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The Creative Flow in a Web Design Studio

- Thursday, December 09, 2010 |

What does it take for a group of people to be an awesome team? What does the team need to be so immersed in the project, so that everything flows perfectly when working on projects? More exactly, what makes a great web design studio vibrant with energy and personality?

In creative web design agencies there is an interesting sequence of ideas, solutions and decisions, that we call the creative flow. It is fueled by the interaction between clients and the creative team, as well as by each member's participation in the project. The creative flow becomes richer and more resourceful, when everybody around you is excited. 

timetable worries
Photo by: Julia

Starting the Chase

The client has entered the game, the problem is presented, team members react. Brainstorming is immediately triggered, at an individual level, by a sufficient amount of information that can be connected to a final result. The process either starts with a rough description or a rich creative brief. But the statement through which a final result is depicted needs to be specific enough to allow a proper identification of the means, tools and actions that make it reacheable.

Generating ideas starts at an individual level, as an immediate reaction to the ongoing conversation with the client. Every member of the team will immediately start thinking of how they can add their own knowledge and expertise to the initial sketch of the project and mold their skills to meet actual requirements. This helps the team members visualize themselves as active participants, envision the desired results and see themselves add value to the overall work performed by the team. Finding one's place in the puzzle works like a depressant and preparing the mind to focus and prioritize smaller tasks efficiently. Generating ideas and figuring out the "how" and "when" is also part of the creative flow; so talking about who should be responsible of what is always a great start before brainstorming on the actual solution for the project.

Day Two Hundred Fifteen
Photo by: Dustin Diaz

Interact and Engage

The flow of ideas starts with a sparkle of inspiration, shared withing the group. And then, just like a snowball, amplifying its own volume and content, through brainstorming and conversation, the idea will become more robust and powerful. If every team member is perfectly in tune with one another, this is a sign of a prefect alignment of each person to the rest of team.

Flow, fun and engagement - three important things to keep if you are conducting an informal discussion. We've always been taught to believe that strong characters will stand out and lead the group in one direction. It's not the case anymore. In creative teams or in a studio, everybody has a skill set that is unique and extremely important for the team to perform very well and be highly productive. Even when it comes to personality traits, it's the feeling and motivation one gets from interacting with the team - that will make the best of one's personality come out or not. In a web design studio, interaction is even more flavored and gets people fired up about doing a great job. That is a great thing, especially when you consider that most of the time, in traditional work environments decisions are taken by a few people running everything in the company, while the distribution of information following this decision happens over time and through indirect means of communication.

All of Us on the Salt Lake
Photo by: Hamed Saber

Making it Imaginable

The discrepancies between mental representations and an actual solution that can be evaluated by both sides, the client and the creative team, usually represent a looping problem in the creative flow and the communication between the two sides involved. Often the client will send out signals, asking for more accurate descriptions or for a visual representation of the intermediate results. It is best to always start working on a different part of the project only after you have received enough feedback from the client. Evaluation is required throughout the entire process; every task should be based on the confirmation that the desired result is perfectly understood and in line with the initial proposal the client agreed upon.

Finding or anticipating discrepancies is something that the team needs to be aware of all the time. A client might not be able to express in time the need for further clarifications, but if the way you perform requires clarification, then the work relationship you are trying to build along the way will not be a smooth one. Avoid disrupting the creative flow by communicating clearly with your team and with your clients. You will be saving more than time by doing so...

Easy Going
Photo by: H.Kopp-Delaney

Fun and Feedback

A problem arises when we consider that our creative thinking, decision making and disposition for action are limited in how much information we can handle at a time. The creative flow is also about managing this type of limitation in a way that does not interrupt or interfere with the work plan, overall. A great way to manage this limitation, when working together, is to alternate work with accurate feedback and intense focus with fun.

It's not the most easy solution though. People experience down time and up time differently. It's unproductive to interrupt the work flow for a 30 minute meeting where you evaluate the job done up to that point. If possible, this can be postponed or even eliminated. Find a creative way to communicate to one another about the progress for each task. Avoid time lags. If a project is on hold, brainstorm together on what can be done in the meantime and help the client respond positively to working on a side project, related to the initial proposal, as well, if that happens.

[94-365] Bokeh [Making Of]
Photo by: Beatriz AG

It's Time to Do It

Before your team gets immersed into the specific tasks pertaining to the project - technology, content, information architecture, visual design, and user interaction - slice the timetable into several general steps, that everybody can relate to, no matter how much time it takes for a one separate task to be completed. A good way to think of time is as a resource managed by the team through interaction, according to a task-oriented schedule. Learning to be smart with your time is more productive than throwing in extra hours at the task.

In creative work, productivity is more profoundly related to creating something that bears more value than the time you take working on it. Essentially in creative work, when it comes to time, clients don't pay for how many hours you spend working, but for your ability to best utilize the project's resources to make 

Endnote: The creative flow in a web design studio is a powerful group dynamic that will influence the team's productivity, vitality and work style. Thinking about it is not different from thinking about designing an experience. There are small things to improve and start with - like working on a schedule, assign tasks, ask for and provide feedback and make room for free time as well. There are also heavy subjects to work on - how everybody adapts and interacts while working towards reaching a goal in a limited time frame.
If your role in the group is to facilitate and keep things organized, most likely you are the one who should read this article. Go on and share it with your team!

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