Collaborative design—how collaboration tools can enhance your design process

A design team member is using her laptop to collaborate with her colleagues.

Collaboration is a vital part of any business, with effective teamwork bringing improvements to productivity and employee motivation (and the company budget!).

We’re going to take a look at why collaboration is a key part of the design process, and show you some of the best methodologies and tools (like RingCentral’s Glip) for making the collaborative design process work effectively.

Remote team using Glip to execute a collaborative design

What is the concept of collaboration?

Collaboration works on the principle that two (or more) heads are better than one for problem-solving. When a group of people share skills and perspectives, there’s more chance of coming up with an innovative solution.

A collaborative design process sees team members with differing backgrounds and mindsets work together on a design problem, creating a UX (user experience) solution through planning and user feedback.

Why is collaboration important in design?

Designers often do much of their work alone or as part of a small design team, and the rise of remote working can make the job seem even more solitary. However, design collaboration increases innovation by bringing a range of skill sets and viewpoints to the table.

One of the benefits of collaborative design ­is that team members can learn from each other, and keep their eye on a shared goal—which can mean letting go of fixed ideas and embracing compromise in order to create the best design solution.

It’s also important to collaborate outside of the design team, by communicating and getting the user feedback of other departments and external stakeholders who have shared ownership of a design project. This is particularly true of product design, where design architects and UX/UI designers must understand what the end user requires from the product. It is important to do this so that brainstorming isn't entirely left to designers whose design goals may not entirely align with the overall vision of the company.

Collaborative design isn’t just about visual or graphic design—it can include examples such as:

  • Strategy development
  • Data visualization of research
  • Consultation with industry experts and clients
  • Generation and discussion of ideas
  • Designing the lifecycle of a product or service
  • Research phase and prototyping
  • Giving feedback to previous design concepts

How does collaboration aid the design process?

Collaborative teams ensure every team member is valued, which enhances employee engagement and avoids silos—and that leads to better creativity, since everyone feels comfortable sharing ideas.

Talking ideas and giving feedback to colleagues also helps designers confirm that their work makes sense to others. It’s important to make sure not all critical decisions regarding the design concept are left to designers. Initial reactions and advice are crucial for checking that a design is on the right track before spending a lot of time refining it.

Weekly or daily huddles throughout the design process allow designers to share what they’re working on and raise any issues, while project management tools help with visualization of the design process. When roles and responsibilities are clearly outlined, the entire team performs more efficiently.

Designers might also hold an internal review and run informal user testing before presenting a digital product to the client. Collaboration with non-designers is useful for a UX designer in particular, as it helps in visualizing the user experience and choosing accessible language to explain the product’s usability.

Collaboration on an inspiration library, with everyone contributing, helps designers recognize industry trends, news and events, and keep an eye on what their competitors are doing.

What are different methods of collaboration?

There’s the obvious stuff—regular communication, project leadership, team diversity, and the right collaboration tools. But there are some collaboration methods that are especially useful for interaction design, including Design Sprint, Design Studio, and Gamestorming.

Design Sprint is a design concept where teams must work together to build and test a prototype in just five days. It uses design thinking with the aim of ensuring that a new product fulfils its brief, and typically follows six design phases: Understand, Define, Sketch, Decide, Prototype, and Validate.

Design Studio is a fast-paced idea-generation workshop enabling UX designers to explore ideas and create a shared vision in a short space of time. It works in quick sketching iterations and combines individual exercises with group endeavors.
Gamestorming facilitates innovation by combining team games with brainstorming. Participants aim for a goal by playing games that encourage them to think freely.

Within these methods are principles such as:

  • Affinity diagramming (a data visualization method for organizing UX research into groups or themes)
  • Context mapping (a technique giving insight into the design needs of real users to ensure the project is within scope)
  • Freelisting (gathering data by making lists of all the related items you can think of)
  • Crazy Eights (an exercise where people have eight minutes to sketch eight ideas on one piece of paper).

Dedicated collaboration tools are a great method for bringing design teams together. See the next section for some tips on which to choose!

Design team using Glip to easily collaborate with remote staff

How can design teams collaborate effectively?

