How to master the art of creative collaboration

by Justine Clay


What’s the difference between a great idea and producing strategic, dynamic creative solutions that resonate with your target audience?  Execution.  Whether you’re a freelance art director working on a project-by-project basis, or creative director of an agency or in-house team, your success depends upon great collaborators that will help you make your ideas a reality.

Budget and time are always an issue, so how can you build a creative team that will optimize your results?  Here are a few suggestions that will help guarantee your success:


Know what you want to achieve
Whether you’re creating a brand book, advertising campaign or website, great creative solutions are built upon great strategy.  Start with the problem you are trying to solve; Do you need to re-position your brand so that it speaks to your target customer? Are your communications inconsistent and confusing your ideal clients? This information will help you find the perfect collaborators e.g. a copywriter who specializes in creating brand books or a website designer whose work combines design, functionality and content development. 

Build your ‘small world network’
Creative professionals are naturally collaborative.  Your ‘small world network’ is made up of trusted collaborators that you bring on board as needed.  Build a network of collaborators whose specialties align with your vision and complement your skills.

Look for diversity
Brian Uzzi and Jarrett Spiro studied Broadway musicals to see how their success was impacted by the diversity of their team.  They found teams that included a mix of close connections and people who brought a fresh perspective yielded more creative insights and breakthroughs.  

A fresh perspective can help an in-house team or agency shake things up and get great results.  If you are a freelancer, consider collaborating with people who challenge you to think differently. 

Use the right talent for the right project
When my dad taught me how to drive stick-shift he told me that success came down to one thing: being in the right gear at the right time.  If you had that down, you could handle any situation.  A great creative team is no different. Put the right people on the right job and you can handle anything that comes your way.  Hire the best talent that you can afford for the top-level strategic thinking and creative development and have the more junior talent execute those ideas. 

Set your team up for success
Assuming you have the right talent on the project, there is no need for you to micro-manage the process. Here’s how you can set them up for success: 

  • Provide a brief that clearly outlines your goals and what is expected of each team member. By thinking through the project ahead of time, you are able to discuss any questions with your team before the project’s underway.
  • Create a timeline. Make it realistic and hold everyone accountable.
  • Have a project management system.  If you’re in-house you probably have a dedicated project manager.  If you’re a freelancer, a system like BaseCamp can be invaluable.  

Do you need help making your creative ideas happen?  Let’s set up a time to talk about your challenges and discuss solutions.  I’d love to help! 

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