Design Thinking On The Road

How an outdoor adventure (and sleeping in covered wagons) can help inform your next great campaign.

Matt Anderson
Aug 28, 2018 · 7 min read
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Zion National Park
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Where We Went (Logistics)

Since most of us had already spent a good amount of time in Moab around Arches and Canyonlands National Parks (and we’d be down there a month later for some meetings), we decided to head right down the middle of the state—stopping in Salina for lunch at Mom’s Cafe before rolling into Goblin Valley, dropping into Capitol Reef National Park for the sunset, and then spending the night in some covered wagons in Torrey. The next day, we toured Anasazi State Park in Boulder, hiked to Calf Creek Falls (amazing!), enjoyed lunch in Escalante and made it to Bryce Canyon National Park for an evening hike through the hoodoos—and then enjoyed a luxurious Airbnb in Tropic. Our last full day was spent at Zion National Park and Snow Canyon State Park (just outside of St. George) and we had to bail out of a very sketchy trailer park Airbnb situation (the vintage Airstream was mostly just old and parked in the middle of a giant meth den) before finding a great Best Western in Cedar City. Day four was mostly driving—broken up by a visit to Utah’s Territorial Statehouse and a stop at an amazing diner in Scipio. Wow. We went to a lot of places.

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top left: Goblin Valley; top right: Calf Creek Falls; bottom left: Broken Spur Lodge in Torrey; bottom right: Bryce Canyon

What We Did (Design Thinking)

We did our best to mimic the classic American road trip that our campaigns promise. We spent a lot of time in the car, logging more than a thousand highway miles in four days. We stayed in a variety of towns and at a variety of properties (covered wagons, Airbnb, hotel, etc.). We ate some great meals (Traditions Cafe in Scipio!) and we ate some not great meals (a microwave ramen taste test after a long day of hiking).

What We Learned (Insights)

This is going to be easier if we just make a list, so let’s give it a try:

  • Covered wagons can actually be really nice. Ours had a king bed, bunk beds, air conditioning, a mini fridge, and private bathrooms.
  • Nostalgia is powerful. I ate at Mom’s Cafe in Salina many times in my youth and during my early college years, so I was excited to go back. To me, the food and atmosphere were amazing. To everyone else (who had no emotional connection to the place)… not so much.
  • April is a wonderful time to be traveling through Utah’s southern landscapes. The days were warm and sunny, the nights were refreshing and brisk. Other than the rogue snowstorm we hit on the way home, we left feeling like the traditional shoulder season (early spring, late fall) probably needed more love and attention.
  • When people can’t stop falling asleep on a road trip (no matter how hard they try), it’s called CARCOLEPSY. Seriously, people. I made that up and I want credit anytime anyone uses it anywhere.
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left: Mom’s Cafe in Salina; right: Territorial Statehouse in Fillmore

Why It Matters (Application)

This is going to sound obvious, but that’s fine—there’s no replacement for experience. Research is wonderful and the internet is full of lots of good information. Metrics and analytics provide plenty of insight about travelers who want to experience what Utah has to offer. But none of that can offer the kind of perspective you’ll find on the open road. It has changed our thinking in small, yet vital ways. It’s not the first time we’ve done something like this, but it might be the most focus we’ve had during a field excursion. Design thinking gave us a framework to influence our travels and a way to evaluate and implement what we’ve learned.


Matt Anderson

This is the digital home of Matt Anderson—a creative…

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