During July, Equilibrium held our inaugural studio conference in the picturesque surrounds of the southern highlands. We spent two nights at the beautiful ‘Summerlees Cottage’ near Bowral. In this stunning part of country NSW we were struck by the wintry beauty of the place, the feeling of hibernation and anticipation.
Key themes for the conference were professional development, self-reflection, exploration and creating shared experiences to build even stronger foundations for our studio. Small teams don’t often get a chance to focus on group dynamics, and design studios especially prioritise client work—quite rightly. That being said, sometimes it is equally valuable for the studio to work on professional development for the benefit of both employees and clients.
On the first evening, we kicked off with some warm-up design aerobics, aimed at easing us into the conference and facilitating an atmosphere of exploration, discovery and teamwork. The three exercises included unleashing our hybrid monster mascot Dave, inventing a complex role play game in 12 minutes, and creating sartorial masterpieces from nothing more than newspaper and tape.
Day Two began on a slightly more serious note with our professional development session. This program was tailored specifically for Equilibrium by Positioned For Choice, and forced a fascinating discussion around individual and team ways of working, motivations and habits.
The second session for the day focused on Bec’s PhD and her research in design thinking—a refresher course on the theories and background underpinning her work. The PhD greatly informs Equilibrium’s practice and is a huge part of our ethos and workflow. Being at the forefront of academic research and seeing it come to life in the projects we have in the studio is both rewarding and interesting for us as visual communicators. It also helps us improve the way we work with clients and creates a richer experience for all the stakeholders involved in the projects.
After lunch, we launched into Tom’s session, which was a dialogue around our successes, mistakes and inspiration sources. We were required to share our favourite song, building and photograph, as well as our best and worst design projects.
This was an exercise to elicit style mapping and personal taste and get us to articulate our decisions about the things we chose. Interestingly, when playing each other’s favourite songs all of us became very self-conscious! The session helped us share our personal motivations and engage in self-reflection on our successes and failures.
For the last session on Saturday, Georgia devised a winding-down activity that was designed to create a shared experience through imaginative play, problem solving and teamwork. Being able to negotiate the real and imaginary simultaneously and draw parallels between them is one of the key ways that creative play exercises the mind. So, with that in mind, we built a fort—with furniture, sheets, pillows and fairy lights. After nailing that exercise in about 15 minutes flat, we then wrote “finish the last sentence” stories inspired by various props we had brought into the fort. Hilarity obviously ensued, a good end to an interesting and inspiring day.