Why great design is a team effort

Why multidisciplinary teams come up with the best designs 

Over time, through our work and our many collaborations with people from all different backgrounds, we know that great design stems from a fusion of ideas, experiences and points of view. We are proud to have a fantastic team at Neko which of course includes designers, but also architects, engineers, sales people, marketers, administrators, and other specialists. In our experience, involving everyone will always enrich the final product.

At Neko, creating a brand is at the heart of what we always strive to achieve. Many people want to put an individual’s name on each design, but we always say that our designs are made by ‘Neko’. They are the result of a collaboration between several (or all) members of our team.

There is so much more to a finished product than the initial idea. True, our designers are the ones who will eventually make the idea a reality, prepare the renders, 3-dimensional drawings and prototypes. But the process of a successful design from idea to finished product or project ready for delivery is very much a team effort. It would seem unfair and inaccurate to credit such a lengthy process to one single person!

It’s important for designers and non-designers alike to realise the value that their contributions can bring to a design. After all, we are all consumers, we all have an idea of our likes and dislikes, and how much we would spend on a product, for example. One person’s design might seem completely unfeasible or unnecessary to another. Only by making the design process a team effort can we tweak ideas and concepts to create a product which is attractive to a broader audience.

Many of our products started out as something completely different. Our first published and prize-winning product, the Orbit bracelet, began life as a desktop pen holder! A team brain-storming session in which one person took an elastic covered circle hanging in the workshop and put his hand through it exclaiming ‘what about a bracelet?!’, and a new product was born. More recent products and projects are no exception and we frequently get the entire team together to brainstorm their opinions on a new product or project. It sometimes emerges that some people cannot see the point in an idea, or think it looks uncomfortable, or that they’re not sure about the colour, etc., and these opinions all help us to really polish the final design.

One of my partners once commented that the views of non-designers are often particularly useful because we are not as constrained by preconceptions of the properties or limitations of a material as someone who has extensive experience using it. Sometimes if you don’t know what can and can’t be achieved with a material, you can question it more. This is what happens often in our team brain-storming idea sessions. Often, the designers have to say that it can’t be done, but occasionally a new idea emerges, a fresh way of looking at the material, and the final product is better as a result.

However, a well-designed product in itself does not necessarily result in a successful design business. How you get the product (or project, for consultancy) to market and sell it is the key part of making a living from your designs. How to price your product, market it to your target audience, package it, how to run the business to create a profit – all of this goes on behind the scenes and involves a whole team of people with a wide variety of expertise. When we first started out at Neko selling our accessories through design stores, we were struck by how many store owners congratulated us on having ‘the complete package’ – a price list, labels, logo, packaging, invoices, etc. What we had considered obvious things necessary for the creation of our brand, helped us to position ourselves from the very beginning as a brand synonymous with quality. The invaluable input and collaboration of every member of our team has undoubtedly helped us to achieve this.

By Alice Pegman
Originally published on 2 December, 2017
Posted in Design Process.