CollaboratingMonday, April 29th, 2013
Collaborating with other creatives, developers, writers, and clients is a skill that is learned hands on. We each bring our own vision to the table and learning how to work together to achieve greater success sometimes is challenging. As a young designer I learned to collaborate with my art directors and creative directors, as well as illustrators, photographers, printers and clients. I gained the confidence to know when to push for my vision, when to work together, and when to let someone else take the lead. I realized how much better a project can be when a true collaboration takes place. As a business owner collaboration is more important than ever. Whether it be collaborating with an employee, partner or client, I now understand that there isn't one correct solution, every thought is important, and the more input the better the final result.
The one skill I continue to hone is how to effectively collaborate with clients. I know many designers out there cringe when they receive a stick figure "sketch" from a client, - I've been there myself. After the initial blood pressure spike, I've learned to step back and see what my client is trying to show me. Is there something I didn't try or something I didn't share? The fact is they know their business and I know mine and I've found the most successful collaborations come from both sides learning each other's trades. So we as the designers have to become experts of our clients businesses, and they in return have to fully embrace the design process. I take on this challenge by keeping my clients involved in every step of the design process. I share with them our initial research, talk about what we've found and what is and isn't working. During the designing phase we try and explain why we made the decisions we did. It's important for both of us to keep an open mind, and remember all parties involved want successful work. It's not always easy, but approaching design as a collaboration does work.
I decided to take this challenge to my students this semester at Tyler School of Art. The project was for the One Club College Competition the assignment was to create an infographic for "Poverty and Small Business Development." Anyone who has created an infographic understands how hard it can be to visualize data. Throw in there team work and assign it to a class of sophomores and it seemed almost impossible. For this project I invited a guest designer, Mike Perry, to help introduce the project. He and I have worked together on numerous infographics and I thought it would be a great experience for the students to hear first hand how we collaborate together. Mike continued to come to our classes to critique the work and help referee. And it did end up being a lot of refereeing. The students struggled a lot, first figuring out the best way to present the data, then dividing up the work. We had suggested that one of the team members would be the illustrator and the other would be the designer and be responsible for color, type and layout, but there was a huge misconception that the illustrator had the "hard job" of the two. This quickly was put to bed once they fully dove in to the project. Personality conflicts hit a few of the teams, but in the end the projects are outstanding - keep in mind these are sophomores.
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