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Collaboration can’t happen in a divisive world

March 2, 2011


The ad industry is going through something of a cultural shift and will emerge in a new space where collaboration is going to be a critical component for success,

However, collaboration requires trust, honesty and a willingness to work together.

This month the One, the One Show has an interesting issue devoted to Products and features an article by Warren Berger on “Form on Function”. In the piece he highlights how agency creatives can embrace product design and showcases how designers have brought innovation to seemingly mundane objects by understanding how products really get used.

‘….what impressed me about many of the designers I studied was the
dedication to getting out into the world and really paying close
attention to people—which is often the best way to ferret out people’s
deep, unarticulated needs. Again, returning to the example of OXO, the
lead designers for that company, from the firm Smart Design, spend huge
amounts of time watching and learning—and this leads to a constant
stream of innovations…”

He then goes on discuss the similarities of the approach with Account Planning.

“Obviously, consumer research is nothing new to ad agencies; up-close
observation is a big part of what account planners do.

He goes on…

“Still, ad
creatives might take a lesson from the best designers, who don’t rely
entirely on others to watch and learn for them. They get out there and
do it themselves.”

Implicit in this quote is the inbuilt distrust of “outsiders” to the creative process, bringing insights back to creative people. Without trust, there can simply be no collaboration and again the “tone” of the piece just confirms some of the “supposed” divisive sentiment that exists between creatives and strategists.

The important point is that the quote doesn’t reflect the truth of how strategists are integrated into the design process at Smart, and at places like IDEO.

Instead of operating in a silo disengaged from the creative process, they work very closely with designers to encourage and develop a process that leads directly from observational insights to design. Most of the work is all about learning and iterating until the product is refined to the point where it can deliver a new level of functionality.

Simply put, the strategists and human factors folks at these design companies create pathways for designers to learn and test their thinking in the real world and approaches to take them out into the world to observe people.

This isn’t about creative people going out on their “own”, it’s a collaborative partnership, like it should be.

Posted by Ed Cotton

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