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C A Handbook on Collaboration Anna Magombe

A Handbook on Collaboration Anna Magombe

Contents 4 8 11 12 18 26 32 34 36 38 42 44 46 53 54 56 86

INTRODUCTION Context THINKING Students The Student Collective Problem-based learning Professionals The Social Designer Co-design Artistic Collaboration The Graphic Design Studio The Occasional Studio The Creative Network DOING Creating Creative Communities Types of collaboration Get Collaborating!





This century has seen a marked change in the way Western society has seen the role of the individual in relation to the group. The selfexpression of the 1960s preceded the self-absorption of the 70s, which was followed by the self-promotion of the 90s. Developmental and psychological theorists such as Piaget brought to light the value and importance of the individual self in interpreting and constructing the world in our own minds. Conflict theorists continue to challenge the Western belief in individualism and autonomy by highlighting the merits of mutuality and interdependence. Huge social movements such as the feminist and civil rights movements, and even communist, collectivist and evolutionary ideologies, have given strength to the idea that our natural desire to communicate, form relationships and contribute in our communities is integral to our survival, development and growth as human beings. Collaboration exists in many forms and the reasons that people enter into collaborative behaviours and activities are varied. You will find that in some cases it is out of necessity or to achieve a common goal. People naturally seek ways of doing things more efficiently, which may or may not work better with the assistance of others. But largely, people are social creatures. Tasks can be more fun and more can be gained intellectually and emotionally when there is an interaction. This is not always the case, as in some instances collaborative working can lead to conflict. The cognitive and emotional dynamics of creative individuals who have their own need for self-expression, self-reliance, and

independence can bring a competitive edge to a collaboration that can either be to the benefit or detriment of the partnership. Central features of ‘good’ collaboration are noted as trust, honesty, compromise, being able to communicate well and being willing to share and understand each others’ values, knowledge and skills. Many creative partnerships are successful because the partners complement each other in style, skill and vision but it can also be argued that this can prevent true creativity. An example is that of Pablo Picasso and John Braque, about whom the art critic John Berger wrote: “The Cubists created a system by which they could reveal visually the interlocking of phenomena. And thus they created the possibility in art of revealing processes instead of static states of being.” Multiple perspectives, transformation of understanding, and the use of new forms and materials led to the creation of Cubism, modern art’s most radical break from traditional models of representation. Interactions with other artists and painters such as Leger and Apollinaire helped shape cubist thought. Interdependence is not only creative in such partnerships. It is emotional and financial and as such, is dynamic. These kind of partnerships can have a great impact on the creative thinking and outlook on those involved, where close bonds are created and perhaps a greater commitment to the collaborative process exists. A strong sense of commitment is also apparent in large collaborative groups, where there is pressure to play a part and ‘not let the team down’.


In large groups, members vary in their closeness to each other so trust and confidence can be harder to build but there are also the positives of having a wider skillset, greater opportunity to delegate, and hopefully more creative ideas! The opportunity for large scale and long distance communication between groups and individuals has evolved with technology. Other than telephones, many people ‘talk’ through social networking sites or use other internet-based message, chat or video conferencing services. The ability to share images and documents within seconds has changed the speed and methods in which people can work. There are divided opinions on the consequences of digital and virtual living and communication, but the ease of access to information and communication worldwide has opened up the possibililities of collaborating with people across the globe. Cultural and gender differences as well as our individual differences, play a big part in the way that we work and communicate with others. Cultural beliefs and socialisation affect the way that we perceive others and ourselves, value the contributions of others and our own, and function in groups. The all-female studio, 10 Collective, came together in unity to support each other in a male dominant industry; 70% of people in the graphic design industry are male, yet 70% of graphic design students are female. In an interview with Twin magazine, they stated that as female designers they are able to offer each other encouragement and support. In recent times, women have taken ownership of their rights to expression and contribution more than ever before. Some of them have found strength through likeness, others have asserted their strength in spite

of difference. Although these people could probably make it on their own, there is no question that despite many of the issues that can arise from group working, the support they have from their group and their joint vision puts them at an advantage. One might pose the question ‘can’t we just make it on our own?’ Yes, we can sit and study alone in a room and innovate and create ideas, born from a lifetime of inspiration and influence from millions of sources other than ourselves. And we will go for an interview and get the job because of our confidence that has grown from the support of family, friends, co-workers. This does not diminish the value of our personal strengths and labours in our successes but is an acknowledgement of being part of something greater than ourselves and defies an individualistic tradition that has lead to insularity and disintegration of community on all levels. The institutions that have been put in place to hold our society together cannot always be relied upon to ensure our place in the world. With few that have such entitlements, many creative students and graduates need to take advantage of the support networks and collaborative opportunities around them that are often taken for granted. The 2010 Creative Career Stories research study found that “building a good professional network, starting with keeping in contact with tutors, peers and placement employers is critical for finding work, creating opportunities through work experience, collaborations and maintaining motivation and confidence. Family and friends were seen as vital support, especially in the early stages of careers.”

I Know a Guy, working on a self-initiated one day brief

So if it is so important, how can we improve our networking and collaborative skills? And how do we know what is the best kind of collaboration for what we aim to achieve? This booklet looks at how different forms of collaboration have affected the creative practice of students, graduates, and industry professionals. If anything can be learnt, it is that each person and each goal will always be different so there are no set guidelines, only ideas and advice that will hopefully help you get the most out of your collaborative and participative experiences. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to engage, express and evolve; it is all part of the process of creative growth.

Why now?

