How we use Collaborative Design to better our designs

Design is everywhere, inevitably everyone is a designer,” says Tim Brown of IDEO.

Well, technically yes, everyone is a designer, but does this mean that everyone is a professional designer?  No. However we all have our own personal aesthetics, style, even ways we interact online with sites may vary from person to person.  It’s this very reason that I prefer to involve everyone on our team when we are working on a new design project.

Collaborative design is not a new concept, however I think the way we go about the process at Standard Beagle helps give everyone on the team a sense of ownership in the project, and helps us as designer not get stuck in a rut.  

We have written about designing a color palette, or choosing the right typography, however this is specific to a process.  

  1. Invite everyone to the table  – Have your project managers, your developers, your marketing and sales team join in the brainstorm session.  Sometimes it’s nice to sit with our developers and hash out what’s even possible. Long gone are the days we silently slip a design to the developer and expect them to simply code away.  
  2. No passive participants – In our sessions, everyone has to participate right along the designers.  We do timed sketches and try to get as many iterations of a page done. This is a great way to really think outside your usual style.  It’s also a great way to see elements from others that you may like to bring to your design.
  3. Ask questions –   Example, if someone says to make the logo bigger, ask why.  What is the benefit? What feels off about the current logo?  Or if a color isn’t working, ask why. Sometimes these conversations can show you places the design might not be working.
  4. Define feedback – There are times when we want to collaborate on a specific element or feature.  Make sure to set that expectation at the start of the meeting so you aren’t going down a rabbit hole of “what if we do _____” or an endless feedback loop that ends up wasting the time and energy of the entire team.
  5. Understand that the final decisions lie with the designer –   As collaborative as your team is, the ownership of the design lies with the designer.  When everyone on the team understands this, it can help. They are there to enhance your designs, not take them over.

So, yes Tim Brown, everyone IS a designer.  But we need to recognize that there are levels to everyone’s expertise and that everyone can be a member of a collaborative team as long as they understand their role and what is expected of them during the process.

Want more collaborative design ideas, or planners?  Go here