Collaboration

Moving from Boston, MA, to Winston-Salem, NC has landed me the project of positioning my skill set as valuable to a new market. And while this process has been done for each my clients, it’s a far more introspective process when the goal is to sell your person. As I evaluate my skills and what makes me a good candidate, I’m realizing that what I value about being a designer affects my creative process–my unique skill set. The first such thing is a collaborative work environment.

My former team consisted of myself, two superbly talented designers, one genius copywriter, and three client service rockstars. This team values each individual for the skill set they bring to the table. Each has been formed from years of experience, both industry-related and not. An equally important contribution is the multi-faceted soundboard that each person’s experience offers the other. Sharing ideas, opinions, tricks and shortcuts makes this group tick like none other. I was the ninth hire to that company and it now stands strong three years later at 25. They must be doing something right.

I’ve been noticing a lot of job posts for positions that encompass the skill sets of five people: Flash expert, programmer, copywriter, designer, illustrator. Is there room in today’s economy for the team player, or must we evolve into designers in a broader sense of the term? In short, is there room for specialization?

Being around other creatives has proven to make me a better designer. I’m craving that soundboard now as a freelancer. Those trusted opinions, the opportunity to share a good idea or make a teammate’s project better. But I’m wondering: Is this too much to ask from one’s job alone?

Last night two North Carolina AIGA chapters kicked off a weekend of great collaboration in the judging of their biennial competition BOOM! I’m excited about what such a community-minded competition might mean for the NC creative scene. The three judges spoke in a forum entitled, “Three Perspectives: Where Creativity and Communication Collide.”

I’ll have to save the bits of wisdom and inspiration imparted by these fantastic role models for another post, but what I took away most from the evening was that creativity and communication collide along the way to design with collaboration. Collaboration with co-workers, yes, in many instances. But all cases of collaboration need not happen in person, at work. It can (should!) happen with the client. It can happen virtually. And it can happen with new people you meet at AIGA events.

I will never cease to need collaboration in my creative process, and I will always offer strong contributions to the team. But as I learn to fulfill the need for collaboration through new and varied outlets, I realize that one’s specialization certainly influences how she collaborates, but that if there is no longer a call for specialization in the workforce, collaboration is still key. It’s the key to new skills, to broader skills. And I say, “Bring it on!”

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