Hey everyone,

Just trying to understand what collaboration means to design and designers, more specifically in the context of graphic design. Keeping it open for interpretation. Go wild with your ideas and thoughts on this. Also I’m curious as to if collaboration is different from co-creation?


Collaboration is a back and forth of ideas.
You can have collaboration without actual physical co-creation (someone can have the ideas while someone else does the implementation.) Still, collaboration is, in effect, co-creation if it leads to a single work.

What do you think are some contemporary methods that designers are using to collaborate currently ?Do you think co-creation is an outcome of collaboration ?

If you don’t collaborate, how can you co-create?

Contemporary methods? You mean like cloud communication and file sharing? That has just taken the place of old school things like meeting face to face or correspondence via pony express. It’s nothing new. Just a different way of doing things.

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Do you think meeting face to face has changed over time as well? I mean as far as collaboration is concerned.

Collaboration is, in a lot of ways, just like teamwork, that is, a lot of people doing what I say.

In reality, collaboration is impossible in a democratic manner. You cannot have more than one person as a leader – things just cannot be done. Benevolent despot comes to mind.

I don’t know if the team leader boils down to benevolent despot.
The leader has to be open to other’s ideas as well.
But he or she does need to know where the tuna is kept to keep all the other cats in line.

Have face to face meetings changed?
They cost less now. Instead of paying plane fare to visit a client across the country, it’s now done with Go to Meeting or FaceTime. I just did a client presentation where one of the designers attended via FaceTime on an attendee’s iPhone. We do online conferencing all the time, and plain old conference calls (the kind with no video) are a major part of some large projects. Nothing has changed. Just the technology and the time involved. The time has been compressed. Everything has to move fast now, except, it seems, getting files to the printer in time to print them. But that’s a whole different rant.

I’m a collaborative designer, because it’s a very efficient, time-saving method that reduces changes and revisions.

The first thing I do is brainstorm with the deciders and we work out one or two strong concepts together. We talk about the target market, look at design examples, search google images and land on a look and feel. Together.

So they’re already on board, and when I submit ideas, I already know what they have in mind.

You can have more than one leader, just not at the same time for the same exact things.

More communication and negotiation is required for collaboration than for co-creation.

Also, there is a difference between collaboration and compromise. More communication and negotiation is required for collaboration than for compromise. Google (TKI) Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument.

Graphic designers don’t collaborate as much as other professions because there is too much incentive to compete rather than collaborate. Designers try to hoard trade secrets. They want to have their own unique style. They wan’t to stand out, and outshine each other. They wan’t more ownership over their ideas. The graphic design industry is self-devouring.

I have seen enough projects side-tracked because of clashes of egos. I’m a believer of hierarchy. Hope I am not in the minority.

Hierarchy is good as long as everyone understands where they belong in a hierarchy, and understands that they work within multiple hierarchies, at different times, under different circumstances. Hierarchy of authority should minimize interference with hierarchy of responsibility, hierarchy of influence, or hierarchy of expertise. Also, job positions should minimize interference with roles within a task.

I think it depends on the situation, and I’ve seen both.

I’ve been in true partnership situations where we’ve had complete faith in each other’s abilities, and each contributes without egos being involved at all. When this has happened, it’s been fantastic.

More often than not, though, there’s a leader. Sometimes it’s a good leader who relies on his or her team and who serves as a unifier and visionary. Sometimes it’s an incompetent nitwit who gets in the way, micromanages and ensures failure. All too often, it’s the latter.

Personally, I dislike hierarchies, and I tend to rebel against them. The Peter Principle of people rising to their levels of incompetence often places incompetent, butt kissers with high EQs and no real abilities in charge.

For what it’s worth, I hate group brainstorming sessions far more than I dislike hierarchies. They almost always result in half-baked, lowest-common-denominator solutions where the loudest, least thoughtful and most aggressive person dominates. I’ve found that in reality, it’s typically the quiet, introspective, introverted and thoughtful people who say the least that somehow come up with the best solutions.

There’s lots of these cases in the graphic design world because much of what we do seems subjective, even when it’s not.

The sad part about those cases is that the leader usually gets most of the credit of a successful group even though the group would have been more successful without the leader. It’s difficult to detect those cases from an outside perspective.

Do you like Adam Grant?

I don’t think i had ever heard of him until now. I just looked him up, and his books sound interesting. Do you have an opinion about him?

I like what I’ve heard from him so far on TED talks. Recently I got his book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, but I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet

Your opinion about micromanagers made me think of the kinds of cultural problems that Adam Grant addresses.


One of the tag lines I’ve considered is “I check my ego at the door”. :grin: I decided against it, because clients might not get it… or they might really get it.

It is a shame that we, as a group, aren’t better trained how to play nicely with others. We’re all about marketing, which is a team sport.

Or maybe I’m just an oddball.

On this forum you’re not an oddball. The spirit of this forum attracts more of those interested in collaboration than what’s typical of the graphic design industry.

Oh good point, DZ. I’m in good company then!

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