The economic recession has left students and graduates in the UK severely affected by cuts, particularly to the Arts. In order to maintain funding for universities, legislation to increase tuition fees was introduced in December of 2010. As well as directly affecting courses and tuition for students, the huge cull of quangos by the government has seen public bodies like the Youth Justice Board and the Film Council abolished. Writing for the Independent, English graduate Kieran Yates noted that arts graduates are finding it particularly tough to forge a career in the current economic climate. “Many of these organisations provide a platform that support young people, who are often told a future in the arts is one that will come at sacrifice and cost,” she wrote. There is great debate over how to preserve the social and economic mobility of young people with the changes occurring in education and the economy. Social mobility in Britain has already been declining since the 1950s. Reports have shown that building a career is even tougher for students and graduates from workingclass backgrounds. Graduates from lower social classes earned significantly less than their fellow students of higher social status, no matter which university they attended, a report commissioned by the Council for Industry and Higher Education (CIHE) found. Richard Brown, Chief Executive of CIHE said that students from poorer backgrounds may be losing out to their better-connected classmates because they lacked the confidence and social skills to impress at job interviews. “Employers want to recruit individuals who have confidence and social skills as well as academic capabilities,” he said. “Individuals from non-traditional

backgrounds need help to improve how they learn, plan how they acquire the skills needed and how they present their experiences and capabilities.” It has been suggested that a range of experience leading to the development of soft skills such as teamwork, leadership and problem solving are vital for those looking for graduate jobs. Finding relevant work experience can be just as difficult and time-consuming as getting paid work in creative industries due to high competition and many students willing to do voluntary jobs and unpaid internships. For many students that have to work to support themselves whilst studying, this is extremely difficult and working affects the time they can allocate to studying and gaining work experience in their industry of choice, and therefore the development of a portfolio for future job applications. Gaining soft skills and creating a rich portfolio of work can be aided by creating a networking system for students that they are able to access and use for self-promotion and contact-building. By finding new ways of developing creative portfolios in collaboration with other students and graduates, people can also build on their business, professional and personal skills like communication and delegation, as well as qualities like self-confidence, flexibility, and motivation. By working with others within a supportive community, the range of creative output can be expanded and new artistic avenues can be explored. Potential access into creative industries can be boosted with portfolios of work generated by self-initiated and creatively engaging projects and challenges.

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T Thinking about Collaboration The information in this section has been gathered from surveys and interviews with people at different stages of their creative career. Naturally everyone has different opinions about collaboration. Here they share their thoughts and advice on why they have or haven’t decided to work with other people.

Students on Collaboration How important has collaboration been during your studies?

Very important Quite important Not very important Unimportant No response

Most students that were surveyed thought that collaboration was important, but that either they didn’t have much opportunity to do so at university or that the projects that they had to do did not require it.

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There are many other ways that students develop and promote their work and most of these involve communicating with people outside their circle of peers including using various online tools. Although some students did not feel that collaboration was a necessity to their careers, many stated that they would like to work more with others given the opportunity.

Why is collaboration during your studies important to you? People introduce different ways of perceiving imagery, along with an awareness of topics or artists or themes that you wouldn’t otherwise stumble upon. People influence people. There is much dexterity in combining creativity.

To see how you delegate and work with others. Team dynamics, in which skills will be transferable in the creative industries where projects are usually undertaken by several people at a time.

It has helped me to develop my ideas with feedback from my peers and it prepares you for a working environment.

Its extremely important, everyone has a different creative stand point and that collaboration can really push an individual and make a huge difference to the end product.

Why is collaboration during your studies not important to you?

A lot of the projects everyone just works on individually. I would have liked to have done more collaboration but sometimes it can be very hard working with others and all finding a time that you are free.

I think it is important to a degree, but I personally did not enjoy collaboration during uni. I think when you leave uni and collaborate out of choice, better results can be gained.

Few projects have required it and time management is something of a short coming within my circle.

I prefer to work alone and at my own pace, I don’t like the idea of having to follow a set of rules and feel pressured to come with an idea or outcome to please the team. I find it much easier to please myself first before I worry about pleasing others. If the idea is good to me I will find a way to advertise this to others and get them on board, but it’s much harder in a team.

Data from Creating Creative Communities May 2011 UAL student surveys


Personal website


Sending out CVs and portfolios

Entering competitions



Meeting people

Requesting work

Word of mouth

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Physical portfolio

Using showcasing websites

My aim is to have a few internships lined up after I graduate, and then start looking for a job, experience is my main goal

To get a job at a magazine, preferably one focused on music

I would love to be part of a team within editorial design, be it for illustrations, typographic layout or even photographic manipulation. Or just some freelance creative promotions: music, shows, events‌

Work in London for a few years, in design. Get experience, then move abroad.

Mainly to continue developing my skills and learning a lot more techniques

Earn enough experience and continue to collaborate with talented people I'd like to work in the USA and become a director/manager eventually. I want to do one or two years here in my job first though so I become a proper art director rather than junior

Ooh I don't know! I want to network at my work placement and then start applying for jobs after I graduate

Something bigger and more important than graphic design

Save some money for bread/rent/transport

Set up own company brand after I have graduated

Yes, I aim to work in advertising but currently I'm making money making websites


Current methods of showcasing or promoting work

How do you feel about the usefulness of collaboration in developing and establishing your career in graphic design?

It is important to work with others, but I prefer to work on my own. It is  important  to  work  with  others,  but  I   prefer  to  work  on  my  own.  

It is important and I would like to work more with other students/graduates.

It is  important  and  I  would  like  to  work   more  with  other  students/graduates.  

It is  quite  useful  to  work  with  others,  but   not  very  important  for  my  career.    

It is quite useful to work with others, but not very important for my career.

It is  important  to  work  with  others,  I   already  do  it  quite  a  lot.  

It is  extremely  important,  I  would  not  be   able  to  make  it  without  working  with   others.  

It is important to work with others, I already do it quite a lot.

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It is extremely important, I would not be able to make it without working with others.

If there was an easy way to collaborate on creative projects outside of work/studies, would you be interested in participating?

Yes No Maybe No response

What would you hope to gain from collaborative work?

The Student Collective

Nnamdi Odiaka I Know a Guy

Nnamdi Odiaka is a recent graduate of the BA Graphic and Media Design course at London having completed the FdA in Design for Graphic Communication. Whilst studying on the FdA, him and four friends started working on self-initiated creative projects under the name I Know a Guy.

How important is collaboration to your creative work? It’s very important. When I say that I’m not speaking just on the let’s draw this picture together sense of teamwork but more on the two heads are better than one way of working. If you’ve been designing something for a while you become lost in it and become unable to see its flaws or potential. When collaborating you have someone to help you see what you couldn’t and help build the idea to make it stronger. Why did you join I Know a Guy? Serious answer: I don’t like designers; they tend to think they’re important. No really it bothers me, designers and artists are the most self absorbed people on the planet and what bothers me about them is that the best ones I’ve met are technically superb but devoid of imagination beyond reappropriation of concepts. Slightly more serious answer: What I think I didn’t get from people I’ve worked with outside IKAG is that design is about translating thoughts and experiences into a design concept, it really helps your work to have a life that exists separate from design. What the guys within IKAG have is a personality and some semblance of personal depth, by working with them we pull each other’s thoughts on the

world out and it informs our work. Quick answer: Because design is something that we do not what all there is to us. How is the creative work that you produce with ikag different from your own personal work? It’s more heavily scrutinized. Everyone’s name is on it regardless of the amount of work they put in it so there exists a really sense of getting it right. Do you have a collaborative working process? Currently no. I’m still figuring out what works best. But the standard researchdevelopment-final-alcohol system is in place.

