours.
And the Winner Is….
We were all winners! Just kidding, we only had one winner (but all of them were pretty awesome).
The winner was ... CricKIT!
Well, to summarize, they were an awesome team! They showed especially strong attention to detail in their design and were organized in their application of the component library.
In this challenge of minimal time and resources, Team CricKIT embraced these constraints as with any other project. While it may be tempting to dive in, creative guns blazing, it’s worthwhile to adapt an iterative, collaborative process to even something this small. They took the time to workshop their ideas, set up a scaffold for development, and set priorities.
Amanda, the Dev on the CricKIT team, shared her insight on the victory: “I definitely think it was because of the extra bit of planning we took in the beginning. We essentially worked in short sprints where we had check-ins and were able to pivot if we needed to at those points, which we absolutely did need to adjust sometimes. I think without those sprinted goals, we wouldn't have been able to shift quickly enough to get everything done.” She added that in terms of development, there probably wasn’t a distinct difference between CricKIT and the other teams.
This kind of structure allows the team’s skills to shine, since less time is spent switching between different tasks. The client benefits, too: Working a process like this, there’s a clear story to be told from project brief to final product.
The component library had been an element of discussion for a long time and after finally making it a priority, we’ve seen how it can truly streamline a build. The library takes out the redundant effort of building fields and templates so we can better create a personalized, creative website.
In learning how to use new systems, sometimes you have to see what you can do in a limited amount of time. This sort of exercise keeps us fresh going forward. By using the component library, we’re working smarter, and through the jam, we got to really experience the creative freedom within the component library. Not to mention, it was an amazing experience of collaborating and exercising our minds.