I have been witness to some epic creative vs. developer showdowns in the past 15 (or so) years of my career, and it always made me scratch my head in wonder. As I grew professionally, I began to realize that it was more than just a nasty symptom of the silo effect.
First, we need to acknowledge the fact that both the creative and developer animals are a protective and sensitive species – susceptible to quick judgments, sarcastic and snappy repertoire, and hurt feelings. However, both are highly intelligent, detail oriented, have a work ethic that is heads and tails above the rest, and although they may not like their current full-time environment, have a passion for the work that is unmatched.
So, how do you get these two like-minded, project cornerstones linking arm-in-arm and skipping down the highway of productivity? It’s actually not that difficult.
Stop thinking you know it all, because you don’t.
Creative – a five-minute Google search for “Drupal” or “API” does not mean you understand functionality enough to run head first into wireframing and mockups. Developers – understanding the tip of the Photoshop iceberg does not make you a marketing wiz. Now that that’s settled, it’s time to start looking at each other as partners. Talking is crucial during the discovery and definition phase of the project. Creatives need to fully understand any potential functionality limitations before they even begin to think about design, even if they have worked on a similar project in the past. Developers need to understand the goal Creative and Marketing is trying to achieve in order to identify priorities and offer solutions to requests that could end up blowing a project's deadline and budget.
No, really. You’re going to have to talk to each other, like with words.
For your consideration: the creative has been working non-stop on mock-ups for a new site and walks into a project meeting after a week of sleepless nights. The developer takes one look at the mock-up and says “This is ridiculous. There is no way are you going to get this done within the deadline.” The creative gives a deep eye roll and states it’s because the developer is not willing to put in the effort to implement. The developer calls the creative an idiot. Now there is a can of soda and some choice swears flying across the conference table, the project manager is trying to play middleman, the content director is crying, and all the account manager can do is facepalm through the entire exchange.
It may not ever get as dramatic as described above, but when proper communication and a cross-functional workflow is not established in the beginning of the project, you are just sitting on a powder keg that will eventually kill the moral of a project. It’s miserable for everyone involved, especially when defenses go up and the passive aggressive behavior starts to kick in.
Understand that there needs to be collaboration and you cannot do it without each other, so make it easy on yourselves from the beginning.
All aboard! The learning train never stops.
Technology is changing all the time. We know this, but it also means you need to start putting some new tools in the toolbox. It’s not enough to just keep updated on the programs you use on a daily basis. Creatives, learn the fundamentals and principles of UI/UX, have a basic understanding of HTML/CSS, and get the idea of “pixel perfect” out of your head; we’ve been living in a mobile world for some time now. Developers, learn about the fundamentals and principles of branding and design, and understand why creatives hate Photoshop. We HATE it! Learning is good for the brain, and gives creative and developers common ground to stand on.
Become a force to be reckoned with.
When creative and developers join forces, it is a beautiful thing – as well as cost saving, innovative, productive, and a lot of other positive adjectives. Become the team that everyone wants to work with because YOU work so well together. You may have to plan for some extra time in the beginning to make sure you are on the same page, but you will more than make up for it in the middle and the end of the process. Take it from me, I loved my developer so much that I married him.
Start the conversation early, respect each other's skill set, and go grab a beer. Even if there are no wedding bells in your future, you're still sure to become fantastic friends in no time!