By way of introduction
For most designers, the underbelly of design work isn’t production or budgets or even project management. Sure, compared to design itself, these elements aren’t glamorous, but they’re understood as necessary.
What designers dread is working with other people. They’ll tell you otherwise: they’ll tell you that they love the collaboration and it’s true that nothing beats a great brainstorming session. But outside those brainstorming sessions, the day-to-day interactions with fellow designers, subject matter experts, clients, implementers and other team members present challenges unique to the practice of design.
Designers are faced with reviews of their work, meetings to discuss project parameters, interviews with stakeholders, discussions with team members to hash out details. They have to answer email, instant messages, voice mail. They participate in conference calls, video conferences, and workshops. Every one of these encounters is fraught with complex dynamics, driven by the project, the environment, and the personalities of all involved.
Not just for designers, Surviving Design Projects is for dealing with conflict in creative environments. Conflict is inevitable, and indeed part of what makes those brainstorming sessions great is the emergent creative tension–the give-and-take to evolve ideas. But some conflict is counter-productive, the kind of conflict that arises from competing agendas, misalignment on objectives, poor performance or planning, and even flat out ignorance.
Patterns of behavior
In the last decade or so, designers of interactive media have latched onto the notion of patterns, a concept adopted earlier by programming, architecture, and other types of design. A pattern is a repeatable solution to a common problem. It serves as a starting point, a formula that’s known to work, and may be adapted to the designer’s particular situation. Patterns for interaction design can address problems as simple as “let users select a date” and as complex as “introduce users to the application.”
This problem-solution framework, the emphasis on a starting point, and the typical metadata that comes along with pattern definitions make them ideal for describing approaches to managing conflict. Patterns help people recognize problems–in this case, types of conflicts–and provide guidance on how to address them.