1. Transmogrification for Unify competition 2. Creative Offence 3. Promotional tee for IKAG launch

What are the positives and negatives of working collaboratively? Ego. It’s positive because everyone wants to have the finished project reflect well on them and not put a chink in their personal armor. Where it’s bad is when it stops someone from killing their babies and letting a less developed but altogether more fruitful idea evolve. Time management is another negative because everyone needs to be on the same clock. If someone’s late the whole project falls behind schedule and it becomes harder to arrange other meetings because people have other commitments. If the idea isn’t finished quickly it gets boring to work on and the general caring about the project diminishes.

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But what’s positive that outweighs the rest is watching the idea bounce around until it’s just right. When someone adds something that sparks an idea in someone else’s head who in turn develops it. It becomes a sort of exquisite corpse of design.



Heartlands High School House Branding Project Young Design Programme

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The Sorrell Foundation Young Design Programme focuses on improving the quality of life in schools by joining up young people in schools with students at universities and colleges, and designers in industry. The young people act as clients and set a design brief for their student consultants, who are mentored by professional designers and architects. As part of the programme, ten graphic design students from London College of Communication worked to design identities for the houses at Heartlands High School. Their clients were representatives from each of the five houses, making up fifty year 7 students.

Gabriella Smoczynski “I think working as a team helped me prepare for working in the design industry. Unlike other group projects this was even better as it was a live project and this gave me a bigger drive to get things done. Working with others gave me motivation as I didnt want to let the group down and this made me work harder than I would have on my own.”

Lin Liang “It is very interesting, people from our group are all from different countries with different backgrounds. It is very useful for such a big project because everyone is contributing different skills and knowledge. The negative things is you can’t just work on your own for few days. you always have to share, make sure people agree with you and work on the same path. It is difficult as we all work differently.” René Fourie “Positives were the decision-making was easier, and ideas came along quicker. Other members were strongest at some areas than others which helps when it comes to the presentation part of the project. Negatives, not a negative but a challenge, is to keep up to date and time with the group - you don’t want to let the team down if you are constantly late.”

Anna Magombe “I have learnt a lot about my own ability to work efficiently under pressure, to take control of situations and work effectively with a group of very different people. I enjoyed working with the team and am excited about doing more collaborative projects. I think we all were able to learn something about the design process as the pupils could see how we work, and we could learn new things from each other.”

Commonplace Website University of the Arts London

Supporting Student Transitions is a University of the Arts project created in response to the issues that many students face when coming to university for the first time. A group of five students worked on designing a website for prospective and new students at UAL that would aid their transition into student life. Ella Mackinnon is one of these designers and took on the project whilst studying graphic design at LCC. What was the main method of communication with the group? Facebook

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How do you feel about the working processes in your group? Positive: Ability to multi-task, division of tasks into manageable chunks, good mix of skills and ideas between everyone in the group, nice to get to know people you don’t normally work with or talk to. Negatives: meeting up is a nightmare, deadlines are harder to meet, decision making takes ages, there are often compromises. How do you feel about the overall social interaction and participation within the group? I think we worked well together, if a little slow. But we all get on, that definitely wasn’t a problem, and we all did bits towards the project. A bit more support from the organisers/ clients would have been nice, and the constant changing of deadline also. I think generally because of the position we are in at the moment with our final major project, work experience and all kinds of other work, this affected the way we worked and our overall ‘efficiency’. I have no doubt though if we had worked on this project solely for about a month we would have done a similarly good job.

What were the positive/negative things about working in a group on this project as opposed to working individually? Compromises or disagreements. At the end of the day everyone is an individual with their own likes and dislikes, its hard to please everyone. However, I find working in a team so much better - I like to bounce ideas of people and chat and discuss what’s going on with other peoples’ projects. I often find I get my better ideas through chatting to people. Individually I find I get demotivated and bored of something quite quickly so it’s nice to always have fresh view on things. I don’t think there are too many positives to working individually unless it’s on personal projects, where there is something you specifically want or need to tackle alone. Do you feel that you gained or improved on any specific skills/ qualities, or learnt anything new that you may not have if working alone? I think I learnt a lot more about how to organise myself really, however I did learn little things too, like finding out about different ways to make a website, that I probably wouldn’t know otherwise.


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Problem-based learning (PBL) is a method of approaching and resolving challenging problems through student-centred collaboration. This means that teachers or tutors take on the role of ‘facilitators’ of learning as opposed to ‘expounding knowledge’. The aim is to give students a responsibility for their learning and a means of tackling realistic problems through collaboration.

Darren Raven, course director at London College of Communication, carried out surveys of final year graphic design students that were using PBL over the course of a term. The project was entitled Strategies for Visual research and the students were given random open briefs that required them to identify and address the needs of a specific target audience through visual means. The students separated themselves into groups and worked collaboratively through five stages of research: discover, delve, define, develop, deliver. Main themes were identified from open questions in surveys throughout the stages, and some of the replies are represented graphically. (Visuals represent percentages of people who’s answers related to identified themes)

How/why/etc. did you form your PBL group for this project?

Working with familiar people

Didn’t really choose the group, it just formed

To be able to use people’s different skills and strengths

For support

Working with new people

Enjoying different ways of working

Helpful to share ideas


Unsure about working with others

Good experience for the working world

Enjoying working with other people

How do you feel about being asked to work in a PBL group?

What are the pluses, minuses and interesting aspects of working in a PBL group?

PLUS Sharing ideas & different points of view Pooling research and sharing resources Group support Sharing workload Sharing experience and specialisms Working with interesting people Motivation and responsibility Working with people who have similar standards

MINUS Lack of commitment from other members Disagreements or not getting along with people Difficulties with organisation Difficulty or lack of communication Compromising

INTERESTING Interesting outcomes and processes New experience Contacts and networks of people in the group

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Getting to understand the people you work with More communication leads to more ideas

What can you learn through PBL that might be useful for working in the design/or other industries?

