Dev & Creatives: Gnomes & Unicorns

Sitting in on the Phase Two kick-off call for our long-lasting project, I experienced déjà vu. Tensions among the team of creative advisers and consultants were escalating. We were trying to improve Phase One of the project. The Phase One product wasn’t so bad—it was a good project but lacked a few things. So the consultants created a list of design improvements, which could be done in Phase Two. I was having déjà vu because I already knew that at least half of these improvements had been made. How did I know about them? My development team told me about them in Phase One.

As a team, we almost never shared our design ideas with creatives, even when the ideas seemed perfectly logical to us.

Why not?

Sometimes we feel insecure when working with agencies. We have the “yes- man” syndrome. Also, we might have told creatives about the ideas or problems, but we were not loud enough to be heard. Our thinking has always been, “We are a dev team. Designers should know better about designs than we do.”

It made sense, but on that call I was wrong.

It seems, at times, that developers and designers are two different species that are obligated to work together. Designers are those creative creatures that use unicorns and Photoshop as tools. They create websites and apps as design masterpieces that twinkle in users’ eyes. Developers are usually gnomes (no offense, guys!) that do their work underground and make the world go round. These two types of creatures are totally different, but work together.

So what might a gnome know about unicorns?

A lot!

A gnome will know what grass unicorns eat and how it affects their shiny mane. A gnome will know how fast this unicorn can run by hearing its prancing above him. A gnome will know how early a unicorn gets up and where it goes—before anyone else does.

A gnome knows all of this. But it can’t draw a unicorn.

So does this predicament make a gnome’s knowledge any less valuable? Not at all.

Getting back to development and creative teams working together: I feel that we should have a lot more communication and sharing among ourselves. There are many possible rewards to keeping up dialogue:

  • We get closer to the concept of being “multiskilled” that Agile values. Although few developers can be reborn as designers, I still think that it is a plus to have developers with some design skills and vice versa.
  • We save the clients money. Taking my example from above, we could have made many changes proposed for Phase Two back in Phase One. This would have saved time for both the dev team and the designer.
  • By learning from each other, we create a better product. A dev team can train their “designer eye” and creatives can get better at the development side to create a better user experience and, eventually, a better product.

Now it’s time to talk to our dev team and get their thoughts on some of our new designs. It feels like there is still some room for improvement on all sides.