Collaboration, what does it mean between design professionals? Can it comfortably exist? The question is always in the background when folks from different design disciplines get together. And recently an old post by a young architect surfaced again to stir the sometimes bitter soup.
Designers have egos. It is part of our DNA. Although we can agonize over the smallest detail at the end of the day, we love what we do. We are proud of our work. Can we also be good collaborators on the same project? Does the collaboration diminish us as professionals or enhance our work?
I think the answer depends on the individual him or herself. I am a professional kitchen designer. Years ago, I made the decision to gear my practice toward collaboration with other architects and interior designers, AIA members, ASID members, IIDA and IFDA, etc. Why? Because very early on, I realized that the 2 critical things you can do for your career are:
# 1. Find your niche and become the expert in that field.
# 2. Understand where you are not an expert and seek out those that are.
No one can be the expert for every aspect of a design project. If you are, it usually means that you have not stretched your imagination further than your own nose. The project may be “good” but it will never be great.
During my career I have worked with some fabulous architects and interior designers. With them I have helped to create projects far different from any solo endeavor I would have accomplished (and I am a good designer). And I have learned so much along the way.
Working with architect, Matt Bremer, AIA, taught me to suspend belief and concentrate on bringing the (im)possible to life. The Fractal Pad (below) won Best of Year for Kitchen design.
Architect Michael Lewis, AIA, (my ZEN architect!) has taught me that going quietly, listening carefully and creating a peaceful island during design meetings results in clients who are calmer and happier during the process. The best “last word” is a finished project that reflects serenity.
Interior designer Robin Baron, ASID, IFDA, IDS, etc. is teaching me now how to keep my enthusiasm and sense of humor when a project changes its vision AND its address multiple times—“and please hurry we need this now!”
With all of these collaborations and many others, I have been respected as a professional and a member of the project design Team. I love my architects and designers. My expertise and experience would be smaller, my practice less interesting, without these alliances.
Even when it comes to “my own” work, Barbara Roth, AKBD, CAPS and I team up to help, check and generally cheer each other on through indecisive clients, complicated specifications, late deliveries and “hopeless” installations situations that result in pure art.
Critical Item # 3: Two sets of eyes are always better than one!
Collaboration with other design professionals: You may find that your ego is very happy with the results.
Come have a glass of wine and meet some of your colleagues from the ASID, IIDA, and NKBA, etc., at this year’s Summer Social 2011.