In-depth research

Problem solving



How not to collaborate

Developing individual as well as group work Understanding people and working as a team



Adaptability Sharing ideas

New working methods


Yet to find out

Response 01

PBL group: Deliver stage The identity of this participant has been kept anonymous. Here they discuss their feelings about PBL after completion of the project.

In what ways did you work with your PBL group? The main bulk of what we did together was sharing research and pooling it together on our blog, we met about once a week to discuss what we were up to. I also met up with Alex regularly as we were taking similar avenues with the outcome. We worked through most of the project together - always challenging each other, and helping each other out.

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What was easier and what was harder to do with your PBL group? Easy: We all get along well, so meeting up in uni was rarely a problem. This also made it easier to divide out tasks and share the workload. It was also easy to talk about each other’s ideas. Hard: What’s always hard is that there is always a bit of competition, and therefore secretiveness about work. I noticed this quite a lot in our group. Also there were quite a few people in the group that I think prefer to work alone. However, because we didn’t really have to work together solely through the project, this wasn’t a huge obstacle. Which qualities & skills do you think you improved by working in a PBL group?  Problem-solving skills; I think I can now tackle a problem in a

more efficient and productive way.

 Self-directed learning skills;

carrying out primary research is something that I had not done too much of, but found that I quite enjoy it and find it extremely useful. I now find I’m more open to ways of finding primary research.  Ability to find and use appropriate resources; The amount of research involved has allowed me to be able to find and analyse more appropriate research.  Performance ability; I feel I can now confidently tackle a problem from start to finish. I definitely found this was one of the projects I performed best on throughout my whole time at uni.  Social and ethical skills; Having the chance to work with a number of different characters all at once and catering, particularly in the research stage, for lots of different people, improved these skills.  Self-sufficient and self-motivated: A problem has become less like a massive obstacle. I have now got the tools, I feel, to get on and do it.

What aspects of PBL have you continued to use throughout the rest of the year? I have continued to use the research methods we used and created together as a team, and a similar broken-down approach to a problem. Would you have like to have used the PBL model in previous years? I think it would have been useful to learn this in first year. My ability to research has improved hugely, i think this would have helped me a lot then. Do you think the PBL model helps you become more employable? Yes/no and why? Yes, I think that the outcome wouldn’t specifically make me more employable, but the documentation of the process could. I think now people don’t just want to see nice looking work, they also want to see how you got there, to put it in context. I think how you tackle a PBL project is different for everyone, and can tell employers more about what you are like as a designer. Is there anything else you would like to add? Such as how the PBL model could be improved, changed or used elsewhere? I think I would like to do it more quickly, to a more realistic timescale like 5 or 6 weeks. I think it would also

be very interesting to work together for the whole project, like you would in industry, rather than take it our separate ways. I think it would make the project more challenging. But I don’t know if that would be in a good way. I think it would particularly benefit first years. I feel my work has had a massive improvement since we completed this project.

Professionals on Collaboration How important has collaboration been at work?

Very important Quite important Not very important Unimportant No response

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More of the people surveyed that were already working in a creative role thought that collaboration was important to the work that they do, than those who were studying. Sharing ideas and staying in contact with people was seen as a crucial part of creative working.

Why is collaboration at work important to you?

Well, being a freelancer is all about collaborations. That’s how you get your jobs - you collaborate with other (in my case artists) who need your skills.

Going away with an idea is beneficial for personal development but congregating at the end of it highlights and nurtures areas to work on and adjust. Suggestion is key in guiding the outcome to a conclusive successful result.

You need to share ideas and pass work around, so it is important to communicate effectively and work together.

When you’re working within this industry, working as a part of a team is vital, knowing how to share ideas is fundamental to this sector.

While working in design industry, collaborating with creative people is quiet vital as it will keep your interest (again), sometimes working in real life scenario can be quiet stressful and you don’t get to do what you really want. Collaborating depending on a project that will suits you is always a refreshment from stressful and busy environment.

To see how you delegate and work with others. Team dynamics, in which skills will be transferable in the creative industries where projects are usually undertaken by several people at a time.

I am always liaising with clients / boss to make sure we both agree on design.

Because where I work there is a strong ‘team’ ethic so everything is done through collaboration.

Why is collaboration at work not important to you?

It’s a project where you’re mostly alone. As a freelance job it’s a lot easier if I was to work alone. We contact through skype phone and emails.

Data from Creating Creative Communities May 2011 UAL student surveys

The Social Designer

Joanna Choukeir Uscreates

Joanna is the Design & Communication Director at Uscreates, a social change agency that works collaboratively to develop effective ways of dealing with social challenges. She is a lecturer and mentor at UAL, and is undertaking PhD research into communication design methods for social integration.

What is your creative job role? I am mostly involved in projects that answer a communication design challenge for proposal writing, to research, development and implementation. I am also involved in the internal marketing strategy of the company. How much of the work that you do involves working with others? I would say about 80 percent of my work involves working with others. Do you have a collaborative working process? Projects at Uscreates are very collaborative. We work with the client to identify their aims, with colleagues at Uscreates to draw on each person’s special expertise, with associates where special expertise, with members of the target audience to understand them better and what works for them, and involve them in the design process, and with manufacturers and producers to ensure projects are implemented effectively. What are the positives and negatives of working collaboratively? Every person we work with has a specific expertise that they can contribute to a project. So the positive is definitely building a collective input to develop an output of a better

quality, targeting and effectiveness than if each person worked on it individually. It’s also great because everyone develops a sense of ownership of the work. The negatives (or more optimistically, the challenge) of working collaboratively is that it requires team work skills to ensure everyone feels involved and valuable, coordination among the different groups, and it’s time consuming to recruit the right people, and find members of the target audience who are willing to take part. Do you have any tips or advice for students and graduates regarding collaborative working? Go to creative events, network, collect contact details and keep in touch sharing the work that you’re doing and asking what others have been up to. When working in a group, find the right balance when it’s a good time to work as a group and come up with ideas or give feedback, and when it’s better for each person to work individually on what they’re really good at doing. Ensure that when tasks are delegated, each person feels like they are making the best use of their skills.


