Trading Stories for Deeper Connections
Building Our UX Team with Trading Cards
I’m sure almost everyone has heard of trading cards. If you haven’t obsessed over a collection of your own, maybe you’ve heard of some selling for millions at auctions. These coveted sets of cards, whether it’s baseball, Pokemon, Magic: The Gathering or hundreds of others, each represent a universe of individual characters with specific skills or stats. Each character brings their own unique attributes, so the more diverse the collection, the stronger or more valuable the deck becomes.
The UX Design Team at Groupon is a collection of pretty diverse characters as well. Each of our designers, researchers and content strategists bring their unique skills, powers and backgrounds to the team — making us kind of like one of those trading card universes. In an effort to celebrate those individualities, we set out to make a custom deck of our own! The project became a fun way for each of us to learn a little more about one another and flex our creative muscles building something together.
We’ve captured here our journey in making these team member trading cards, along with some tips and tricks we learned along the way. Maybe this will inspire you and your team to create a deck of your own.
Within our UX Design Team we’ve recently created a program where we pair up team members as ‘buddies’ to build deeper personal connections and share back what they learn to the team. It’s one of the many ways we try to create a fun and friendship based culture here at Groupon. Trading cards seemed like the perfect format then to capture and share those connections so everyone could learn something new about each other.
With our buddy pairs in place, we were ready to get started. For your own activity, try pairing team members with someone they don’t normally work with. Encourage new connections within your team, especially across roles and geographies.
To get things rolling, we suggested connection through various conversational activities and prompts. With our program, pairs met about once a week or every other for a quarter. Any amount of time will do though, so long as the pairs can get to know each other. After a few initial conversations, we introduced the trading card activity with some outlined directions to give everyone a clear picture of what we were working toward.
First, team members were to start collection attributes or stats they would want to share about their partner. We made a list (included below) to inspire some ideas, but anything was fair game. Everyone was to pick 5–8 to display on the backs of the cards.
Once they figured out how to represent their partner through stats and skills, they needed to create a way to represent them visually on the front of the card. This could be something as simple as a photo, or something as creative as a collage. Our team members got pretty creative...
Like I said before, our team consists of all sorts of backgrounds so there is a wide range of skill and experience with art and design tools. Keeping the directions open to interpretation like “visually represent your partner”, made sure everyone could engage the activity at their own level using whatever tools felt comfortable. This and a relaxed time frame helped to make the activity as stress-free as possible, especially on top of everyday work.
Assembling the Cards
To make it even easier, we developed a template to assemble the fronts and stats for the back. This also helped to create consistency and made sure our deck came together as a set — just like how we work together as a team. Again, to make sure everyone could engage easily, we also provided a series of pre-made formats that could be filled in with answers submitted through Google forms and were assembled for production later by one of our designers.
To get you started on your team’s trading cards, I’ve included an example sketch template you can download below:
TIP: Your cards don’t have to be so rigid and templated. You could also make trading cards on pre-cut pieces of paper using pens, pencils, markers, etc. The team at Foursquare created some awesome trading cards as a quick icebreaker activity.
Printing and Production
Once all the cards were created and collected, we sent them off to get printed. To bring the whole deck together, we also made a custom box to hold each set. Production can get expensive, but we saved some cost by buying boxes unassembled in bulk and separately printed custom stickers for the covers. We assembled all the pieces and our trading cards were ready to be handed out to the team!
Sharing our Connections
On the first night of our annual UX Design team offsite we always have some kind of icebreaker to introduce the team. This year we used our trading cards to have partners introduce each other and share the custom cards they created. Everyone had such a unique and creative story to tell. After each introduction, team members received a deck of their own with everyone’s card inside.
You can learn more about our annual UX Design team offsite and some tips for creating your own here: https://medium.com/groupon-design-union/how-to-design-a-well-designed-offsite-c5307ad18fb2
For facilitated team building, the Trading Card activity did a pretty good job of bringing together the team in a fun and creative way. The deck became a collection of our connections and a lasting artifact of what makes each of us unique. Don’t just take my word for it though, the team also had some things to say:
“It was a fun way to introduce everyone and break some ice without too much pressure to perform.”
“What a creative way to break the ice and introduce everyone to the team!”
“It was a great opportunity to meet everyone before the festivities started and the buddy card share-out was a great way to get more insight into everyone.”
Thanks for reading!
To build connections within your team, consider creating your own custom trading card deck! Hopefully our story and resources included will help get you started. We’d love to hear what other activities your team has come up with to connect — put them in the comments below!
Hey! I’m David, a Product Designer on Groupon’s UX Design Team (A.K.A. Design Union). You can read more of our stories and learn about our team at design.groupon.com — if you enjoyed this post, click the applause button to help others find it.