The Art Of Collaboration — From the eyes of an eXperience designer.

I was attending a live event of Adobe Max 2020, and one of the most talked-about keywords was about Collaboration.

A screenshot I took from Adobe Max, 2020 Session — Day 1

Given the pandemic situation, we have entered into an era, where we are connecting virtually.

So before talking about how organisations can master in collab world, I want to shift the focus of my readers towards a few ideologies I believe in, makes design knowledge a bit different and unique from others.

Design as a knowledge

Design knowledge is a journey where we lean less towards “answers” and more towards the “different methods of learning to find the answers”. There is no defined methodology of providing the design knowledge in one defined pattern, and that is what makes the design knowledge different.

Conveying design knowledge is somewhat challenging because experts seem to know the subject; they often find it difficult to clarify what they know of for the novices.

Lawson states that design as knowledge is not subjected to books or theories. Design is a combination of learning and practice where technology and creativity creates a correct amalgam to solve user problems.

Designers as masters of uncertainties

People make decisions about the way they want to arrange their home furniture or study tables or how they want to arrange books in their personal library, but they do not understand the origin of these subconscious decisions they take. Henceforth, the greater responsibility falls on the shoulders of designers who tend to learn about their users in a certain way and call out the possibilities of problems with unified solutions in a way that the users have not even thought of. In case if this understanding is incorrect by the designer, the same solution can turn into a nightmare.

I believe, these are some of the philosophies which powerfully stands in support of the design knowledge making it completely different from its defined way of acquiring and sharing knowledge among the practitioners.

Are designers Nexialists?

Nexialist was a term first stated by A.E Van Vogt someone who is trained in interdisciplinary & integrated science and thoughts. As he stated — “Specialisation is for insects.”

Our contemporary collaborative era has led to nexalism, where the border between specialist and generalists have been questioned.
One can consider experience designers to be true nexalists by passion as they master the art of collaborating tech with creativity. A dedicated product designer shifts the entire ecosystem within an organisation by involving every possible aspect of engineering, marketing, product and sales team to create revolutionary experiences; the users might not have possibly thought.

In one of the Ted Talks of Howard Rheingold about Collaboration, he talked about how the philosophy of survival of the fittest has taken a lower stance as compared to the ideologies of cooperation, collective action and complex interdependencies, taking a higher shift in the corporate world. The art of collaborating generalists and specialists.

Collaboration in Tech World

Let’s look at some of the top organisations mastering the art of Collaboration.

  1. Virgin Plus — This company values “one team, one dream”. They embrace new ideas through constant collaboration, mutual respect and adopting a common mindset. Some of the things they practice are — they ask people to keep their cameras on so that people recognise each other and put a face to the voice they are listening, the company hosts kick-off where employees from around the world come together to listen about latest product news inorder to develop a strategic plan for the upcoming year.
  2. Microsoft — The company plays a constant effort to be transparent and have a diverse work culture. They have shifted the idea from “me” to “we”, in order to create seamless teamwork. They have ruled out through practices such as — conversations, meetings, content collaboration & workflows. They have defined three layers to work around this transformation — Productive & aligned teams, leadership & community engagement & empowered self-service collaboration.
  3. Mind Gym — They focus on constant communication, connection and collaboration for each employee to feel like part of the whole and break down the closed walls which grow across people as the company grows. Each team talks about the lessons learnt, the way they collaborated and henceforth create a common ground for equal participation rather than competing against each other.
  4. Reddit — The company encourages leaders to be mindful to the team’s as well as individuals’ common goals. The VP encouraged the team to “own note-taking” in order to get the best out of each individual in the form of self-evaluation. These notes also acted as guides for other people to learn about them who are outside their respective teams.
  5. Sequoia — They follow collaboration among teams both for internal and external client projects. They implement this by generating user manuals for other employees to read and learn about products, they were not involved in. This creates a common ground of ideology across all the employees about the possibilities of new ideas and challenges they have faced, and how to tackle these challenges in order to come out with similar results.

Professionals practising Nexialism

Now let’s look at some professionals who are practising nexialism at a higher note and have built out great products under Collaboration.

  1. Alexandra Touget — The designer has worked on projects ranging from apartments and hotel interior design to create designs for headphones and mobiles. Touget has worked in collaboration with another designer Phillippe Starck. He believes in flexibility and precision by collaborating various new tasks and methods such as design thinking, 3 D Modelling and computer graphics. The introduction of computer graphics reduces a great deal of time in the production phase.
  2. Lotta Jansdotter — Her work includes extensive design library of handmade patterned and motifs. She creates new designs by collaborating with a wide range of partners including fabrics, dishware, homeware, artwork, fashion etc.
  3. String Lights, Micheal Anastassiades X Flos (Designer Manufacturer Collaboration) — The playful suspension light which won an Awwward nomination, cleverly allows users to create a striking spatial design with reinforced cables. Flos is recognised as a leading international level manufacturer of top-end designer lighting and innovative systems for both professional and residential sectors.

Maybe we do not understand cooperation entirely at this moment, but we have started to think about it. Through teamwork, we can have access to alleviated thoughts as there is not much harm if there are chances of KNOWING MORE.

Liked what you read? Welcome the new idea of collaboration with a clap and share the knowledge across.

Thanks for reading :)

Associate Design Consultant | Master’s Student @ LSDM