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Co-design is collaborative design that involves all stakeholders - the designer, the client and the wider community. Solutions for communities are created through collective thinking and design.


1. Come up with as many ideas as possible. 2. No idea is a bad idea, so keep your feedback constructive. 3. Two heads (or twenty) are better than one. 4. Document everything throughout the process. You never know when there is something worth coming back to. 5. Play, doodle, draw: express your ideas visually. 6. Ensure everyone has the freedome to opt out of any activity they’re not comfortable with. 7. Everyone here is an expert in their own area, so listen to their ideas. 8. Have fun!

Artistic Collaboration

Mark Selby Mark Selby is an artist based in London. His sculptures and pieces parody the idea of technological progression and the systems of social interaction. He recently completed an MA in Fine Art/Sculpture at Wimbledon College of Art and is the 2009 recipient of the Clifford Chance Sculpture Award.

“When sharing a space, honesty is important. Sharing is hard. Being quiet for hours can be OK. Open studios are a good way to meet people. It’s not the number of people, but the quality of the dialogue that is important. Don’t go with any expectations of hunting down curators or artists. It is more important to work with people that can help you. And what can you do for them?”

Jimmy Merris Pat and Trevor

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Jimmy Merris is an artist at Downturn studios and previously worked as an Associate Lecturer at London College of Communication. He started working with Joe Coppard whilst studying at LCC and they have continued to do so under the alias Pat and Trevor. One of their projects was This is Why We Meet, a collaboration between Weiden + Kennedy to showcase and celebrate collaborative working in the arts.

How would you describe your creative job role? Video artist and print maker. What did you learn about collaboration from collaborative projects such This is Why We Meet? Some people are cut out for it, and others are not. Thats fine, though. Do you have a collaborative working process? No (Joe may disagree). What are the positives and negatives of working collaboratively? There are too many positives, and too many negatives - so its perfect really.

Jimmy’s tips on collaboration Sometimes it gets lonely working on your own. It is harder to work with big groups, because the ideas can get diluted sometimes its better to stick with the orginal idea and start making. Your own ideas start to develop, independently.


Steve Lloyd participating in activities at the V&A Village FĂŞte installation, created by ico.

The Graphic Design Studio

Steve Lloyd ico

Stephen Lloyd is the Creative Director at ico design, a central London design consultancy specialising in branding, print and digital media design. He is also Associate Lecturer at London College of Communication.

What is your creative job role? Creative Director How much of the work that you do involves working with others? Every single project has collaboration at it’s heart. Do you have a collaborative working process? Benign dictatorship. While there is a collective approach that allows every team member to contribute, someone has to take responsibility for the outcome.

Steve’s tips on collaboration Students should try to work in partnership with others from different disciplines. Natural collaborations might be from similar practices, photography or illustration, but more interesting results might come from working with musicians or writers.

Our approach is to kick off each project with a brainstorm meeting. Then tasks are assigned and work begins, discussion between team members throughout the project enables further collaboration and we have regular catch up meetings where additional insights can be brought up. What are the positives and negatives of working collaboratively? The negatives are that it can be difficult to organize and manage, but the positives are that different team members have different strengths. This collectively comes together to produce an outcome that a single member could never have achieved alone.

Paul Bailey

We Draw Lines Paul Bailey is a graphic designer and lead tutor at London College of Communication. He is also director and co-founder of the occasional design studio, We Draw Lines, which works with clients such as the V&A, Central Saint Martin’s and the British Council. Simultaneously, Paul continues to pursue his own personal research on ‘the book’.

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“So basically, occasional practice – when I graduated, I got into it quite quickly. It just kind of just happened but I was doing lots of freelance. Lots of different things were happening whilst I was teaching, doing my full time job. I found that quite interesting, also in terms of collaboration I found that because time was really limited and I was working with other people that didn’t have much time, you can work a lot quicker and you can pool skills and you can get stuff done. I started working a lot with my partner Ben and we decided that rather than doing two separate things, because we were getting similar jobs and we were interested in similar things, we would set up the studio. Obviously when you are setting something up you go, what’s the purpose of doing this, is it useful, are we actually a studio? And initially in terms of output we were really comparing ourselves to full time studios. Until we had our first ‘studio meeting’ we really didn’t talk about that and we thought we have to do more, more, more and we have to do this, and this, and this. When actually it’s a studio that does exist on evenings or the weekends, that’s not really a 9-5 studio – what is that? And is that a valid model? Does it work?

Because we have full time jobs, the studio has been set up for financial gain and to engage with the practice that we are interested in and that is interesting because that means that you can choose projects rather than do any project. So you can be selective and you can look at your full time job and see what time you have available and what resources you have. It definitely does affect the work you take but it also gives you freedom because you’re not so focused on the financial.”

Paul’s tips on collaboration Collaboration needs to be purposeful. Be honest. Expect things to go wrong and change. Choose the people you work with wisely. Is it someone you can learn from and is it useful for everyone involved?

WHAT IS THE OCCASIONAL STUDIO? The idea of an ‘occasional graphic design studio’ was inspired by the Zurich-based studio, Lehni-Trüb which was founded in 2005 by Urs Lehni and Lex Trüb. Whilst operating as an occasional studio, they are able to focus on their other interests: investing in their independent publishing ventures (Rollo Press and Bookhorse), running a project space in Zurich called Corner College, and going swimming. “We don’t really function according to a master plan. Whenever new commissions come up, we decide whether we’re interested in doing them; if we are, we negotiate further to find out if we want to work on them together, separately, or in combination with other designers. Besides this, the two of us initiate our own projects. Timewise, these non-commissioned projects take up at least half our time.”

The Creative Network

Jo Spencer Soupa

Josephine Spencer is Creative Director at OK-Jo Studio and founder and editor of Soupa Creative Network. Soupa showcases talent from various creative fields as well as blogging about the latest creative projects and events. SOUPA started with myself and a friend we were working at Time Out at the time and a little frustrated by the brand guidelines we had to follow on every book or magazine we produced. We wanted something which would be a creative outlet for us both. Not many individuals had websites in 2005 (surprisingly) and we were keen to get our work online and have somewhere to share projects, ideas and potentially collaborate - at this point I started talking to friends about it and launched the site showcasing around 8 peoples work.

