7 Ways to Improve Your Design Team Collaboration

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Being a creative professional can feel like a solo adventure – even if you work for a company or with a team of colleagues. Sometimes it can feel like you lose your collaborative spirit when you’re working, head down, on a big production-heavy project. However, you know that a great collaborative environment can refuel your best ideas, earn you the most useful kinds of feedback, and give you the opportunity to learn from others who create like you do.

What are the best ways to collaborate with other creatives and professionals? How do you make sure to support the forms of collaboration and communication you rely on to get projects done? Whether you’re a freelancer that works in a collective with other designers, or you’re working on an internal team – we’ve rounded up 7 smart tips to make your collaboration effortless.

Our Best Collaboration Tips for Creatives

Keep meetings under wraps

improve workflow communication

For all types of teams, meetings can feel like the enemy to productivity. By wasting too much time talking in circles, the “real” work is halted. This is even more true for creative teams who need a lot of solo time to produce their work, and for those who can feel drained by an over-focus on technicalities. Meetings are necessary to keep everyone on the same page, but you can streamline yours by:

  • Setting a smart agenda to align on the purpose of the meeting
  • Tracking your meeting minutes for better time management and notes
  • Holding meetings digitally when possible – or reducing your meeting to a chat thread
  • Ensuring that everyone is aware of action items and directives from the meeting
  • Hosting those meeting minutes in a shared space so they can be re-reviewed

Track projects dynamically

design project management

What are you currently using to document and track project progress? If nobody knows where a project is in the funnel, things can get hectic and strained quickly. When creators are overlapping in the work they’re doing or leaving gaps, accountability falters and results suffer. Instead of wondering about the status of each project element, find a thoughtful, streamlined, and mutually meaningful way to track the project’s movement. Some teams prefer a project management software of some kind while others prefer a ticketing system, and some just prefer a well-crafted spreadsheet. Whatever works for you and your team is fine, but make sure that everyone is on board and educated on how to use the system.

Organize your assets

keep files organized

Where do you store your version files as things are being worked on? What about the photos, vectors, or other elements you use to design full products? No matter how you’re storing your files, make sure there’s a hierarchy to their organization. If you don’t have folders with subfolders, clear filename guidelines, and the ability to search through assets to quickly locate what you need – make that a short-term goal. Not only is this a good practice for individuals who are managing their own assets, to save time – this is also a great way to cut down on frustrations between collaborators who can never seem to get on the same page about asset management. Universalize your process.

Keep lines of communication open

business communications

How do your creative team members currently communicate? While the project management system we mentioned earlier is a great way to keep up-to-date, there are more immediate or conversational issues to communicate about which require a more immediate way to get in touch. If your team is prone to long emails that get buried in threads or take up a lot of work time, you may fare better with a quick video chat periodically to hash things out. If your team spans across several time zones where scheduling is complex, consider an internal chat system – the teams that aren’t in working session will see the commentary when they return.

Critique thoughtfully

the right way to give constructive criticism

Even for business, all forms of creation are still art. As humans, we’re protective of our art and we’re naturally sensitive to criticism. At the same time, healthy feedback and critique help us grow, and – for business, especially – help us create an end product that will be palatable for the end-consumer or audience. Set expectations and parameters about how your team members give feedback. Try tips like these:

  • All feedback should start with a positive attribute, before noting criticisms.
  • All criticisms should be constructive – if you notice a problem, offer a solution.
  • All negative feedback should be as objective as possible – “I don’t like it’ helps no one.
  • If feedback is particularly negative, try giving it privately instead of publicly.

Lunch & Learn

lunch meetings

One of the best benefits of collaboration is how much you can learn from your peers and leaders. Set up a Lunch & Learn program where each creator has the opportunity to teach a skill or present a recent discovery to the rest of the team while you all eat lunch together. If your team is spread all over the globe, this may be more difficult and can be done through a dispersed presentation. This helps each presenter develop authority in their various areas of expertise while all team members get the chance to learn something new.

Fuel the brainstorm

how to improve business collaboration

A challenge to being a creator in a corporate atmosphere is feeling like every creative idea needs to be the best one for the client or project at hand. Creative collaborators, however, are fueled by throwing out ideas, nurturing purely creative projects, and bouncing ideas off of each other in a trustworthy atmosphere. Find ways to put projects aside and challenge yourselves to think and work creatively together once per month. The most important way to fuel a healthy brainstorm is to make sure your team members feel comfortable to speak out in front of each other and that the other members of the team will celebrate new ideas. This is a great way to make creative spirits feel welcome on your team but you also may find that your team becomes more innovative and bold to suggest fresh ideas for client work as well.

What brings your team together? If you have any collaboration suggestions for creative professionals. Comment them below! We can collaborate together in the comments and share ideas to help teams find success in working together. Share this article with the other members of your team to drop the hint, too!

This is a sponsored post for Dropbox. All opinions are my own. Dropbox is not affiliated with nor endorses any other products or services mentioned.

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