Design projects require a lot of collaboration involving many different people which is why you need to make sure your team can collaborate effectively with each other. There are many ways to do this, but here are some tips to make sure your team is performing at tip-top shape:

  • Clearly define design practice
    Your team will be able to collaborate more effectively if they know the overall vision and purpose of the design. Understanding the best methods for the design practice you’re working on (e.g. advertising, publishing, entertainment, etc,) will help your team grasp this faster and collaborate with more ease.
  • Streamline your design process
    Establish clearly who does what in your team, and set clear goals and deadlines. Not only will this improve your overall internal design system, it will also give your team a sense of shared ownership of the design project.
  • Improve digital experiences by getting the right tools
    Getting your team the best tools will help them create designs faster and collaborate with each other better. For example, digital products like Photoshop, Lightroom, and Illustrator are generally the most feature rich design tools out there and can definitely enhance your team’s experience. Getting online tools that will allow your team to communicate easier and make giving feedback faster will definitely also improve their digital experience.

How can online tools boost collaboration for your design team?

Collaborative design requires a robust tech software to assist your designers effectively in communication. Whether you need to discuss brand guidelines in a video call or message your team about new artwork, a smart collaboration tool can help teams deliver design work on time and on budget.

There are many tools to choose from, but choosing an all-inclusive app such as Glip gives you all the features you need in one place and improve your team’s digital experiences. Collaborative design teams need software that lets them:

  1. Collaborate from anywhere
  2. Chat to the team
  3. Make video and audio calls
  4. Share and store files
  5. Manage projects
  6. Use integrations

Collaborate from anywhere

With many teams working remotely, it’s hugely important that collaboration can take place wherever and whenever it’s needed. Design architects need an app that makes it quick and simple to communicate ideas with colleagues in diverse locations and on various devices.

Glip’s desktop and mobile apps are compatible with Mac, PC, iOS, and Android—and you can even join a call straight from your browser. It’s perfect for sharing all your design project discussions with the team, and inviting external partners to collaborate, too.

Chat to the team

Sometimes a simple message is all that’s needed to share a new idea or ask a quick question—and instant messaging speeds up communication to give you more time for designing.

Glip’s team chat feature gives you free unlimited messages and users. Plus, an unlimited message history so you can store important conversations for as long as you like.

You can upload files within the chat to keep everyone on the same page—and with messages organized by project, task, or team, you’ll never lose the thread.

Make video and audio calls

Short standups are great, but for a fully collaborative design discussion you’ll need a professional video and audio calling function. Features like screen sharing, whiteboards, and breakout rooms are a great way for design teams to brainstorm ideas, and you’ll get those for free with Glip.

Glip also gives you free video meetings for up to 24 hours and lets you record and save meetings to share with others later. Plus, you can switch between devices without losing the call.

Design team using Glip to comment on files for easier collaboration

Share and store files

It can be hard to collaborate on visual designs like wireframes with just words, so the ability to share image files and annotate them in real time is vital. Glip offers unlimited sharing, with version control so that multiple designers can edit without altering the original.

Design systems generate a lot of files, and they need to be stored safely and accessed quickly by the whole team. With Glip’s free unlimited storage, all your design files can live in one place—and you can upload from apps like Google Drive, too.

Manage projects

Task management tools are the best way to break large projects down into simple tasks, from architecture to the design phase, and they help the team to visualize the overall process. A time-tracking function can be helpful if clients need evidence of time spent on a project.

Glip’s built-in task management lets you assign, create, monitor, and organize tasks in one place, as well as sharing attachments and user feedback. Color coding, drag-and-drop, and automation of recurring tasks make life even easier.

Use integrations

Less time spent on toggling between apps means more time for designing, so collaboration tools with multiple integrations are a bonus. Glip plays nice with all the apps a design team might use, syncing files automatically and pulling in notifications.

We already mentioned Google Drive, but it also integrates with shared calendars like Outlook or Google Calendar, and project management tools such as Trello and Asana. And Glip connects with Zapier to access non-native design apps, which will be particularly helpful for a UX designer or product design team.

Glip also has:

  • A comprehensive free plan (and affordable upgrade if needed)
  • Enterprise-level security
  • Superb customer support

Improve your team’s design collaboration with powerful tech

The benefits of collaborative design are too many to count which is why it’s important to enhance your design system as soon as possible. One way you can do this is by equipping your team with the best collaboration tool: Glip.

With everything you need in one collaboration tool, Glip helps design teams work together for the best results. Giving feedback, consulting with industry experts, design concepts, and sharing news and events are much easier with a powerful communication tool.

Get started for free today, and see how Glip can help create a collaborative design process that takes your design team to the next level.