The Benefits of Collaborating with Design Partners

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The Benefits of Collaborating with Design Partners

While most of our reports and external communications are developed in-house, from time to time we need to work to a higher level of design for our final outputs. In these cases, partnership with other suppliers is critical.

We have had a long-standing relationship with Jim McEwen at Crayfish Design, and since updating our company website back in 2021, we have been able to work with Gareth and his team at Studio Seventeen on a further project for a client.

This blog highlights projects where we worked with design specialists as well as our top three tips for a smooth collaboration.

Crafting custom reporting templates

For Liverpool John Moores University, we worked closely with contacts at the University to design, edit and finalise a report summarising the University’s contribution to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

In doing so, we knew we needed a strong design that would accommodate the SDG branding and that of the University. But we also needed an early design to secure the approval of the University and of particular value to us, to ensure that our drafting of text matched the planned end design. So we brought in Crayfish Design to help.

Jim created some initial design options, and with the client’s preferred option agreed, produced a template to help us to draft text to match the design and space. Not only did this help focus our drafting work (we knew what space we had to work with and drafted to meet this), but it also allowed the client to see draft text and emerging document in the context of the end design. This undoubtedly saved time for us and the client. The final report, published by the University in December 2023, was well received by the client, and we’re quite proud of it too.

Developing impactful websites

We also worked with OASPA (the Open Access Scholarly Publishing Association) and DOAJ (the Directory of Open Access Journals) to develop the Open Access Journals Toolkit that launched in summer 2023.

The Toolkit is a multilingual online resource for anyone looking to establish or manage and open access journal, which means that, because the open access publishing community is so diverse, the Toolkit needed to serve a broad range of users such as publishers, librarians, researchers, technical providers and more.

To ensure we created a resource that was relevant and accessible to such a range of users, we worked closely with Studio Seventeen, OASPA and DOAJ to create the website. This included, mapping out the different sections of the site; deciding where to host each page of content; developing an accessible colour palette and design for the website; and ensuring that users could easily navigate the content through user testing.

Three tips to work with design specialists

Here are some of our tips and learning points for getting great results from design partnerships:

  1. Bring the design thinking in early. Developing and revising text independently of the final design typically leads to longer drafts, which take longer to review (for you and the client) and may ultimately be cut down to meet the design specification. Use an early design template to draft text that meets the chosen design. This does force hard decisions early (e.g. what can I afford to drop vs what is imperative to write about) but it is worth it – the quote “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter” is apt.
  2. You need the creativity of designers. A good design partner takes your thoughts and initial ideas and elevates them. Give them the freedom to understand the brief and explore ways to meet this.
  3. Allow time for testing and revisions. Seeing how people respond to certain images or layouts that might affect how they understand the content or navigate it is invaluable to get the best end result.

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