My main advice would be only to do this if you are willing to keep it going - it takes a lot of time to keep interest in something like this and doesn’t often sustain itself. However if you are passionate about it this will come across. The best way to keep people interested is to connect with industry and become a useful up to date resource.

The site developed and grew gradually and i used it as a base to learn more about web design. Since the popularity of blogs was rising I decided it would be interesting to include a blog aspect to it where we could share news about SOUPA but also about creative events and competitions which also generated more interest and hits to the site. Soupa’s primary audience is creatives themselves - it is aimed at illustrators/ designers to be more of a resource, somewhere to find out about events etc than anything else.

How would you describe your creative job role? My ‘job’ is many things. I describe myself foremost as a graphic designer, but I undertake many other roles in teaching, soupa etc. Take a look at my site to find out how I work in more detail: http://www.okjostudio. com/#1310911/About and CV at http://

Jo’s tips on collaboration Be open with your own ideas, and open to others. Put the time in, be upfront and clear with yourself and others about what you want to get out of the process/project and what you are willing to put into it.

How much of the work that you do involves working with others? Much of the work I undertake within my company involves someone else in some way. I sub-contract some of the work on projects such as web development, admin and artworking but undertake most of the creative work myself. And when I can I commission illustrators to take on some of the work we get in. Most of the time, I work more in a ‘creative director’ role, managing and directing the work undertaken.

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Do you have a collaborative working process? Not really, it depends on who you are working with, what the project is, deadlines etc. If you have a tight deadline it can be very restrictive and I might have to direct more, but if you have more time it can be more of a creative free process. What are the positives and negatives of working collaboratively? You will always learn from other people, whether it is how to do something or even how not to. Either way it is definitely a positive learning process.



1. Illustration for Craft Guerilla 2. Soupa Showcase booklet 3. Illustration for Power in Numbers exhibition

Alison Coward Bracket

Alison Coward is the founder of Bracket, an organisation that helps people in creative industries develop their business through collaboration. Work done by Bracket includes initiatives and projects to support collaborative working, consultancy, and practical and interactive workshops.

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How did Bracket come about? The idea came when I was studying on an MA Enterprise and Management for the Creative Arts, which I’d decided to do to find effective ways of supporting creative businesses. I did a lot of reading around the nature of the creative industries – networked, collaborative etc. At the same time, I was developing an interest in online collaboration tools, and decided to investigate what could happen if they were used as a support method for creative practitioners. That’s when I became really interested in helping the creative sector to collaborate more effectively using online tools. Part of this idea was the agency – which brings individual practitioners/ freelancers together to collaborate on projects for clients. I also do workshops and consultancy in the area. Why is collaboration important to creative individuals & organisations? Collaboration has always been a characteristic of the creative industries. It helps businesses/ organisations/individuals to achieve more than they could alone – develop new ideas for products and services, access larger and more interesting projects, learn new skills and develop knowledge, share resources and therefore save costs.

What are the online tools that Bracket utilises to support collaboration? What are the benefits of these in comparison to other forms of communication or working processes? We use a range of tools depending on the project. I’d say that the ones we use most frequently are Google Docs, Skype and Dropbox – but there are also some task/project management tools that we use to keep track of project progress. Benefits of using online tools is that they can document a project from start to finish, and the most upto-date version of any document, file progress report is always available. With things such as Google Docs, team members can work simultaneously on them – I often set up virtual coworking sessions using Google Docs and Skype if it’s not possible for team members to be in the same room. It’s sometimes hard to get people away from e-mail as it’s such an easy tool to use, but online tools can be much more effective – they don’t clog up your inbox, it’s always obvious what the latest version of anything is. How important has collaboration been to your own work? Vital. Apart from the workshops and consultancy that I do, the other projects that I currently run – RewireLondon and INCUBE8 – are collaborations with other partners

(and encourage collaborative working in themselves). We all bring a different skill set and perspective, which makes the projects really interesting and unique. And of course, the agency Bracket Creative, depends on bringing teams together to collaborate on creative projects. What are the positives and negatives of working collaboratively? Positives: working on interesting projects, learning from others, sharing and saving resources (plus the other things I’ve mentioned above) Negatives: real/true collaboration can be difficult. Finding ways of working that suits all the individuals, appreciating other working styles. It involves sharing ideas, openness, trust, letting egos go, good communication – and this can be difficult for anyone used to working on their own. Collaboration will always bring conflict – which isn’t always a bad thing as that

can help to develop innovative ideas. But again, some teams find this difficult to get through.

Alison’s tips on collaboration The temptation when you embark on a collaborative project is to jump straight in with the creative ideas, but it’s always a good idea to spend some time up front planning – identifying shared goals, what each collaborator is bringing, agreeing what will be achieved, identifying how you will work together (using online tools etc), setting deadlines etc. Don’t avoid conflict, just recognise it when’s it happening and have ways of getting over it. Use online tools, rather than e-mails, in the main part, to communicate. That way you have everything relating to the project in one place and will always be working on the most up-to-date version. There are more tips and advice on the Bracket blog: http://bracketprojects.

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D Doing Collaboration

This chapter will show what you can get out of different types of collaboration, and some handy pointers on how to start your own collaborative projects.

Creating Creative Communities

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Creating Creative Communities (CCC) is a research project that informs the content of this booklet, exploring the potential of networking and collaboration amongst creatives. This is separate from the project of the same name run by the Student Union at University of the Arts London, but recommendations for the development of creative collaboration have been made in conjunction with their research, and therefore uses UAL as a case study: students at UAL belonging to various courses as well as being part of the wider UAL network of colleges were surveyed to find out how they feel about their communities and how opportunities for networking and collaboration can be improved.

Research into Creating Creative Communities suggests that there is a lot of improvement that can be made to the communities of students in the arts. Communities exist, but many people feel a greater sense of institutional belonging to their individual colleges than to the University of the Arts as a whole. Forty percent of students wanted to be a community member because communities offer great networking opportunities. Popular ways of improving community life, suggested by students, were to have events across colleges and collaborative projects across courses. CCC organised collaborative workshops that were promoted across UAL colleges via Facebook and a CCC blog that also provided tips and advice

for those interested in group working and networking. The people that participated were asked how they felt about these activities and whether they felt they gained anything from the experience or if there were downsides to working with others. There were multiple variables such as the length of time spent collaborating, the size of the group, the type of project etc. Through observation, surveys and analysis, the types of collaboration were grouped and the outcomes recorded. This information can be useful in deciding what kind of collaboration might be useful for your aims, what to prepare for, and what might be gained from working in different ways.

