Collaborate With Purpose

Chelsea Curry
Graphic Design Lead, m+a architects
[email protected]

Collaboration. A word that has been absolutely beat to death in our industries and workplaces.  However, it has been beat to death because of how vital it actually is in the design process. Whether you create brands, digital magic, or environmental graphics, teamwork makes the dream work. Sure, great ideas can still arise from designing solo, but the ability to get others thoughts along the way helps challenge your natural way of thinking—resulting in a more well-rounded, dynamic design.

I’m thankful that collaboration is not only a core value at my firm, M+A Architects, but a vital component to our culture. If there is one thing I have learned about designing environmental graphics at M+A, it’s that working alongside other people, not just creatives, provides a dialogue and insights that elevate designs. I’ve actually found that self-proclaimed ‘non-creatives’ often have the questions that make me think about my work in a new and very practical, necessary way.

TAKEAWAY #1: Ask co-workers or peers for their opinions on your work. Listen to the ‘non-creatives’ questions and really analyze how they could make your work better.

More often than not, environmental graphic design (EGD) is part of a much larger project. At M+A, ideally, our architects design the building, then our interior designers thoughtfully craft the interior experience and I put the sprinkles on the cake with environmental graphics that complement both. Although each piece of the larger project is a project in its own right, they should work in harmony with one another to create a holistic vision and environment. When this doesn’t happen, an environment can feel disconnected and un-authentic.

 TAKEAWAY #2: Expand your realm of knowledge. Take a genuine interest in learning about the clients business, the architecture and/or the interior design. It will be apparent in the way you speak and how you design that you’ve done your research and you will have quicker buy-in from those parties.

As EGD becomes more wide-spread and accepted as a new standard, it is no longer being thought of as an afterthought. “We need something on that wall” has been replaced with “how can we best showcase our brand/culture in this space?” Well-planned EGD can and should affect building and interior design considerations and vice versa. Each component is vitally important to the project’s success; no egos allowed. Personally, I prefer to be introduced to the client early on and actually integrate into meetings towards the end of interior schematic design. This way, the whole team can start to make forward thinking ‘smart design’ decisions that may affect architectural elements.  

 TAKEAWAY #3: Build camaraderie within the entire design team. EGD designers need to get to know the architects and interior designers on the project. Aside from just knowing A LOT about the client, building specifics, materials and intended spatial experience, they have really terrific ideas (plus everyone likes be listened to and valued).

So I suppose collaboration is rightfully often over used when it comes to design. It not only makes your creative work better, but fosters relationships and builds trust while doing so. Not to mention learning to work well with an array of people and personalities is a life benefit, not just professional one.


Photo Credits:
CH Main Lobby: M+A Project, Crawford Hoying Columbus Office, photo by: Cory Klein
Ch Keys - M+A Project, Crawford Hoying Columbus Office, photo by: Cory Klein
Aykea -
Heineken -

CH Main Lobby

AYEKA Coworking offices - Tel Aviv

Heineken USA Offices - White Plains

CH Keys Cafe Low


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