Collaborative ideation and discovery.

I’ve been thinking about collaboration recently, and how as designers and developers we naturally look for order and efficiency — in our work as well as through process.*

Curiously, Wolff Olins published an article around the same time as I started to get into thinking about process and collaboration. It was about their experience with a client that needed to see more examples, even after the process and strategy was explained to them, and the learning that came from that interaction.

“Can we see 100 variations — we just want to be sure that the one you showed us is right for us.”

Essentially, what Ben Gibbs is talking about in that article is catering to, and understanding, the quantitative needs of a client.

The day before I read the Wolff Olins article, Design Studio launched their rebrand for Airbnb. Their process had some wonderful ideas woven into it — including building an Airbnb listing in their own design studio as part of the initial pitch.

For me, the real gem in their brand development process was collaboration, both with the ‘community’ and the company through their ‘Build the Awesome’ blog.

Design Studio’s Build the Awesome blog.

The amazing thing about the blog was that it was used as a live collaborative tool — throughout the process. They asked questions, invited interaction and shared thinking. A great example of collaborative ideation and discovery.

What’s really interesting about this is thinking of the design process simply as a guide for design thinking and collaboration, directed by the same levels of collaboration and understanding shown in the examples above.

The magic happens when you include everyone from the outset.

As experts, professional designers and developers should guide the conversation, but an inclusive process can help the client understand your decision-making and allow them to add value to the conversation.

Being inclusive in this way means that by the time we’re at our first reveal or release there’s no question about what the client thinks. They’re already on board and it’s a formality.

In practical terms, think about including the wider team in every stage of the design process by sharing thinking. Enabling the client to assume the role of a team member throughout provides them with access to all the data as well as a wider understanding of the conclusions drawn.

Further to that, Patricia Korth-McDonnell shared some insight into how she fosters collaboration at Huge through ‘flatness’ ‘diversity’ and ‘face time’.

This isn’t a proposal for a system that would work for every client, or every situation. The idea is simply to be fluid, continue to use your process as a roadmap — and in addition — allow collaboration to guide the project.

Bring your client in for a workshop. Make it regular. Include the users. Maybe even build a project blog. Collaboration > Process.

*David Carson aside.

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