Types of Collaboration Some types of creative collaboration are organised and have a clear purpose and intent. Many happen spontaneously and ‘just for fun’, with unpredictable results. As part of CCC, different types of collaboration were organised and observed.


See London: Alternative Mapping

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Doodlethon: Doodle Docs

Doodlethon: Pictures & PVA

specific planned outcome

BA/FdA End of Year Show Meeting

UAL Website Brainstorm

Heartlands High House Branding


Doodlethon: Circle Game

no specific planned outcome

Doodlethon: Exquisite Corpse Comic Strip

Information Collection & Analysis Doodlethon: Circle Game

See London: Alternative Mapping

Doodlethon: Doodle Docs

BA/FdA End of Year Show Meeting

Interpersonal Exchange

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Doodlethon: Exquisite Corpse Comic Strip

Doodlethon: Pictures & PVA

[Collaborative project types are based on those in the book Virtual Architecture by Dr Judi Harris] Interpersonal Exchanges are those activities in which individuals communicate with other individuals, individuals communicate with groups or groups communicate with other groups. Information Collection and Analysis actitivities are those which involve people collecting, compiling,and comparing different types of interesting information. Problem Solving activities promote critical thinking, collaboration, and problem-based learning.

Heartlands High House Branding

Problem solving

The following pages show what came out of some the collaborations in terms of the benefits, downsides, and creative outcomes. Themes have been identified through surveys of participants and observation during collaborations. UAL Website Brainstorm

Digital project outcomes can also be viewed on the CCC blog: http://creatingcreativecommunities. Outcomes










COMMUNICATION AND WORKING PROCESSES Strong communication Efficient working Compromise Delegation Useful group feedback Quick decision-making Creative freedom Fun & excitement SOCIAL INTERACTION AND PARTICIPATION Sense of responsibility Strong team dedication Sharing ideas Sharing networks/contacts Open participation Sense of achievement Strong motivation Support & encouragement Competitive CREATIVE OUTCOMES AND SKILLS GAINED Unexpected outcome Achievement of set goals Social skills Practical skills

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Creative thinking



(where notable)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Heartlands High House Branding Project

Brainstorming session for UAL website

See London: Alternative Mapping

BA/FdA End of Year Show Meeting

Doodlethon: Pictures and PVA

Doodlethon: Circle Game

Doodlethon: Exquisite Corpse Comic Strip

Doodlethon: Doodledocs


Heartlands High House Branding Project Participants: 10 Length of participation: 3 months Method of communication: Face to face/social networking



As part of the Sorrell Foundation Young Design Programme, a student design team created identities for the constellation-inspired houses at the new build secondary school, Heartlands High in north London. Our clients were representatives from each of the five houses, making up 50 Year 7 students.

Communication & working processes

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There was the potential for us to present our work and what hopefully would be real outcomes, at the official opening for the school in September 2011. We would only meet the clients 3 times before the final concept presentation so the timing was tight, meaning we had to be organised, communicate well, and think carefully about each meeting so that we would get as much relevant information and feedback from the young people as possible. It was useful that everyone in the group had different skills, abilities and interests, as we were able to delegate accordingly and have interesting outcomes and ideas that we met up to discuss and communicated by sharing on Dropbox and Facebook.

• • • • • •

Productive Not able to work at own pace Different ways of working = compromise and mutual agreement Regular meetings and communication Constructive feedback Delegation

Social interaction & participation

• • • • •

Responsibility Different backgrounds, skills and knowledge = interesting process and outcomes Constant sharing of ideas Praise and motivation Dedication to the team = motivation to work harder

Outcomes and skills gained

• • • • •

Communicating ideas to group and large group of clients Compromising Large volume of work = sense of achievement New skills learnt from peers Working in a team prepares for working in design industry

Overall feeling about project

Working in a group was a necessity for this project.

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Pattern design for the ‘Aquila’ house and a mockup of how it may look on a wall in the school.


Brainstorming session for UAL website Participants: 5 Length of participation: 1 hour Method of communication: Face to face/social networking

ABOUT We needed a concept for a website theme, and it had to be made quickly! After much deliberation, discussion and trial, a decision had to be made that the whole group would agree with. We knew we wanted handdrawn and animated elements, fun visuals, simple navigation. We gave ourselves 10 minutes to draw/write themes relating to the site and after sharing our ideas we discussed visuals that would complement the themes and interrelated within our ideas. We decided on ideas for icons that could represent the contents of the site, were handdrawn and would be animated.

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Sharing ideas, compromise, and communication was important here as was setting ourselves quick targets and being decisive. The collaborative effort was successful as the activities gave us direction and focus.

THEMES Communication & working processes

• • • • •

Listening to each other’s views Open to new ideas Efficient working Quick decision making More people = greater input

Social interaction & participation

• • •

Openness = good motivation Sharing Delegation

Outcomes and skills gained

• • •

Listening Working quickly Being open to ideas

Overall feeling about project

Working in a group was good for this project.


See London: Alternative Mapping Participants: 2 Length of participation: 1 day Method of communication: Face to face/photography



We didn’t have a strict schedule, the aim was to get together and take some photos of the local area. We would then find some way of mapping London in an alternative way. The progress was organic and therefore quite enjoyable. We really got into the creative aspect of photography, noticing and looking at things in different ways, whilst appreciating each others results.

Communication & working processes

The idea of creating a blog that showed what we saw chronologically, therefore mapping our journey through photographs, was a great way of putting our joint efforts into one outcome. I would like to organise something like this again, and it would be interesting to see how different people’s input would affect the development of the blog.

• • • • • • •

No expectations Explorative Constructive Inspiring Randomness = fun Free Organic

Social interaction & participation

• •

Supportive and encouraging Equal and open participation

Outcomes and skills gained

• • •

Photography Exploration of unusual places Joint decision making

Overall feeling about project

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Working in a group was good for this project.

