Pollen pieces is an initiative developed at Pollen to formalise the time allocated for design experimentation. It existed before the current format but was only contributed to by individuals from the development team. This format encourages team members to collaborate on pieces.
What is the format?
Each piece is the result of a fortnightly 5 hour workshop between 2 team members. The output is a digital design experiment, screen grabs and documentation of the concept and process. This output is then displayed and documented on an internal blog. This documentation must be done within the 5 hours. This is very important. The output will be presented to the team at the end of each cycle. (We work in two week cycles at Pollen.)
Why is the documentation so important?
This needs to be a resource for future employees and clients. This means we need to be able to read about the process taken on each piece. It will allow for the iteration of concepts. We can build upon the work of those pieces that came before us… How poetic! I think that if you don’t write about it, you may as well have not done it. We forget our work so quickly, let alone our audience. In addition to this, if you write about what you have done, you gain a greater understanding of it. You see all the ways you worked well and the ways you could improve. So it is as beneficial to you as it is to others in the studio.
How did you sell it to the fat cats?
To get formal approval for something that is not directly related to a client is very tricky. It involves some convincing. However it is my responsibility to frame it correctly in order to highlight its benefits to the business. Our directors are always receptive to ideas from the team. It doesn’t mean they always say yes. However they do listen. I just focused on the ways in which it is beneficial:
– It trains us to be great at innovative and original design solutions that will elevate the company & bolster our reputation in the industry
– It will integrate the design and development teams into one beautiful creative force.
– It will create time and space for discovery
– It will increase our technical knowledge
– It is regular training so we can exceed expectations on client work.
You can’t say no to that can you!? I agree, it is a bit wordy but in big business you gotta walk the walk and talk the talk.
You have rules. What are they?
1. Work together, not one after the other.
2. Code is the design tool.
3. Concentrate on the process.
4. Consider the content as well as the form.
5. No pressure, stay loose.
6. Take some risks.
7. Avoid saying no.
8. Do not copy, make it your own.
They are written to try and address some things we decided we needed to work on as a studio. For example, work together, not one after another is in response to us highlighting the pitfalls of a waterfall process.
How is it going?
It had a stuttering start. We started and then missed about 6 cycles. It felt very fragile for a while. But recently it seems the whole studio is starting to value it. We have had a recent run of back to back pieces in the cycles. That is important. It is a challenge if not everyone is on board. People are now queueing up to participate. The current cycle is being done by a producer who actually has a lot of code experience. That is REALLY great. It means it is a whole studio thing, not just design and development. It creates a good feeling about it that will give it the best chance to continue. The best thing is that it is starting to extend our work on client projects. We have recently put quite a few interesting things, stemming from pollen pieces, into our client work – to great success.
Is it public?
No, not yet. Personally, I believe in public everything. I think it is a real energy generator. It would give us something nice to talk about in addition to client projects we have recently completed. I think it will be a great resource for our clients and others in the industry. It would demonstrate some of the great things about Pollen, hopefully attracting talent and clients. However, the directors are not yet convinced. They feel it is too unpolished at this stage to put out under the studio name. This is a fair concern as we don’t really know what it is going to look like right now. Hopefully as the archive grows it will become something that is polished enough to put out in the public. I think we need a year’s worth of pieces to know see that. We’ll see what happens…