This past Thursday, I provided the following structure for developing a working process for your first collaborative assignment:
1. Set your intent, deliverables, and timeframe.
2. Establish individual roles.
3. Consider methods of critique. A.k.a. form the braid, set rules around idea-sharing.
4. Schedule touch-points.
5. What's your contingency? (Sick, late, timeframe or budget changes dramatically)
This structure dovetails with the "Forming the Braid" post from last week and blows out some of the action steps you'll need to take to work effectively.
In this post, I wanted to focus on #2, "Establishing individual roles," since we only got a chance to talk briefly about role-setting for our class teams. I've been wrestling with how to simplify this discussion, as it's proving to be deceptively complex. Let me take a stab at it.
There are three layers of responsibility we carry in design projects. There are roles, hats, and tasks. They are different animals, really. Let's address them in turn.
Establishing Your Role
Roles are the domains of expertise you'll fulfill through the life of a project. For example: I am an art director at my day job. That's my role. My designer, copywriter, account manager, and other collaborators maintain their roles through the project. If my designer is out sick, I may have to fulfill their project tasks. But in the end, they're still a designer, and I'm still the art director.
When you're working collaboratively with other designers, you may need to assume multiple roles beyond being just a designer. You may be the copywriter, account manager, project manager, production artist, or developer at various times.
It's good to be mindful of what roles you carry in your work. Being a designer can be an accumulation of various skills that add up to an arsenal -- but you often reach a point where you're taking on two or three roles repeatedly, and that can get hard to manage.
Claiming a set number of roles will allow you to clarify what details you own in the final artifact you're creating. If you start out as the copywriter, for example, you should be owning the copy.
For the class assignment that you took home, some of you assumed the roles of copywriter (Claire), art director/final execution (Meg), and project manager (Mark), whether you realized it or not.
Over the life of the class, we will need to consciously rotate these roles from person to person so you get a strong taste for each of them.
Putting on the Proper Hat
Beyond your role, there are tasks that you fulfill to keep the project moving along, and the hats that you wear in meetings to help facilitate those tasks and shape the material at hand.
I'd mentioned in class that when you are in meetings, there are certain roles you'd need to fulfill. The word I should have used was actually "hats". The hat is a metaphor for how you structure your experience during the meeting.
Last class, I shared with you what I'd like to call "procedural hats." You put these on in order to maintain the boundary of the meeting and what needs to occur during it:
A. The discussion leader: Drives the meeting agenda and intent for the meeting.
B. The notetaker: Makes a record of what happens during the meeting.
C. The timekeeper: Ensures that the meeting stays on task, schedulewise.
D. The free radical: Focuses on being present and contributing to the meeting.
There can be more procedural hats than this, but then again, there are only four of you. :)
Hats are not tasks. You aren't going to spend all of your time in the meeting keeping time or taking notes. You still participate through the life of the meeting to accomplish what tasks are included on the agenda. The hat simply helps to reinforce basic meeting structure.
There's also another level of hats that you can apply in a meeting. Edward de Bono's "Six Thinking Hats" is a method of developing balanced brainstorming and critiquing habits. Think of these like lenses that you use to color what you're talking about. The thinking hats are a way of keeping the dreaded "Devil's Advocate" from rearing its ugly head through your meetings. When you have time, go read the Wikipedia article about his method. We'll be dragging this method out near the end of the class and kicking its tires, just so you can see how it functions.
Fulfilling Your Tasks
Now that we've established roles and hats, tasks are fairly easy to define: they're the action steps you need to take individually that add up to the final, designed artifact.
If you are working on a team with multiple designers, your tasks need to be discrete. Otherwise, you might duplicate the same work. That is troublesome if you're billing hourly and/or not wanting to piss off one of your colleagues.
On your current take-home project you are all taking on design tasks, such as: establishing the form factor of the design; crafting a color palette; extending a visual language from color to type and illustration; designing a final logo for the brand; and bringing it all together into a completed design presentation. (And I think you're probably noticing that without in-person collaboration, getting the ball rolling on these tasks is much more complex and time-consuming than we'd care to admit.)
In our next class, we'll debrief on how this assignment is going and share learnings and strategies for our next out-of-class collaborative project. We'll also work to develop a streamlined process for getting through steps #1-5 from the top of this post, so more time is freed up for designing.