5 tips for collaborating more effectively

Illustrator Gordon Reid explains how to learn new skills, boost your reach and win new work by mastering the art of collaboration.

Whether you're just beginning your career or you're already an established artist, art director or creative director, collaboration is a great way to broaden your skill set and promote yourself through new channels.

When I first started out, I didn't have the benefit of coming from a university that was hugely connected, and didn't have a wealth of talented or inspirational students to start working with. But I knew I needed to get out there, start creating and meet some of my peers.

When you're starting out, collaboration is an effective way to work on new projects, learn and challenge yourself. So I started up a zine, enticing writers, designers, musicians and illustrators to collaborate on the project.

collaborate more effectively

Cover of Middle Boop Volume 3

This resulted in me working with some of my favourite designers and I developed a pool of writers who I would continue to work with.

These early collaborations were so beneficial: I learned how other artists worked and I gained a huge amount of knowledge about professional practice. Plus, I'm still pals with the guys from Sawdust and Jeff Bowman who collaborated with me on the project.

Winning new work

Having a pool of talent to draw upon comes in handy whether you are new to the game or not. For instance, recently I was commissioned to create an illustration that required animation after the final piece is delivered.

I worked with my friend and extremely gifted animator Alex Donne-Johnstone of Dazzle Ship on the project. As it turns out, he had a project he wanted me to work on too, a kinetic type animation. Instead of paying each other, we swapped our skills for each project.

Gordon Reid for Computer Arts

Since then, I've had two branding jobs come in – both requiring animation – from the success of the first job. So one collaboration can spawn more creative work and new challenges.

As well as learning new skills and promote yourself through new channels that might have been untraceable before, collaborate offers a different way of working, which can help give you a fresh outlook – it's so easy to get bogged down in one singular way of working.

Collaborating with artists, writers, animators, musicians will be very beneficial to your career. Maybe not always in the short term, but certainly in the long term. Here are five tips for effective collaboration…

01. Communication is key

Make sure if you're working on a project together that you're in contact with your collaborators a lot. You don't want to go too far down the line with an idea that won't work for the other collaborators.

02. Treat the money side as you would any normal job

If money is involved, treat it just like a normal job. Make sure everything is clear and out in the open to begin with. The last thing you want to be doing is arguing about money and letting that get in the way of the art.

03. Draw up a contract

If it's a big project, it might be worth drawing up a contract too, so that everyone know's where they stand. There have been all sorts of situations where friends in bands or artists have gone into a collaboration with the right intentions and left shortchanged or not feeling they got what they were promised out of a project. Make sure, everything is agreed.

04. Be willing to compromise

This is a big one really. As creatives, we all have a different way of working, whether its' fast paced, you prefer ironing out one solid idea of lots of comps. Everyone does it differently so be willing to open yourself to working with others and take on board their ways of doing things.

05. Move out of your comfort zone

When looking to collaborate, use it as an excuse to do something you wouldn't have before. If you work in design, maybe team up with a film maker, if you're a 3-d guy, team up with a fashion designer or musician. Try something new and push your own boundaries.

Words: Gordon Reid

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