The 10 Commandments of Creative Partnering
Writers, how are you treating the designers you work with? And vice versa?
- Thou shalt advance good ideas. Not just your own ideas. when you’re brainstorming, let go of “your” stuff when you sense it won’t work. And riff on something you didn’t come up with. The best ideas will go back and forth a lot and in the end will feel shared. And good.
- Thou shalt look for ways to make it work. Not to poke holes in it. When your partner has an idea, treat it like it’s your own. Understand the thinking behind it, and see how changing something on your end might help bring it to fruition. Designers, read all the words and ask questions! Writers, figure out how to write less copy if there’s an exciting design idea that requires it. If for no other reason than the shoe will be on the other foot at some point. But really because it’s often the way to the good stuff.
- Respect thy partner’s expertise. And keep it holy. Sure, two is better than one. That’s the whole reason we’re here. But there should be a measure of respect for your partner’s unique education, training, knowledge and experience. Designers, don’t write the copy. Copywriters, don’t tell the designer how to design. Thoughts, respectfully provided, are always fair game. (“I was thinking XXX — but I defer to you.”) But not in front of your client, CCO, etc. Then you are a supportive front.
- Thou shalt provide swipe. One of the hardest things for me is “speaking designer.” So I address it by having tons of swipe resources to show what I mean. The same is true for designers. When you have something in mind, showing us some examples will inspire us as we riff on headlines, etc.
- Give credit to thy partner. Someone compliments something, and it was what your partner really pushed for/came up with. Say so! “That was all, Joe. And I love it too!” There’s plenty of credit to go around. Look confident! You’re building a team for the long haul. And your client or your boss will really sense that. As Martha used to say: It’s a good thing.
- Thou shalt admit it when thy request is unreasonable. As partners, you do the extras for each other. And that means picking each other up when you need it. But requests like these can be tough, and it’s best to be completely straightforward. “I’m sorry I’m conveying this feedback so late. It’s my fault — I completely spaced.” “I’m sorry, I know this is a lot of message to get in there.” “I’m sorry, I know I’m asking you to do a lot.” etc. It softens the blow and helps you feel like you’re together in the trenches.
- Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy partner. This partnership is integral to your life and wellbeing. It can make or break you. Treat your partner like family. Don’t do shady stuff. That includes: Taking an idea to the client/boss without telling your partner. Poking holes in your partner’s work when you’re not in private. Etc. Gross. Integrity is even more important than talent in this business. Don’t learn it the hard way. I’m now in a position to hire people myself and recommend people to clients looking to fill roles, and there are some I’ll never work with or recommend because they did shady stuff.
- Thou shalt not buy a coffee for yourself without asking if thy partner wants one. C’mon, people. This one is like thou shalt not commit murder. Pretty basic.
- Thou shalt thank and appreciate thy partner. When work comes back and you love it, say so! It’s a tough, fast-moving business and the good stuff sometimes falls by the wayside.
- Thou shalt do each other personal favors. Yes, yes thou shall. If you’re a writer, and your design partner’s husb is looking for a job, you will read his resume and cover letter no matter how swamped you are. If your writer has to leave early because her child is sick, you’ll say “I’m handling this one and will circle back with notes.” It’s the human thing to do. And we need all the human-ness we can get in this business and in this — cough, cough, Trumpian—era.
Speaking of giving credit, check out my most frequent (and very adored) design partner’s work here: http://www.lindsayjanekelly.com — isn’t she amazing? And hit the clapping hands to share this story with those who could use it.