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Working with or working for?

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Do designers need other designers?

I live in a relatively small town – there’s a lot of history here, and there’s also a large-ish college, which means that there’s a good mix of people and a growing creative community. I think I’ve talked a bit about his before, but where I live and work is, from a designer’s point of view, a bit odd.

There are several graphic design and marketing agencies in and around my town, but they’re all quite hidden from view. You really have to seek some of them out – if you don’t know about them, you probably wouldn’t stumble across them.

I think that designers as a collective can be a pretty guarded bunch. When you work outside of the big cities, there seems to be an air of suspicion, whereby other designers are seen as competition rather than part of a more extensive network.

But in thinking this, are we losing out on opportunities to foster growth and create a helpful, creative network? Rather than having that fear that other creatives are lying in wait to poach our clients, maybe we should think instead of teaming up and collaborating to offer something more significant than we can currently provide, a way to stretch our creativity and learn from each other.

Creating as a collective

If you ask a bunch of designers – or creatives for that matter – what they do, you will get a different answer from every single one of them. No two designers are the same; we all have our own style, specialism, and niche.
Of those tucked away agencies around my town alone, I bet they all have something very different to offer.

Having more than one style or skill come together can make for a much richer result and open fresh avenues for designers. It’s not about stealing work from each other – it’s about working together to create something completely different.

There’s always going to be one person who takes ownership for a project – perhaps because they came up with the concept or something for their client – but collaboration is the difference between working with and working for. You can sub-contract out elements of the project, or you can choose to work together in a partnership where everyone is on an equal footing to get the job done – I know which I’d prefer.

Can collaboration make us better designers?

I think that no matter what type of creative work you do, there’s always something new to learn. There are so many different ideas, techniques, tools… having the opportunity to share some of that with other creatives, making you see things differently and get you out of a design rut.

It’s easy to trap ourselves into certain thought-patterns, whereby we get caught up doing the same things over and over, becoming too comfortable to break out of our comfort zones. If that happens, we tend to lose confidence and then spend our time convinced that our designs have to be perfect before we can let anyone else see them.

But design isn’t about perfectionism – it’s about creativity. If we get stuck in a loop of getting everything perfect, doesn’t that mean that creativity is shoved to one side?

Being with other designers is a good way to break that cycle – rather than being there to criticise your work, they can lend a fresh eye to it, and having those conversations can spark new ideas and get you moving forward again.

Work culture

Aside from actually collaborating, keeping in touch with other designers be valuable. We make connections with who we can lean on for advice and have other like-minded people on hand to talk things through.

This is particularly true if you are a small agency or work alone – as you can feel quite isolated, especially in these times where many of us are unable to work in our usual settings.

Having that extra ‘back up’ can go a long way in giving you that feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself.

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