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Planning isn’t just a phase I’m going through.

As a planner, the most intensive period for me on any project used to be in the kickoff and upfront strategic direction phase. Increasingly, and by design, I stay highly engaged throughout the creative process. Not just by checking in and staying on top of meetings, but by sitting side-by-side with designers and developers as a project unfolds.

On a recent concept exploration project that didn’t involve prototyping, I worked in an almost “pair-programming” style with the lead designer. First with sticky notes, then with sketches and finally with fully fleshed out designs and interactions interwoven with a story that held it all together. More recently, I uprooted myself and sat between the designer and developer I was working with so that we could easily talk through anything that emerged while designs and prototypes were being created.

This, in my experience, is an ideal way to incorporate planning into the “making” part of the design and build process. I wouldn’t say we’ve completely nailed down how this works for every team and in every situation but it’s something we’re working towards defining more clearly in 2014.

Although planners, designers and developers share the same ultimate goal, we are responsible for different things and tend to look at things in different ways. Together, we’re more likely to uncover gaps and opportunities as they present themselves. Of course, we often step away to work on things solo but we tend to make the most progress when we work through things collaboratively.

I think it works particularly well when we take up office “residence” together; either by holing up in an unclaimed boardroom (and plastering it with stickies and comps) or simply moving our workstations temporarily so that we can work side by side.

What I really like about this is that we all seem to morph into something larger than our traditional roles – becoming more aware of everything from how the project is managed to the importance of copy to tell our story well. And when we share progress with our client, we all have an intimate knowledge of the design and technical decisions that went into every aspect of the experience. Typically, we’ve covered dozens of bases that aren’t reflected in the design so we’re also less concerned about curveballs (or scenarios that we hadn’t considered).

This kind of cross-disciplinary preparedness seems to foster a healthy relationship with our clients, where we expand this approach beyond our internal team to theirs. Acknowledging the importance and interdependence of all the people on a project helps foster creativity and bring out the best in all of us combined.

We believe that great digital products are made when we bring together the right team to work on a project. This blog post is a part of an ongoing series of process– and discipline–based reflections that demonstrate how we collaborate and build our teams at Teehan+Lax.

Check out the other posts in our series:
The dev is in the details. by Steffan Barry