We've moved from an era where the designer's exclusivity over design is being overtaken by the expression and worth of a designer's individuality being seen within a collaborative context, says Andy Polaine at the Urban Learning Space Seminars in Glasgow.
Andy Polaine's Omnium Research Group at the College of Fine Arts in New South Wales, Australia, is all about making more of this collaborative design happen in a better way, between professional designers and non-designers alike.
This international student design project was run entirely online, using social media to create links and learning between 107 participants in 22 countries, including world famous designers imparting their knowledge and ideas online. One discussion thread with Stefan Sagmeister, whose presentation at TED made me laugh and gape in awe, ran to 30,000 words. One part of the project, for example, which helped create links between students was taking a photo at the same point in the day/night. Discussions then centered on what you can learn from these snapshots in time.
The 2007 Creative Waves project involves pharmacists - not the first choice, you'd think, for collaborating on design. The goal was to help pharmacists create visualisations of health and ethical issues and publish these on an online gallery, images that would help people with low literacy or low appreciation of health issues in Africa to get it. My favourites are are the quiz cards on malaria and sexual health and football tops (think "score a goal against AIDS", etc. etc.)
In the beginning the pharmacists' scientific data and research was beginning to stifle the creative, innovative, original ideas they could/should have been having. They had to be asked to ignore all the hard research they had done, leading to private then public, shared debate about whether it was ethical to leave out the research that had been done for the designers to go and do their thing:
This unique and innovative approach to collaborative education, research and ethical debate, also aims to promote increased social awareness and proactive involvement worldwide amongst students, pharmacists, health organisations, graphic designers, professional bodies and education institutions.
The importance of collaboration mentoring
Visualisation is one great way to engender the feel of community, the socialisation of the collaborative group. Using a Google Map participants had to put themselves on the map (link, Andy?). It's the kind of thing we are attempting to do with the Scottish new tech scene, to try to, literally, 'see' who is doing what.
But the teams involved, combining student designers and pharmacists, were mentored quite heavily, with mentors who would dip into all groups, have a big picture and help point out collaborative opportunities. Importantly, collaboration was not just expected to happen; it was actively and humanly pushed. When we create online communities, national intranets or even F2F events it's vital that we don't forget the skill of the human being in maneuvering communities into gear. Good online communities and collaborative projects need people to act as the "dinner party hosts", making sure everyone's glass is filled, belly is full and people are talking to each other.
Andy's blogged some further links about the presentation.