How to ensure a successful collaboration

Creative collaborations can push projects in new directions and bring a uniqueness to your work that it wouldn't have had from you alone. Whether you're an agency working with illustrators for branding projects, a digital artist working with others on packaging design, a VFX specialist joining forces with 3D artists or another creative looking to partner up, the benefits are huge.

But there’s a fine art to a successful collaboration. Here are our top tips for ensuring your collaborative projects run smoothly and produce the results you (and your client) had hoped for.

01. Settle on an idea first

Kristjana S Williams' style was an ideal match for Design Bridge's concept for this festive packaging

For starters, it’s important to know when to approach another creative. Rather than beginning a project with a particular partner in mind, come up with the creative idea for the project first. Then, as your idea takes shape, certain creatives are bound to come to mind. This means you can avoid the awkwardness of approaching someone too soon, only to find that your idea or approach has changed and you no longer need them.

For example, when working on the Fortnum & Mason Christmas range, our idea at Design Bridge was to conjure the magic and excitement of everyone coming together around the Christmas table for a sumptuous Fortnum’s feast. I’d seen Kristjana S Williams’ work previously on something I’d received through the post and thought, ‘Yes! She’d be great for this.’ Her eclectic style puts a modern twist on traditional woodblock techniques – perfect for expressing both a traditional and contemporary Fortnum’s Christmas.

02. Welcome collaborators into your team

Design Bridge brought Rob Bailey on board to work on these limited edition bottles

Bringing distinctive individual styles to your work while ensuring the design is absolutely right for the brand is both fun and challenging. It’s a balancing act, calling for constant communication, so you need to treat the creative partner as part of the team and truly work together.

We recently collaborated with Rob Bailey on a limited edition Smirnoff project to celebrate British Pride 2017. I’ve loved his work for years and was inspired by his piece Hey Man, which depicts two figures in a warm, loving embrace. Bailey’s style expressed the ‘Choose Love’ message of the project so well. It was a tight turnaround, so we had to work very closely to make sure that we remained true to both his style and the Smirnoff brand, producing work that would look great on the bottles, too.

03. Make the most of each individual's skills

Design Bridge worked with Coralie Bickford-Smith to bring this honey packaging to life

Understanding the complementary skills that a designer and an illustrator bring to a project is also crucial to get the best out of a collaboration.

We worked with Coralie Bickford-Smith for our Fortnum & Mason honey range. Her intricate book cover designs were perfect for our creative idea of labels inspired by postage stamps from far-flung corners of the world. I did some initial sketches based on her existing work and the practicalities of designing a label, which she then developed. It was a real labour of love, but working with Bickford-Smith was a dream for me as I collect her book covers.

I feel lucky to work on such amazing projects where we can bring an idea to life with the help of talented illustrators that I’ve often admired for years. Each project involves a lot of work, but an open, honest and truly collaborative approach ensures the best results every time.

This article originally appeared in Computer Arts issue 270. Buy it here or Subscribe here.

[Main photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash]

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