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We decided to map our journey by creating a blog and photgraphic journal of our route. See the outcome at


BA/FdA End of Year Show Meeting Participants: 10 Length of participation: 1 hour Method of communication: Face to face/Email



A small group of 3rd year students on the Design for Graphic Communication course met up to discuss and plan their final year exhibition. The meeting was planned but for a couple of participants, joining in happened quite spontaneously. It was worthwhile, as although reasonably informal, the meeting was lead and structured efficiently. Everyone had an input which was important as the results of the meeting would affect us all. The group then shared the decisions or ‘proposal’ with second year students with whom we would be sharing an exhibition space. The way the meeting was lead primarily by one person, but still having contribution from everyone involved was important to get things done in an organised and efficient, yet fair way.

Communication & working processes

• • • •

• • •

Hard to communicate with large group Lack of understanding of each other’s aims Lack of constructive feedback and criticism Good to have project leader for efficient management, organisation, strong communication and decision making Good to have time limit Shared networks Shared ideas

Social interaction & participation

• • • •

Disagreements between group members Necessary to delegate tasks Support from the group Motivation to help team by taking on responsibilities

Outcomes and skills gained

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• • •

Project management Verbal/written communication Knowledge of process and participation in group outcomes

Overall feeling about project

Working in a group was a necessity for this project.


Doodlethon: Pictures & PVA Participants: 2 Length of participation: 4 hours Method of communication: Face to face



Although there were some ideas and suggestions for possible activities for the Doodlethon, the outcomes were definitely not defined. On meeting up we decided on a theme that we could both identify with and felt happy to doodle about. The time was spent chatting as well as drawing and we carried on until my partner stuck a picture of Michael Jackson down and scrawled ‘I’m still alive’ next to it, which got us giggling and lead to a second piece - a close up collage portrait of MJ.

Communication & working processes

Part of the enjoyment came from the informality and spontaneity of decision-making regarding the process, and outcomes we liked because of shared ideas and vision. This may have been more difficult with more people, although the results may have been more unexpected and interesting.

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Doodles were also submitted online via email which meant a larger collection could be gathered, but on different themes so there was a variety of images and styles.

• • • •

Fun Continuous (/endless!) process Free communication Easy decision making

Social interaction & participation

• • •

Comfortable Relaxed/relaxing Equal and cooperative

Outcomes and skills gained

• • • •

Verbal/visual communication Doing portraits Looking at form and colour Contributing to someone else’s vision

Overall feeling about project

Working in a group was a necessity for this project.

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Doodlethon: Circle Game Participants: 8 Length of participation: 1 minute Method of communication: Drawing on paper



Sheets of paper with empty circles printed on them were distributed to people with the instructions to adapt as many of the circles into objects as they could within a time limit.

Communication & working processes

Participants were curious about why they were filling in empty circles on a piece of paper but this was a great way to find out about what people thought of as common shapes and objects, and how creative people could be when there was no timing to complete the sheet compared to when they were under pressure.

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It was necessary not to disclose the aim of the activity (compiling the drawings to see how people think through their drawings) as knowledge of the aim would affect the result.

• • •

Fun Unusual Non verbal

Social interaction & participation

• • •

Unspecified goal = inquisitiveness Competitive Playful

Outcomes and skills gained

• •

Creative thinking Working under pressure

Overall feeling about project

Working in a group was good for this project.


Doodlethon: Exquisite Corpse Comic Strip Participants: 4 Length of participation: 20 minutes Method of communication: Drawing on paper



This game was about having fun and knowing that anyone could be involved in getting their doodle on. This meant that there were a lot more possibilities and more people felt comfortable with the activities because there was no pressure to create a ‘masterpiece’ although it could be argued that this is one way it can be done!

Communication & working processes

Freedom of expression and motivation to join in came from lack of structure and expectation, which lead to some interesting outcomes and interest in future workshops.

• • • •

Fun Unusual and refreshing Easygoing atmosphere Interesting and surprising

Social interaction & participation

• • •

Positive response to creative ideas Full participation Freedom of creativity and expression = motivation to participate

Outcomes and skills gained

• • • •

Discovered a new game! Creative visual storytelling Contributing to someone else’s vision Being imaginative

Overall feeling about project

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Working in a group was a necessity for this project.

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Doodlethon: Doodle docs Participants: 7 Length of participation: 11 days Method of communication: Drawing on Google docs



I posted a link on Facebook inviting people to doodle on Google docs. There was no theme or any other instructions so the outcome could not be predicted, and it was fun to see what would it would look like. The option to remain anonymous could have affected people’s confidence in contributing because of a feeling of not being judged if you muck it up.

Communication & working processes

Google docs is a new tool for me so I enjoyed learning to doodle with it and instantly being able to share the drawing. It can be a chance for some people to show off or just participate if they choose. It is possible to look back on the revision history for the document so creating an animation and flipbook out of this was quite revealing as you can appreciate the process which seemed to be the most enjoyable part of it.

• • •

Fun Anonymous No restraint or expectation = creative freedom

Social interaction & participation

• • • •

Freedom to participate Limited social interaction Opportunity for large scale participation No commitment

Outcomes and skills gained

• • •

Using Google docs Doodling just for enjoyment Learning importance of having fun by creating something nonspecific and unexpected

Overall feeling about project

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Working in a group was a necessity for this project.

Find an animation and flipbook of the drawing in progress at http:// creatingcreativecommunities.tumblr. com/Doodle docs

Get Collaborating! Our creative drives and the resources to make our ideas real are sourced through a variety of means. Just getting started on a project can sometimes be tough without seeking inspiration or advice. Knowing that networking and collaboration can open up a lot of doors for the creative paths you can take is just the start of an exciting exploration of the possibilities of combining creative forces. By making a step towards joint discovery, you may find that your peers are potentially your colleagues, and that conflicts or compromises you make can build on your individual strengths, ideas and skills. The Creating Creative Communities project explored some of these possibilities, but for every creative individual or group, there is a new experience of collaboration. To help you begin your own creative collaborations, here are some resources that may be useful. Check out the CCC blog and Facebook group for more info and collaborative opportunities.

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COLLABORATE ON PROJECTS CREATIVE BRIEFS TALK TO PEOPLE SHARE RESOURCES FIND OUT MORE arts-Peter_Aspden.pdf ‘Studio Culture: The Secret Life of the Graphic Design Studio’ Tony Brook & Adrian Shaughnessy ‘Creative Collaboration’ Vera John-Steiner

A Handbook on Collaboration  

A guide for students and graduates containing interviews from industry professionals, tips on working with others and starting their own pro...

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