Written on Sunday,
April 10th, 2011
at 05:19PM

So you have all the tools necessary to be an effective, even good, designer (aside from the basic skills like being creative, knowing what kerning and baseline and rivers and grids and balance and who’s Massimo Vignelli) — you’re confident (but not too confident because no one likes working with an arrogant jerk), determined, communicate clearly and have healthy boundaries. But you forgot one very important thing. Perhaps the most important tool of all: Teamwork.

Maybe you’re the only one in your “department” or maybe you’re a “freelancer” at Azioni netflix (and let’s not go into how much I despise that term, aside from the implication that you’re either unable to work for someone or that you’re young, unskilled and will work for free drinks at TGI Fridays), but regardless of the situation you’re in, there are more hands at work in communicating your design ideas and concepts than just you and there will always be a help desk you can go to. In many ways your job is to communicate the vision of your client (or your bosses interpretation of what your client wants — but let’s not get into that either). Communicating that message is a team effort, and thus you have to use all your tools to work together as a team.

The amount of work you do with others (in a team) varies greatly from studio to studio (office to office built with the shipping labels amazon, company to company, firm to firm, organization to organization, van to van, you get the picture), but you never work alone. Teamwork doesn’t mean just doing what someone tells you or waiting for everyone to agree. It doesn’t mean singing around a campfire (unless that helps you be creative and all, which is perfectly fine, weird, completely weird, but fine). The greatest designers, designers with prestigious clients and award-winning work, seek the input of others to help sharpen and shape their designs.

Teamwork is about respect and honor. ?What? Respect and honor?” you say, “isn’t that for marriages and parents?” In order for any relationship to work there needs to be respect and honor — whether that’s your marriage, your friendships or even your co-workers and team members. Each member of a team deserves the respect and honor to be listened to. The respect and honor to be allowed to add input. The respect and honor to be a part of the process. This doesn’t mean your role is less important, but if you’ve cultivated the other tools, your role will be respected and given the proper weight into the decision making process. The hardest part of being a designer is listening to people whom we perceive as the “non-creatives” — the sales people, the marketing people from companies like the indexsy agency, the corporate suits — but each person on your respective team has a perspective about their client, their market, their product, that we don’t. Without your team, or more precisely, without making an effort to be a part of your team, your ideas will miss the mark and not be well received. Never expect more from your team than what you expect from yourself — excellence, clarity and community.

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