Peer-to-peer design methodologies are a series of techniques that allow a team of graphic designers working in a peer-to-peer environment. These methodologies maximize the effect of collaboration in a group, taking advantage from all the individual creativities involved in the process as well as helping developing a new group creativity.
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"Brainstorming is a group creativity technique designed to generate a large number of ideas for the solution of a problem. In 1953 the method was popularized by Alex Faickney Osborn in a book called Applied Imagination. Osborn proposed that groups could double their creative output with brainstorming." [Wikipedia/Brainstorming]
Brainstorming is normally used in graphic design studio as well as in other creative environment. The risk with such a methodologies is that not everyone in the group has the same confidence with speaking in group. What can then happen is that only the strongest egos in the group can push their ideas while the others are just listening. A possible solution to this issue is described in the Individual/Collective Research section.
Collective Visual Research
A collective visual research is the translation in a peer-to-peer environment of the visual research that normally happen at the beginning of the design process, when designers start to look around in order to find inspirations either for their concept or for graphical directions, such as visual styles, colors, shapes and typefaces.
The idea in the collective visual research is that the designers shared their resources while they are collecting them instead then sharing them at the end, in this way other designers looking at somebody else's materials could start considering ideas and directions that he or she wouldn't consider on his or her own. Not only starting from somebody else's idea but also applying on top of it his or her own interpretation.
This methods consist in leaving to the designers some time before the group meeting where the concept, or any other aspect, will be discussed. In this way everyone not only has the time to think on his or her own to the issue treated but you can also assume, once you start the group meeting that everyone has something to say. In this way would be easier to have more possible directions to start the discussion and to react on.
Pair Design is a practice inspired by Pair Programming. It consists of two designers working together on the same machine, while one is typing the other is watching and they exchange the role every 20 or 30 minutes.
This practice first allow an external point of view on the project, which means a different perspective from where you could see particulars that you wouldn't notice while working. As happen in pair programming this practice improve the learning and training process. If one of the two knows something he can just show it directly to the other. Also with Pair Design is possible to implement a solution that satisfy both the designers involved.
In File Exchange people work on somebody else's proposal letting someone else's work on their result. This is particularly useful from a creative point of view in order to push a work in an unexpected direction. The interpretation of somebody else's work would probably produce a result that the first designer didn't plan. If the one who take the proposal doesn't try to make it looking like the first one he or she produced previously but tries to give an interpretation this can really make people going in directions they won't never try on their own.
The File Sharing simply consist in allowing people to share their file and to work on each other files. This idea is inspired by the version control system used in open source development where the programmers can download the source code implemented by someone else and work on it and then try to merge the two ideas.
From a creative point of view this practice allow people to test solution they couldn't think on their own and to push them in directions that the first designer hasn't planned. It also helps building the idea of collective ownership on a file, since working on a file people start to feel that work also as their own.
Face to Face Moderated Discussion
A face to face moderated discussion consists of a group meeting where all the designers in a group meet to take a decision on the project development. The time for how long the discussion is going to last needs to be decided before. In this kind of meeting people keep on discussing until a common solution emerge. The important aspect is that they keep on reacting to each other in order to find a solution that satisfies everyone without compromising.
There are two risky aspects in this technique and that's when the figure of the moderator becomes useful. The first one is that this kind of discussion can take a lot of time, the moderator is important in order to keep the designers focused and on time. The second one is that, as normally happened in this kind of discussion, the people with the biggest egos are probably more able to push their ideas. The moderator can in this case make sure that everyone in the group has the same chances to express him/ herself.
The moderator must not be a designer and should take care only of group dynamics and structure. In a certain way the moderator would have the power to push the project in a certain direction. That's why he or she needs to a person with no design skills.
Unmoderated Anonymous Chat
Having an unmoderated anonymous chat meeting is particularly recommended when the designers are located in different places. Having an anonymous discussion first allows people to more freely express themselves. An anonymous discussion also make possible to consider the ideas proposed in the discussion only for what they are without considering who actually said what. People don't get judged for their ideas and the ideas don't belong to anyone, only to the group as a whole.
Shared Work Structure
Having the same work structure simply means that all the designers in the group are working at the same time on the same aspect of the project. This is particularly important once that the participants face each other in a meeting. Having worked on the same aspects make easier for them to discuss the development of the project talking on the same level. It also allows the designers to be concentrated on one aspect at the time.
The structure can be decided by the designers before starting the project based on their habits or needs. Having this kind of structure makes easier to have micro decisions instead of a macro decision.
The idea of having micro decisions is tightly related to the shared work structure. At the end of every phase the designers in the group gather together to discuss the current state of the project before moving on. This allow them to agree on certain aspects of the projects that become the starting point for the following step. In this way they are always aware of what the others are doing.
It helps reaching a solution that satisfy everyone since they alway start from a common ground to be developed further. It builds the collective ownership of the project since even the product of someone else's comes as a consequence of something decided all together.