Creative collaboration tips from 10 top professionals

Creative collaboration is the pathway to great work. It is the process by which designers, filmmakers, photographers, illustrators, writers and other creatives work with each other and their clients, marketing managers and others. It’s how all these stakeholders work together to take a project from concept to completion, via multiple rounds of iteration and feedback.

Like any process, how successful a project that involves creative collaboration is depends on how you do it. That’s why we asked a range of professionals from architects, design firms and branding agencies to share their collaborations tips for improving the creative process and creating better work.

Snask logo“Talk. Sounds easy? Well surprisingly few know how to do this properly. Stop playing games and using facades. Be yourself, down to earth and talk to each other as you would talk to your family, friends and pets.”

Fredrik Öst – Founder / Creative Director @ Snask

“STUDIOS Architecture designs for who our clients want to be, not who they are now. This means delving into their goals to see what the next 10 years look like.”

Barton Bland – Associate Principal @ STUDIOS Architecture

“Don’t be a control freak. Anderson Design Group’s best success stories happen when I cast a vision and then allow everyone involved to claim ownership of the process and the finished product. If we trust and respect each other, we can leave our pride at the door and push each other toward excellence.”

Joel Anderson – CEO / Founder @ Anderson Design Group

“Don’t be afraid to argue, collaborating is like a relationship. If it is meant to work debating will bring you closer together and instantly get rid of any weird rifts. Keeping opinions bottled up doesn’t end well. Always be open!”

Jon Massey – Designer @ BBC / Co-founder of Manchester Moleskine

Fuel company logo“When I have clients that want to “fill up that blank space” on a website or print ad, I find the ‘shop window’ analogy always works well. I ask them to consider what type of shop window gives them the impression of a high-end store? The one crammed with products, prices and SALE signs or the well-designed display with fewer products and plenty of space?”

Neil Creagh – Founder @ Fuel

“Some clients don’t understand that creating something is a process. They’ll see an early version and say “that’s great”, but that’s not helpful. Sometimes you need to force them to be critical and understand that taking a piece of work apart is essential to the process.”

Chris Basey – Co-Founder / Director of UX @ Comedia Design

Social Envi logo“Good collaboration is like dating. You have to listen well, be a better communicator and a little bit of a mind-reader.”

Byong Bark – Creative Director @ Social Envi

“Graphic designer Milton Glaser was once asked what he looks for in a potential employee and he said: definitely not the work. He believes that you can teach anyone the skills you’re looking for but not how to have a personality that clicks. We love this sentiment. Someone we know we can collaborate well with is more important to us than someone with the right experience.”

Anna Fidalgo Kelly – Co-Founder @ Crispin Finn

Ben Sanders reading I've an Uncle Ivan“Ask questions but don’t hassle the client. That means being smart about the questions you ask. Always ask for feedback, and demonstrate how keen you are for client input. It shows you’re not precious or afraid to collaborate.”

Ben Sanders – Illustrator / Designer

“If you don’t like something, it’s your job to say no. Whether you’re an employee, a contractor or a vendor, you’re there because of your expertise.”

Ken Yang – Co-Founder / Director of Product @ Comedia Design

Thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts with us. If you’ve got an interesting creative collaboration tip or story, we’d love to hear it. Share it in the comments below.

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