Be a Great Design Team Player

Design is often a team-based activity that forces you to work well with others, whether that’s creative colleagues or those from other departments, like IT, marketing or communications. Think about the last time you developed a mobile app or website. All the logistical complexities—from resource allocation to the backend coding—likely meant you were just one part of a larger interactive project team.

That’s why it’s crucial for you to cement your reputation as a creative professional with strong collaboration skills. And do it early on. After all, odds are good that you’ll work with the same people on other projects or cross paths with them later in your career.

Understand Your Collaborative Style

Step one in becoming a good team player is identifying your collaboration style. Everyone has a natural style, and pinpointing yours can help you home in on your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to working in teams on interactive projects.

This also will help you better understand the collaboration tendencies of your colleagues. If you know what work styles guide them, you can adjust your own to be more effective when huddled shoulder-to-shoulder.

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Following are four common types of team players. Do you see yourself in any of the personas below?

Expectation Setters: These collaborators never miss deadlines, and they make good interactive project managers. They scope out time and resources in order to deliver early and under budget (when feasible), and raise the red flag when trouble begins to brew.

Translators: These individuals can articulate their ideas visually as well as verbally, which comes in handy during conversations with people outside the design department, like when presenting a new website design to a client or executive.

Validators: These confidence boosters affirm the opinions of other group members working on a web design project. They may not agree with everyone, but when they hear something that strikes a chord, they’re often the first to voice their support.

Recommenders: These professionals have the ability to bring a point of view to the table without dominating the creative process. Recommenders also help to move group conversations forward, especially when they sense a discussion is going around in circles.

Five Team-Building Tips

Knowing what type of team player you are is only half the battle. After all, there’s always room for improvement when it comes to collaboration. Here are five team-building tips any interactive designer can use:

Be flexible. Being part of a team means there will be things outside of your control, like deadlines and contributions from other project members. Your ability to adapt to unexpected situations and cope with challenging co-workers will be appreciated by everyone else on your creative team.

Remain committed. The success or failure of an interactive project falls evenly on every member of the team. So, do your part. Don’t commit to taking on a task if you are unsure you can complete it. And if you’re given an assignment, follow through.

Bring energy. Productive team members don’t fixate on flaws and failures. While you don’t have to be the group’s cheerleader, do what you can to rally the project team around collective successes, both big and small.

Provide points of reference. If you’ve hit a wall during the creative process, consider bringing examples of inspiring interactive design work, sample layouts or concepts to help move the team in a new direction. Sometimes, showing ideas instead of saying them can get a message across more effectively. Another tip: Simply take a break if tension among the creative team rises too high; frustration alone is often enough to cause communication breakdowns.

View collaboration as a learning exercise. Team projects can be great opportunities to learn from others. Deferring to other team members for their opinions on issues related to their areas of expertise can go a long way toward expanding your knowledge—and validating theirs.

The next time you’re part of a project team, keep in mind that, although a team achieves its goals as a group, its strength is derived from its individual members. Do your part to observe these practices, and you’ll quickly develop a reputation as an indispensable team member—a reputation that will enhance your interactive design career.

More Interactive Career Resources

  • You can get the expert info you need to grow your web design career through HOW’s series of online design tutorials taught by some of the sharpest experts in interaction, design, usability, coding and web analytics.
  • Web Design for Beginners—on demand design tutorial covering the basic aspects of web design projects, presented by Patrick McNeil.