Kazuo Ishiguro’s An Artist of the Floating World isn’t my favorite book; it’s not even my favorite Ishiguro book but it’s the one book that I tend to read over and over again. As typical of Ishiguro’s work, the prose in Floating World is unassumingly haunting and beautiful in its subtlety but that’s not the reason why I decided to bring it up. No, the reason is because there’s an interesting discussion in the book about the purpose of art; of whether they should simply exist for art’s sake or whether they should serve a greater purpose.
In the book, this divide is illustrated when Ono, the main character started making propaganda paintings that has words written in them in response to the growing Japanese patriotism before WW2. A discussion on the philosophy of art is a bit above my paygrade but in the context of web design, words and images, and by extension writers and designers, are two essential elements that could prove to be even more powerful when they’re utilized together instead of as separate elements.
Bonding over creative differences
It’s very easy to assume that creative types are naturally drawn to each other but in practice, this isn’t always the case. I once attended a seminar on female artists and the inter-disciplinary nature of contemporary art and I remember there being a not-so-subtle-dig on writers and literature, which hurts a bit given how it’s the medium I work with. If you follow the film industry, you must’ve at least seen the phrase ‘creative differences’ mentioned more than a few times.
It’s very common for people who have an affinity for certain medium to habitually think that the medium they work in is better than the others, which can lead to these creative differences. This is made worse in design firms because it’s very common for writers to be given the task of coming up with something to write after the design has been cleared or vice-versa even though neither should never be treated as an afterthought. Writers do their own thing and designers do the same, which can result in some kind of a cognitive dissonance due to the differences in how each department interprets the other’s intention.
Images can sometimes be open to interpretation and as someone who regularly writes, there’s a lot of nuance that can be found in a single sentence and that without proper interaction between designers and writers, the original intention of the creator could be lost in translation. If this disparate situation is how your creative team does their business and you find that there’s no problem in this arrangement, imagine how much better they could potentially be when working in unison. To deepen this relationship, try doing one of the following things.
Start the collaborative process as early as possible
Instead of tasking one team with an assignment and then involving the other after one team is done, start including them in the same conversation right from the very beginning. Since this is a new arrangement is new, make sure you’re still overseeing the collaboration and then once each party is comfortable with the other, you might start considering leaving them to your own devices but as with any kind of relationship, the first few stages are the most important.
Make sure they communicate in a common language
While you’re still overseeing things, make sure they both speak in a language that they both understand. Each creative field is different and there are probably multiple concepts about design that I have no idea about the same way designers might not always understand the concept of in medias res, zooming or other writing skills. It’s very important during the feedback loop to also be specific about what do you think should be improved as each department might feel too protective of their work.
Make sure each side appreciates what the others are doing
I’m not saying that each other should politely thank each other in each step of the process; I’m saying that it might be useful for designers to see just how capable your writers can be and vice-versa. What I would like to do in this case is you ask each team to give the other the work that they feel best showcase their capabilities. I’m fairly sure that your creative team does a lot of work on the side for their personal creative output and as long as they’re comfortable, you can facilitate this exchange of ideas just so they could better appreciate each other.
Clarify that they’re working for the benefit of the end-user
The easiest way of ensuring cooperation between two different factions is by uniting them with a common goal. To do this, you have to make certain that they’re working for the benefit of the user to ensure that each team’s ego do not get in the way. To achieve this, try to solicit feedback from your non-creative members of your company and have them play the role of the end users. Since they don’t have personal involvement on the project, they’d be able to provide an unbiased opinion on how the project’s coming along.