Studio time and the road to pair designing

May 31, 2013 Tim McCoy

We take collaboration seriously around here, as you may be aware. For developers, it’s pair up or go home. For designers, it’s not that easy. While there are some great models for design pairing, the practice isn’t widely adopted in the industry, and clients don’t always see the value of staffing two designers. So how do we move the ball forward towards a world where designers work together instead of in isolation?

We recently introduced “studio time” as a daily event across all projects. Studio time begins right after lunch with a design standup. The 6-10 of us each spend a minute talking about our projects: “here’s what I’m working on, here’s where I’m stuck.” Then, we pair off to spend some time on each others’ work. Sometimes it’s 15 minutes, sometimes an hour. Because we’ve built up a shared context of each others’ projects, you can dive right in to the work at hand without a big explanation.

Pair designingAn interesting side-effect of this dedicated time is that the idea of involving a partner in your work has bled into the rest of the workday. It’s not uncommon to see designers trading time with one another or pulling a chair up to a developer pair for input and feedback. I attribute some of this to the explicitly sanctioned collaboration provided by studio time. And that’s one of the best ways our process evolves at Pivotal Labs — try something out, find it valuable, then do it more.

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