Last Updated: 12 Feb, 2024
Why do teams achieve greater results than all-round designers?
The design space has evolved from solitary creation to a dynamic team sport. This shift highlights the power and benefits of collaborative efforts in design, where diverse skill sets and perspectives combine to achieve results far surpassing what any individual designer could accomplish. Let’s dig into it!
To set the context, let’s kick off with teams that have been successful in the past few decades and were allowed to use design as a strategy.
Below are notable examples that stand out:
These teams leveraged design as a strategy to harbor innovative thinking. Their goal was to transcend traditional design norms and enhance user experience, thereby distinguishing their results on a wider scale. Learn more about design as a strategy here.(1)
However, team-based design is not without its challenges. To run things properly and capitalize on all the benefits, more intricate management is necessary, often takes longer, and can be costlier compared to individual efforts.
When factories started forming, volume stopped being an issue, and the approach to designing changed. Soon enough, the need for teams of creatives started emerging and the first design studio, called The Wiener Werkstätte, was formed in 1903 in Vienna, Austria.(2) As a creative collective, they focused on craft but produced everything under a trademark.
In the early 20th century, design teams were pioneers, shifting the focus from individual craftsmanship to collaborative creativity. As industries evolved, so did these teams, adapting to technological advancements and changing market demands.
Later on, the introduction of digital technology marked a pivotal shift. Traditional drawing boards gave way to computer-aided design (CAD) tools(3), broadening the scope and speed of what design teams could achieve. This technological leap enabled designers to experiment with more complex and intricate concepts, pushing the boundaries of innovation.
Alongside technological changes, the structure of design teams also evolved. Hierarchical, rigid team structures became more fluid, encouraging cross-disciplinary collaboration. This shift saw designers, engineers, marketers, and even psychologists working side-by-side, establishing a holistic approach to design challenges.
Understanding the dynamics of collaborative design is crucial in comprehending how modern design teams function. Collaboration in design is not just about working together, it’s about:
A leader who trusts their team, encourages experimentation and is open to new ideas that can elevate the team’s creative output. This trust and freedom empower designers to take risks and explore uncharted territories, often leading to innovative and groundbreaking designs.
While pros point to multiple benefits, design teams also face various challenges:
While these aspects pose challenges, they also present opportunities. With strong interpersonal and business skills, team collaboration can become an invaluable asset, leading to exceptional solutions that only a collective effort can achieve.
Being a team leader places the responsibility for the project or account onto one person.
By assigning tasks, responsibility gets dispersed, allowing each designer to focus on a smaller portion of the solution enabling them to get into more detail, further impacting the result. Trusting the group and their skills to complete the tasks on time with the highest quality possible can spark solutions that cannot be planned.
The great thing about this is the unexpected result that might happen if the leadership style allows team members to express themselves through their work.
Another benefit of trusting the team can be seen through a well-organized workload in urgent situations, with the ability to rebalance the workload and increase focus on a more important assignment at a given moment.
Many benefits can come from having people with various skill sets working on a project. A few ways to blend expertise are:
Ultimately, attention to detail will be on a higher level, extracting the result from a standardized solution to a more valuable and unique result.
The future of design, interdisciplinary at its core, inherently reinforces the benefits of design as a team sport. In this landscape, the collaboration of diverse fields such as technology, psychology, environmental science, and anthropology with traditional design principles creates richer, more effective solutions. The intersection of these varied disciplines within team-based environments underscores the advantages of collective creativity and problem-solving.
Furthermore, the use of advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and virtual reality in design processes exemplifies how teams can push the boundaries of what’s possible, offering more immersive and personalized solutions. The synergy of these diverse skills within a team setting not only accelerates innovation but also fosters a holistic approach to design challenges.
Thus, the future of design, with its interdisciplinary essence, will continue to thrive on the principles of teamwork.(4) It highlights how collaborative efforts are key to navigating complex challenges and crafting designs that are not just aesthetically pleasing but also socially and environmentally responsible(5), catering to a better and more inclusive world.
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