The importance of collaborative design projects
As a student designer, it can be challenging to find an opportunity to work on collaborative projects. When you are in the process of learning about design, there's a good chance that most of your educational projects will be solo, with the hopes of getting some assistance from a mentor and/or tutor.
The value you can take away from being a part of a collaborative project with other designers can't be overstated, especially as a new designer continually growing and gaining new experiences. Design is such a collaborative process, and you must learn the soft skills that are necessary to work with a design team. What better way to do this than taking part in a collaborative project with other students and/or junior designers?
I have had the opportunity to work on multiple collaborative projects with other student designers, and here are the key learnings I acquired from those experiences.
1. Your mindset when working in a group vs. working solo will need to shift
When you're working on a project with just yourself, you don't need to consider other perspectives or be concerned about other people's scheduling conflicts. When you're working on a group project, you need to keep an open mind and be willing to work around other people's schedules.
2. Actively listen, and don't be afraid to speak up
Be open to design critiques and don't be afraid to share some advice yourself! You and your team are all working towards the same goal, so everyone should be under the same mindset that all opinions need to be considered. It's all about holding not only yourself accountable, but your teammates as well.
3. You will learn how to manage your time
When you're working by yourself, you are solely responsible for your time. When you're working on a team, deadlines become more important to hit. Not only do you need to finish your project on time, but you also need to respect the time of your teammates.
4. You will be exposed to different perspectives
We all can bring different ideas to the table, which is the beauty of working in a team! Be open to new ideas and make the space comfortable for everyone to share. You never know what brilliant idea could take your product to the next level.
5. You will learn to challenge assumptions
When you're working in a group, everyone might have different assumptions when it comes to the user or how certain features should work. Challenge every one of your and your teammates' assumptions. If you think you know everything about your user and how your product should work, you will have a rude awakening when you launch your product to the public. Question everything. Test your features. Interview your users. It will only help you and your team in the long run.
If you have built relationships with other designers, ask a small group if they'd be interested in working on a collaborative project. Take part in a hackathon. Join a design group and participate in their collaborative challenges. The experience you will obtain and the growth you'll see in yourself is well worth the effort of working alongside fellow designers. Not to mention, it's a great way to grow your network and relationships in the design community.