Your Design Team Needs A War Room. Here's How To Set One Up
In the last two years at Boom! Innovation has done design sprints with more than 20 companies. One of the simplest tricks I’ve learned is that a dedicated space with walls—a war room—always helps us do better work. The walls of a war room can extend a team’s memory, provide a canvas for shared note-taking, and act as long-term storage for works in progress. Unfortunately, war rooms are few and far between. I’m surprised by how many tech companies make space for a foosball table (fun but seldom used), yet don't dedicate a room to their most important project. In this post, we explain how to put a war room together on almost any budget.
Spatial Memory - Short-term Memory
To solve a complex design problem, you need to track lots of moving parts. As humans, our short-term memory is not all that good—but our spatial memory is awesome. Plaster a room with notes and you take advantage of that spatial memory. You begin to know where information is, which extends your ability to remember things.
Physical Ideas are Easier to Manipulate
We all know it’s better to re-order a prioritized list of sticky notes or re-draw a diagram than to make the same decisions verbally. That’s why there are whiteboards in meeting rooms and why people love agile trackers with sticky notes. War rooms take those tools to the next level.
War Rooms Build Shared Unterstanding
War rooms help your team work better together. When you capture every decision and put it on the wall, you don’t have to wonder if everyone is on the same page. The room is the page. The more you put on the walls, the more shared understanding you build. As a bonus, you spend less time revisiting already-discussed issues. A war room works great for long-term projects of a few days or a few weeks—and it also works great for one-off meetings.
Elements of a War Room
1. Whiteboards
Whiteboards come in a lot of styles, so choose wisely. Floor-to-ceiling wall-mounted—The best. I like to use every square inch of available space, and with these babies, that’s a lot of space. IdeaPaint—Great stuff (unless your walls have a funky texture). And for goodness sake, paint all the walls, otherwise, get ready to have somebody write "Not a whiteboard!" in whiteboard marker on the unpainted walls. Normal wall-mounted—These are okay if you get more than one. D.I.Y. shower board whiteboards—Much cheaper than real whiteboards, these require more elbow grease to install (you may spill Liquid Nails on your designer-y plaid shirt). The surface isn’t quite as good, so expect to clean it more often. Rolling—These come in small and giant sizes. The small ones have a lot of unusable space down by the floor, and they shake when you draw on them. The giant ones cost a lot more, but they’re actually usable.
2. Flexible Furniture
In our design sprints, we go through a lot of different work modes. Sometimes we need to talk a lot, and we want chairs and open space. Other times, we’re drawing on paper and we want desks. The ideal war room has furniture that’s lightweight or on wheels, so it’s easy to move.
Share Your Workspace Experience with Us! 
We’re still experimenting and learning with our own war room, as well as those at our companies. How have you set up project spaces for your team?