Collaboration by individual contributors to achieve a certain goal requires skills including self-organization, motivation, engagement and ability to deliver the work. For designers to successfully collaborate and produce their best work, each will need to be able to deal with the diversity and tension that successful collaboration entails to reach the understood product goal.
Collaboration can occur with shared or mutually exclusive skills so that between you, something creative can occur. For successful collaboration each individual should maintain their agreed specific roles for working together. By focusing on different skills designers successfully support and balance their partners, instead of competing at the same tasks. This promotes a diversity of thinking, perspective, and knowledge as well as removing stress around participation. A trusting relationship creates faster results through increased productivity.
Professionalism and planning for your project may be through a rigid formula, while for others a free-form creative pattern gets the best results. What is important is that everyone has a shared understanding of the ground rules so that things flow more easily.
Your partners on a project may have very different personalities and attitudes, but the results can be spectacular. Designers successfully collaborate when each understands what needs to be done to get the best out of their time together, and what each will get done in time apart.
It is important when working with others to keep your ego in check and have some humility and appreciation for the input of others. Allow everyone to talk openly about each others work and add their own ideas, allowing for interpretations of a project that you may have not thought about yourself. To collaborate successfully does not mean being conflict avoidance. It is about making agreements with others as equals, stepping into an imagined structure, and accepting that structure even when things do not go your way.
How to win
Commercial collaborations usually have a specific brief and short deadline, this is when management of the project in terms of communication and strategy is critical. You need the right people, good communication, common goals and the ability to split tasks where necessary, so that everyone is pushing themselves collectively, and not in isolation, to meet the projects aims and objectives. You rely on one another. It’s a balancing game, working to keep equality. You do not want to give in or give up, and you do not want to steam-roll or win. Winning only happens when both partners bring their best game, keep up their end the deal, and rely on one another for balance.
Successful collaboration between small designers and big name retailers are about marketing rather than profit. If the product created, a mash-up of two distinct brands, sells well, that is a bonus. The designer gets the sort of global advertising campaign they can only dream of and in return, retailers hope to increase foot traffic to make the store inviting to those who are not yet customers.