There is no denying that the line between functionality and design has become increasingly thin and blurred. Technical competencies are used to design and execute high-functioning products, and the truth is that functionality and performance is heavily influenced by aesthetic and artful conception - the easier things are on the eyes and the more efficient the design, the easier and more effective they are to use. This leads to many companies, especially in the digital realm, realizing that marketing is the most important business function and that they can only survive against competitors by spurring their companies in a design-driven direction. You will probably find yourself having to deal with more "creative" types than you ever thought possible, and along with them their unusually delicate egos and strong opinions.
Creative types are notoriously flaky, inflexibly opinionated, aggressive and difficult to compromise with. So how do you deal with these clients/partners? You may be tempted to turn to the "logical" approach of setting down rules and being "stricter", but that traditional method just leads to an unhealthy parent-child relationship, resentment on both sides, and a productivity-draining power struggle.
Here are a few less politically correct yet effective approaches to develop a mutually beneficial, harmonious relationship:
1. Set by example - Get to work on time, religiously stick to the deadlines you set, and show that you are disciplined and take your work seriously. Actions speak louder than words. These behaviors will create an environment of accountability and professionalism without you having to explicitly what kind of environment you would like to form.
2. Pick your battles - There's nothing more irritating then being told to "chill out" when you're in the height of an argument, so make sure to walk into a situation with a calm attitude and positive disposition to prevent those hateful words from being uttered in your direction. This "chill" attitude, however, should not apply to the quality of work you expect, but rather to the discussion and negotiation style you use throughout your projects. Being overly dogmatic, nit-picky, or nagging will not help anyone but rather cause exasperation on both ends. Be sure to actively listen (and show that you're listening!) to everyone else's ideas and invite room for compromise.
3. Positive reinforcement- Make sure to give positive recognition to a job well done in order to nourish their fragile egos and help soothe their insecurities. A lot of creative types will walk in to a meeting already assuming that you'll be another cold, dispassionate corporate robot. They'll feel like they can relate to you a lot more if you show that you appreciate a job well done. We know that you don't have to have a degree in design to have a good eye…make sure to make it clear that although your typical job may be on the numbers side of things (or whatever it may be), but you still know what looks good.
4. Speak their language - Use an adjective-rich vocabulary to help you communicate the big picture of what you want to express. The more descriptive words you use, the more accurately you paint a picture of what you have in mind. Make sure that you convey the spirit and voice of whatever you're trying to project in terms that an author could understand.
5. Create a hierarchy- It's often difficult with a lot of creative minds to keep them all working together with each other, and not against or in spite of each other. Instilling a sense of purpose-based hierarchy rather than value-based hierarchy will help streamline the process of project implementation. The hierarchy should clearly be "who makes decisions and who approves work" rather than "who is the best and has the best ideas."
6. Be very clear and give directions, then let go of the reins. If you're looking for something average, namely just a routine run-of-the mill sort of a task, specify that you don't need it to be a product of genius. Clearly prioritize tasks and let it be known which projects you think should be more of a time-and-effort investment. This will help the creative department improve efficiency and prevent burnout.
As someone working with a creative team, you likely fall into two categories. Either you're on the technical side and you understand that you NEED a creative to package and beautify your product or service in a way that you can not OR you still have opinions on aesthetic.
Whatever the case and regardless of the level of involvement you wish to have in the more creative projects, it's still essential that you strike up a positive relationship early on so that you can create a system of healthy collaboration.
TGIF and Happy Weekend!