Collaboration Starts With You: Taking the time to understand your partners’ disciplines leads to better results

Sarah Eisenman

Associate Design Director

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

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In the world of Web, designers and developers are both digital problem solvers with two very different approaches to their craft. When the two are truly collaborating, the results can be impressive—meaningful user experiences driven by clear purpose, which can be implemented, measured, and inspire action. As a digital designer and the director of the web process at my agency, I’ve benefited from a close working relationship between design and development and I know firsthand how much more impact my work can have when I grow a solid partnership with my developer.

But, as with any type of collaboration, the trick is to overcome the fundamental communication challenge of aligning two different disciplines, understanding their intentions and motivations, particularly when it comes to translating specific project objectives and deliverables.

Recently, I heard an analogy that perfectly explains the relationship between the two. At an AIGA Cincinnati Design Week event, “In Tandem: How Designers and Developers Work Together” one of the speakers compared the designer/developer relationship to an architect and structural engineer. Both disciplines need to trust and rely on each other as the expert in their field. They also need to have a strong understanding of the other’s vision and reasoning for their crafted solution in order to compromise and alter the plan of action when needed during the course of a project.

My goals and objectives as a designer are focused on audience needs, motivations and their journey through the site. My developing partner is focused how the site is built, consistencies and conventions, and the solid construction of code. When we’re in sync we are both focused on the true purpose of the site, openly communicating, creatively brainstorming, and assessing pros and cons of solutions as a team. In this dynamic we are functioning as an extension of each other, and this is when we can truly co-create outstanding, one-of-a-kind experiences for our clients and their audiences.

I know that it’s my responsibility as the digital design lead to involve development early in the creative strategy. Together we can map a process that eliminates the majority of construction concerns down the road and formulates a sound approach. Starting the conversation early allows me to gain a full understanding of what the developer needs from me in order to execute with the exactness and precision needed to create a carefully constructed user experience the way that it was planned. And this is where I find my greatest reward, working with a team of experts to collaboratively craft a unique user experience that people will remember and delight in using—one that also answers our clients’ business needs and objectives in the process. That’s real success, and it’s what drives our integrated approach and openly flowing process between design and development.


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