Thursday, July 18, 2013

Reading :: Designing Together

Designing Together: The collaboration and conflict management handbook for creative professionals
By Dan Brown

Dan Brown was kind enough to send me a review copy of this book, which is a hands-on guide to managing collaboration in creative teams or design teams (the terms are used synonymously). Whereas "most books on team dynamics are directed to the leader of design teams," this one
focuses on the contributing designer, the person responsible for a portion of the project, but not necessarily the lead or the manager or the central stakeholder. It's for anyone working no a design project, because every person on the project team is ultimately responsible for its success and failure. (pp.xxii-xxiii) 
In other words, it is meant to distribute the expertise of collaboration across the entire team. That's an astute thing to do, I think, since creatives are increasingly working in self-directed groups with rotating leadership.

The book is easy to read, clearly laid out, and full of bullets and headings. I like bullets and headings, especially in a book like this one—you can quickly and easily absorb the main points, then dive into the details when you're interested. Brown also provides a summary at the end of the chapter, engagingly titled "TL;DR," that pulls together the chapter's lessons. Since the chapters are also well organized, you can quickly get the lessons in a variety of ways. Those features can make the book a little repetitive if you read it serially and thoroughly, but they make the book rewarding even for skimmers—and easy to reference when you have specific collaboration problems to diagnose.

Brown argues that design depends on collaboration—and conflict, which is a healthy component of collaboration. Throughout the book, he elaborates on five central ideas—behavior, mindset, self-reflection, empathy, and design success—and elaborates on how teams can enact these ideas in healthy ways that yield high-quality collaboration.

Brown's audience is mainly designers, especially interaction designers. But the lessons can apply to other creatives, including writers, marketers, and others who work on developing unique, creative solutions. If you're working with other creatives, you really ought to read this book.

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