There's an unusual sort of friction that occurs when you go from a personal design practice -- which is usually fostered through design school assignments, individual studio practice, and 1:1 client engagements -- to a collaborative practice at a design firm or agency. And when that friction occurs, the various tasks that you carry out to ideate and create a designed artifact gets questioned at a fundamental level. You find little bits and pieces of methods that further aid your practice, and help you work more closely with wildly disparate talent. At the same time, that friction can help uncover some fundamental working methods and processes that were forged in school, but aren't entirely useful when thrown into, say, working at Hornall Anderson.
This is one of the reasons why certain designers, when faced with a very large creative team with a certain level of expertise, often freeze. I did, as a tactic of self-preservation for my working process at my first "big agency". It took a very wise art director to pull me aside and basically tell me that I needed to learn how to work with people, not at them through my designerly tendencies. Of course, his criticism sunk in much deeper because I'd just barked at an account manager about how there was no reason to change the paragraph rag on page four...
This is the first part of my attempt at a practical, as opposed to theoretical, consideration of how we can tease out the nuance in our collaborative design practices. Understanding how we function best in team environments is critical when you're under extraordinary deadlines -- which is more common than any of us in the working world of design would care to admit.
If you're a design student or just starting out in the industry, this series of posts may be very helpful for you. They're expanded from a mini-lecture I gave last week.