Friday Design Fun: Chosen Collaborations

Happy Friday, dear readers! I apologize for the relative blog silence over the last few weeks. I hope you’ve had a good spring, thus far, and today I want to talk a bit about collaboration and design, how important it is and how wonderful it can be (if done well) or horrible (if done poorly). So let’s talk about collaboration.

I don’t know about you, but I hated group work when I was in school. No matter how good my teachers’ intentions, there was so little individual accountability in the groups that I often (okay, more like 95% of the time) ended up doing most of the work. Others knew I would do the work because I cared about my grade and took advantage of it and even when tasks were assigned, people often didn’t follow through. It left a bad taste in my mouth that has, unfortunately, been reinforced by more than a few committees I’ve been on since becoming a librarian. So you wouldn’t be surprised that sometimes I have issues with so much emphasis being placed on collaboration and group work, without equal discussion about accountability and equity within the group.

All that aside, I love collaboration when I have agency over who I’m collaborating with and for what tasks. I especially find it useful in graphic design work to have someone to bounce ideas off of and to critically go over designs to improve them before they are ready for final printing or launching online. While I’m not a fan of design by committee, I’m a fan of collaboration in design work. The same principles for making design collaborations work are the same for making any collaboration work, in my experience:

  1. Clear communication is key, as is individual accountability. Work out responsibilities and deadlines in the first meeting and check in often.
  2. Brainstorm together, then individually work on designs to bring back and compare and critique. Best thinking work still gets done individually and everyone needs time to have ideas percolate and come together.
  3. Be open and kind with critiques and work together on the edits. Also, give credit to the editors in any process. Too often only the designer gets credit and the editor gets ignored. Editing is hard, important work, too.
  4. Always praise and thank your collaborators publicly when your work together is complete. Everyone likes to be appreciated and it will help the next time you need collaborators.

At my work, I love collaborating with our fabulous web designer, Brooke, who is also a great graphic designer. We’re both deadline oriented (and hit our deadlines) and we’ve worked out good communication so we can get a lot done in a reasonable amount of time. Collaborating also gives us a chance to learn from each other and I think strengthen our own individual design work.

So, even if you’ve been burned in the past by group and committee work, give collaboration in your design work a chance. If you can pick your collaborators and maintain clear communication, you never know what amazing things you can accomplish together (and make your library’s visual communications more beautiful and useful in the process!).

And, if you haven’t changed up your desktop wallpaper yet, check out the lovely ones over at Smashing Magazine.

I hope you have a lovely weekend full of relaxation and rejuvenation. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

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