5 Things Collaboration

By Nicholas Nesbitt

Nicholas Nesbitt is a Johannesburg based creative specialising in Illustration, Digital Design and Sound Design. These are some of his latest illustrated ramblings. Enjoy :)


1. Rules

When you are entering into a new collaboration it’s important to agree upon a set of rules. This will help you when you are feeling lost in the wild, feel like you have too many options, or come into possible conflict.

Set up a territory or a framework that the project exists within. What do you want to achieve? What tools will you use? What don’t you want? How to you imagine this project to be?

Create a deadline and limit the time for the project. Open-ended projects rarely work out as there is no impetus to create a final product and you tend to waft along until the collaboration fizzles out.

I don’t believe in meetings, but do believe in do-ings. Once you have set up the rules just start creating together.


2. Trust

Learning to trust is hard especially if you normally like flying solo. Some people will be able to let their guard down quicker than others, so you have to find ways of coming together and getting to know each other. This process might take weeks or even years to really bear fruit.

You might find during this process that you are not suited to work with the person and it’s best to be honest with yourself and move on. Also, don’t be too hard on yourself if a project burns out or if you feel rejected because your collaborator has decided to go in another direction. It’s not personal, it’s for the best interest of the project. The creative process is all about learning little lessons from failures like these.


3. Space

A true collaboration is a symbiotic relationship, rather than a parasitic one. Each person in the collaboration needs to have space to be creative and thrive, where your individual styles can collide and make something new.

If there is a clear leader, the leader must facilitate this space and at the end of the day make the final calls. A good collaborator knows when to sit back and let someone else take control.

The ego is an enemy of collaboration and one needs to do only what’s best for the project to make it a success.


4. Letting go and trusting the process

Collaboration is about relinquishing control, trusting your collaborator and sharing the pressure. Remember it’s not a competition, so let go. If you trust the process you will see that interesting and even extraordinary things will begin to happen.

It will expand your universe and open up new networks.

You will learn and see the world differently.

The pressure and the gains will be equally shared.


5. Strength in Collaboration

There is strength in collaboration and working by yourself can isolate you. When you work with someone you are able to draw on each others strengths and negate each others weaknesses.

Once you realise you are part of something bigger, it’s easy to see that the outcome of a collaboration makes for something a bit more magical than solo ventures. Ever wonder why solo albums can often sound so self indulgent? It’s because there is no push and pull. Combining strengths and knowledge and skill makes for a greater and richer outcome.

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