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How to become a master of creative collaboration

Teamwork is your most powerful tool. Here's how to do it right.

The era of the solitary designer is over – and for good reason. Designers today work across multiple disciplines, in collaboration with various other specialists, and in distributed teams. Increasingly, they also need to incorporate feedback from a multitude of stakeholders.

Luckily, creatives can benefit from a powerful tool: collaboration. And as the role of the designer becomes increasingly complex, the tools at our disposal are rising to meet these changing needs.

At this year's Awwwards event in Amsterdam, collaboration was a hot topic. In an exclusive session run by Adobe, key influencers came together to talk about the benefits of integration between different teams and the importance of having the right tools to make it happen. Check out their pro tips for embracing creative collaboration.

01. Get out of your bubble

Collaboration is essential to push designers outside of their comfort zone [Illustrations: Bert Musketon]

Collaboration is essential to push designers outside of their comfort zone [Illustrations: Bert Musketon]

Working with a diverse group of people with different specialisms, influences and approaches can lead to truly great work. As Johannes Schiel, owner of Unleashed Design, puts it: "Collaboration in the design industry is always exciting because everyone tries to solve the same problems differently. When all these solutions are combined, there is something good going on."

It's a view that's echoed by UI/UX problem solver Panittha Suwannajang. "Collaboration is when we innovate. Everyone can put their insights into a jar, shake it up and bam! It encourages us to push boundaries," she smiles.

02. Embrace international talent

Every client wants the best people working on their project. Today's collaboration tools mean you can work with designers anywhere in the world. "Nobody works in silos any more – or at least they shouldn't," points out content consultant and founder of Pixel Pioneers Oliver Lindberg. "An increasing number of people work independently and remotely, from all over the world and in different time zones."

Experience design tool Adobe XD already capitalises on the possibilities offered by Adobe's Creative Cloud to make it easier for designers to work together. The December 2018 release of XD introduced Cloud Documents as the default way of working. With these, all files are automatically saved to the Cloud and offline changes are automatically updated.

That means everyone in the team is always working on the most recent version of the design, with no need to move or sync files. It offers a friction-free way to share designs, no matter where your teammates happen to be.

03. Ensure everyone's on the same page

Creating harmony between different departments is a big challenge

Creating harmony between different departments is a big challenge

"Collaboration is not easy or 'given' in a project," says Benoît Drouillat, head of UX design at Oodrive. "It takes, for example, a lot of effort to create a consistent design team and to get front- and backend teams working with the designers. We need to make sure everybody is on the same page, aligned and able to fit in the right process."

Finding harmony between different creative teams isn't the only challenge, either. "On a project, we have to work with strategists, clients, creatives and users to create a digital product that fits the brief. So good collaboration tools and processes are completely essential," says Arnaud Steckle, who co-founded communications agency Izhak.

The Adobe XD team is constantly finding ways to smooth out the workflow for multi-team projects. "Collaboration is a key theme for this year's improvements to XD," reveals Adobe's Andre Jay Meissner. "XD is already pretty awesome for designers, so for 2019 we're focusing on supporting the workflows of large teams."

04. Share resources with asset libraries

Being able to share assets is vital for a truly integrated process. Members of the creative team at Izhak share the files they're working on, but also assets such as photos, videos and fonts. It's essential those files stay up to date, which is why tools such as Adobe's Creative Cloud Libraries form a central part of the agency's daily workflow.

"We use it to iterate fast, share our assets and keep the art direction on the right track," says agency co-founder Steckle.

05. Connect your tools

Various tools and processes are involved in a product's development

Various tools and processes are involved in a product's development

Adobe's goal with XD and its monthly releases, each of which introduces a new layer of functionality, is to provide design teams with a robust tool that enables them to collaborate seamlessly with other creatives and stakeholders. Its emphasis on integration means that designers can not only open Photoshop, Illustrator and Sketch files in XD, but they can also connect with colleagues and clients who aren't using XD via the browser and through apps such as Slack, JIRA and Microsoft Teams.

06. Embrace client feedback

As Drouillat observes, in management terms it's vital to ensure everyone involved in a project shares a common vision. "In my company, if collaboration fails there's a big risk that our products will fail too, because they won't meet the requirements in terms of quality or market needs," he comments. "Without collaboration, the design team can't ensure that what has been prototyped will be developed and deployed effectively."

As more and more companies embrace the power of design to help them meet their business goals, we're seeing a rise in iterative and user-centred design approaches. XD's revamped sharing capabilities, introduced in December 2018, make getting feedback simple. 'Share for Review' enables designers to share fully interactive prototypes – including voice interactions and animations – with stakeholders, while 'Share for Development' produces a design specification to be consumed by engineers.

Want to learn more about Adobe XD? You can find information on the latest update here.

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