• Anastasia

Teamwork for designers

Updated: Feb 17, 2020

Teamwork for designers

Whoever you are – an experienced designer or a newbie taking your first steps, you risk never getting to the level of new project development if you don’t have one important

skill – ability to work in a team.

Why designers need to work in a team

Working alone, you don’t really influence the final project the client receives. Your work and impact stop the moment you turn in the layouts.

If you want to become a designer that actually influences the final project, you have to learn to work in a team. Working on a project is hard whether it’s residential, hospitality, development or other and it needs involvement of many people with different skills and backgrounds.

The best way of high-quality project production is having all employees work on it together, as a team.

A team is a set of people of different tempers, experiences, mindsets and skills. Each one of them is an independent professional, able to manage their own block of work. But at some point, when they face a really difficult task, they gather and boost each other’s performance.

The interaction between team members often happens linearly: you finish your part and give it to the next in line.

In fact, a well-organized team includes its members into one “informational cluster”. Each member is involved in the work of adjacent departments.

This is why a good team never ends up in a situation when an employee finishes her job and forgets about the project.

Interaction in a team – tight spots

There are two tight spots where designers’ interests cross those of other team members.

Designer – Creative director

In different teams, depending on the process organization, creative director functions as:

  • A cool experienced designer who creates a good concept and passes it on to the junior designers for further development;

  • A manager who gives designers particular tasks and makes sure they are done on time;

  • A mentor who doesn’t do design but directs and leads so that designers reach desired outcome.

A good illustration of the relationship between a designer and a creative director is the one between an athlete and a coach. Designer is an athlete.

Just like a coach, a creative director watches after and teaches the designer. She is also interested in the athlete’s results, but she doesn’t have to practice herself. It’s enough that she knows something that helps the designer reach the goal.

Important note!

This is a creative partnership. Equally unproductive is when creative director dominates turning the designer into “labour force” and when she is a phantom that doesn’t give the designer any feedback.

Designer – Contractor

Traditionally, relationship between designers and contractors is the most painful. The conflict usually unfolds in two directions.

First is at passing the layout to the contractor. Quite often contractors look at the layout and say it is all wonderful but impossible to do. In this case they have an advantage – they know the technology while designers don’t always know how to persuade them.

One solution could be gathering the team at the stage of idea. Involving people engaged in the process helps not only avoid problems at the stage of development but get a valuable unexpected insight.

The second stage of designer and contractor conflict occurs when contractors show the product, and designers realize it’s not quite what they expected.

Designer needs to understand that contractor looks inside and places different accents. Some things that are obvious for designers (fabrics, colours), are secondary for contractors. They need to build a proper house within budget.

An adequate solution to this problem also exists – guidelines. Designer needs to be sure that they have a precise system that can be shown to a contractor. To demand visual consistency from contractors, make sure you laid it yourself.

Team work recommendations

The more people are involved in a team, the harder organization of their interaction becomes. To make the interaction effective, it’s important for all team members to follow these principles:

1.Common goals

It doesn’t mean you need to forget about your own goals but make sure they are aligned with the project’s goals.

2. Responsibility for the common outcome

You must understand that your common judge is the client. The client does not analyse whose fault it is. For them, all people involved in building a bad house are the ones to blame.

3.Clear areas of competence Make sure you understand what you do and what results you need to achieve.

4. Respect other opinions

Ability to listen to other opinions and look at your work from another perspective is an important quality of an experienced professional and mature individual.

5.Accept criticism

You don’t do the work to hang it on your wall. Design must not only satisfy your sense of beauty – you must be ready for criticism and improvement.

6. Mutual help

One of the advantages of working in a team is the team’s readiness to come and help you. Don’t forger though that it works both ways.

7. Honesty

Be honest with yourself and your colleagues even when this honesty concerns your professional expertise. Accepting your mistakes or shortcomings, you get an opportunity for improvement.

8. Mutual respect

It’s impossible to work in a team effectively without mutual respect and understanding the importance of everyone in the common project.

9. Positive conflict

Harmonious work is not a complete absence of conflict. Conflict itself is not a bad thing if it’s productive. It means you have different views on certain things which is completely normal. A productive conflict leads to bright and unexpected ideas.


A single person can be a visual designer with a weak degree of impact on the end product. Team work allows the specialist to rise up to a completely different professional level.

Only by learning to work in a team you can participate in the development of really big projects.

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