Tyler Barnard is the co-founder of Zeitgeist Studios- an online forum for associating with creative companies and individuals throughout the world. Zeitgeist Studios is a collective made up of architects, artist, musicians, writers, builders, and more, each sharing ideas, designs and projects. As many Zooppers work in teams from time to time, I invited Tyler to share some ideas about successful collaboration. Enjoy!
Zeitgeist Studios was created as a collaborative site to share, discuss and inspire others to do the same. Collaboration allows for a true multi-disciplinary approach to projects that one cannot achieve on their own. That said, I thought I would share some basic rules we try to follow when entering a collaboration:
1. Talk About Money: This is the most important rule to a successful project. No matter how small or large the project is, money can easily get in the way of a great idea. So be up-front with your collaborators and let them know what the budget and financial rewards are and how they will be split up. Money seems like the hardest thing to talk about, but after it’s discussed everyone will feel better about moving forward and will know how much their efforts are worth. Plus, if your team can’t make it past this vital step, then you’ve saved yourself from a disastrous project.
2. Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses: You should have a clear idea of what skills you can bring to the table. With that you will want to be very clear about what you feel comfortable doing and what you don’t feel you’re capable of. This is also good information you will want to find out from each of your fellow collaborators. This will allow you to best divide up the work load.
3. Have a Solid Plan: This seems obvious, but is often the last thing a collaborative team thinks about. Everyone is usually so involved in the end result, they forget to talk about how it will be done. So whether it’s a poster design or a feature length movie you will need a solid plan of how things will get done.
4. Set Up a Workflow: Determining how to deliver, view and share each others’ work is an important detail to work out. The web has an overwhelming amount of ways to connect, but determining which types of connection are appropriate for your team’s needs is key. First, determine everyone’s preferred method of communication and develop a workflow around it. Forcing a new way of doing things on the project will only hinder your team. Setup a physical or online location to gather your materials and monitor the process. If it doesn’t seem to be working, solve it by adapting to what does.
5. Make a Schedule: A good schedule that pushes but is not overwhelming will help you to complete the project. Make a date that you want to finish the project and work backwards from there. Setup a weekly rhythm that everyone can work to and stick to it. At the end of each session make goals for the next meeting. A scheduled routine will help everyone avoid feeling overwhelmed, or feeling that the project is all-consuming.
6. Trust in The Process: This can be a hard leap of faith for a group of designers. But the rewards of letting a project naturally unfold are worth it. Creativity is like a running stream; we can attempt to direct it, speed it up or slow it down, but we must let it flow. So even when the project is not producing finished results, trust in the process and continue working towards the goal. It will get there.
7. The Best Idea is Not Always Your Own: This should be taped on everyone’s foreheads. It’s simple, and as opinionated designers, we must realize the value of a good thought, even if it didn’t originate in our head first. This is the reason for collaborations, to put great minds together, right?
8. Avoid Failed Expectations: How many times have you gotten into an argument because you thought someone was going to do something and they didn’t? Then you come to find out that they didn’t even know you were expecting that of them. To avoid these destructive arguments, be clear. Tell people exactly what you need from them and when you expect it. Do not assume they can read your mind as you will only be disappointed. In addition, make it a habit of asking what your team is expecting of you. Communication is your best design tool.
9. Trust in Your Team: Give your fellow collaborators as much trust as you want from them. There is a reason you decided to collaborate with this person or group of people, so trust in their abilities, even if you don’t see immediate results. Working with others takes time, and it also takes patience to reap the rewards. With that said, choose your collaborators wisely: If you don’t trust them from the start, don’t get involved for the long-term.
10. Learn to Finish: Learning to finish a project is an art in itself. Wrapping up a project and finalizing the loose ends will allow you to walk away feeling satisfied in a project well done. Designers tend to work with the attitude of “I’ll get to that tomorrow”, or “It just needs one more thing”. Learning to stop, put down the brush, clean up your space and call it day takes discipline. The reward is walking away knowing that it’s done, and that your head is clear for the next collaboration.
And of course, make sure to have fun. You only have so many projects within a lifetime, so pick them carefully. If you have an idea for a collaboration or want to read more about upcoming collaborations, stop by our site