One of the things I find so rewarding about working with this team is the opportunity to collaborate with anyone here on any one project (or with everyone on everything, for that matter). There are no closed doors and the chance to share your insight or make your case is always available. We cast our net wide and all major projects are initiated with the whole team involved. As a project unfolds some members might splinter off to tackle specific tasks, but we always reconvene to reconcile our results. It’s an elastic process that affords lots of give and take, offering opportunities to revise as things develop.
We just wrapped up a number of projects for NeoCon 2014 and I was struck by how easy our team dynamic made the whole process. We each have unique strengths that we can play to throughout the process and when someone hits that creative wall, so to speak, someone else can join in to add the necessary perspective. Sometimes it’s just that extra little twist that ties up the loose ends into a perfect little bow.
So while we all collaborate very well, it’s my associates Matt and Elizabeth that have a creative chemistry that’s especially rare. They have a way of working that just flows, where there’s a natural push and pull of ideas and a calculated method of execution. They’re very efficient and rarely double-up on tasks. When one is stuck, the other just as quickly steps in with a solution. This might sound common, but it’s really odd to hear them complete each other’s sentences. It happens more than you might think. And just watching them work can be exhausting.
To give you an example, we recently developed the annual ad campaign for our client CF Stinson—a purveyor of fine commercial textiles—with Matt and Elizabeth leading the charge on photography. It’s a tricky proposition where tight, crisp product shots must be framed within the context of a broader narrative. Showing the product in the best light, pairing the right colors and textures, and artfully and strategically propping the set are all crucial elements.
It’s a lively scene right from the get-go. They’re weaving back and forth, playing with sculptural forms and compositions, and investigating the details—adding, subtracting, cutting, pasting, and pondering. And this is before they even get to the photo shoot. Elizabeth has a keen understanding of materials while Matt can focus his attention on the big picture. But then again, their roles can shift on a dime. It’s like watching a movie. You know, one of those climactic music montages where the team buckles down, finds their groove and solves the mystery. There are usually scraps everywhere, some sweat, maybe tears, and at least once some blood (but nothing a few stitches couldn’t fix). Yet in the end there is always the ultimate reward—an immaculate composition that expresses exactly the right message. It’s a thrilling moment.
I suppose you could say that there’s nothing new about the concept of collaboration. It seems to happen all the time. Yet good collaborations are rare and finding good collaborators a challenge, especially ones that make the design process seem so effortless and bring out the best in everyone.