NJI functions through collaboration, not compromise. Compromise connotes a give-and-take between parties, as seen in relationships between clients, project managers, designers, and developers who sacrifice their beliefs to encourage progress. Successful compromise often yields a loss of quality. Instead, we challenge the status quo through empowering our teams and clients with informed experience. Collaboration requires ambition, organization, and effective communication. Below, I have compiled my top 5 observations on collaboration in an attempt to reduce the promotion of creative compromise.
Individuals who produce anything less than an equal share of work will increase project time and reduce product quality. Just this past Friday, the design team worked on an interactive web mock-up. If one designer did not have the work ethic to finish our static pages, a second designer could not have created their interactive complement. Combined, our team produced a variety of designs and accelerated the process to meet a pressing deadline. All parties involved in the collaboration should have equal ambition and work ethic.
Collaboration works best when responsibilities and duties are explicitly outlined. Our design team members are assigned to specific projects, not clients. And even then, revisions can be a full-team effort. Because of this flexibility, we heavily rely on a production queue that defines our project involvement. Without this, the team could make redundant revisions, or simultaneously create unnecessary solutions for tasks.
Critiquing, troubleshooting and organizing absolutely depend on communication and, in particular, active listening. Critiquing the work keeps our design skills sharp, but it also keeps our aesthetic consistent or diverse across separate project components. We frequently critique during the early stages of a branding assignment to avoid creating similar logos; a diverse comparison of designs helps define future aesthetic goals for both client and designer.
Different mediums often form the collaborative process. This premise accurately describes the structure at NJI. By dividing our products between content (strategy), aesthetic (creative), and function (development), we create a gestalt of quality. Our recent concept for the Hilton 100 Countries site took several discussions, including individuals throughout the team hierarchy at NJI, to produce. For example, even though a developer did not design the site, they still contributed to the designer’s vision through discussion.
Collaborative settings depend on factors such as layout, equipment, and accessibility. We have several areas at NJI outfitted specifically for collaboration. They’re equipped with white boards, tables, blank booklets and pens: basic items of immense help when we brainstorm or organize upcoming responsibilities. Dispersed throughout the office, these spaces instantly become communal workspace with the help of our Macbooks. Wherever you decide to collaborate, just make sure your time will go uninterrupted.
Even under the strictest production deadlines, collaboration is feasible. The opportunity may not always arise, so start with small interactions on a project, from collaboration within the design team, to collaboration within the company, to collaboration with your client. Beyond the improved product, the extra organization, ambition, and communication will improve your portfolio and your work relationships. The next time you are about to compromise your design standards, consider collaboration as a feasible alternative.