A decent definition of collaboration that I found states “collaboration is a working practice whereby individuals work together for a common purpose to achieve business benefit. Collaboration enables individuals to work together to achieve a defined and common business purpose”.
As a creative consultant working in the music industry I find that collaboration is a massive part of my work. Whether I am working with creatives, brands or organisations, the collaborative process is an essential part of the process to success. On any given project, there could be 5 or 6 main collaborators across disciplines but over 100 others in collaboration throughout the whole project. Often, I am a creative lead or head up some creative aspect but not usually the overall project manager or holder of budget, so you can imagine the challenges when trying to communicate my vision and ideas in order to progress them. Due to the very nature of a change being presented they can often be met with resistance, with real or developed barriers. Especially when NEW approaches or ideas are a part of that vision or idea. The ability to make your vision and idea integrate with the clients vision, ambition and resource/s is a necessary skill. And for that to work a mutual respect for each collaborators skillsets, expertise, role and responsibilities and motivations are key!
Up top is a short doc on Virgil Abloh – who if you didn’t know was an acclaimed American fashion designer and is considered a genius designer and a visionary – and his work on Project MAYBACH which saw him collaborate with chief design officer for Mercedes-Benz Group AG Gorden Wagener on a new car. I found this really interesting because Virgil was serial collaborator that broke through many a glass ceiling and pushed a lot of creative and cultural boundaries in the process. His unique vantage and creative viewpoint was so accurate and so special and so well-honed that he literally revamped brands – actually scratch that – fashion, art and popular culture. The video above demonstrates his ability to collaborate and create great works reflecting his vision so acutely whilst respecting his collaborator’s and client’s baseline needs, brand DNA and parameters. This is inspiring. What I take most from his work is the way it appears that he doesn’t negotiate his vision and the work, rather he gets it all out, while still maintaining harmony with those he is working with or / and the canvases he is working on. You can see his fingerprint on all that he has done, in the same way that all creative consultants or collaborators, myself included, strive to achieve.
By Yaw Owusu
Footnote, please check out this documentary I executively produced for the BBC WORLD SERVICE that focused on designer Jeff Staple as he completed his collaboration with Timberland. Another serial collaborator, Jeff has collaborated and released lines with brands such as Nike, Coca-Cola, Oakley, Uniqlo, PUMA and Clarks. This is a very interesting dive into the process and how he, like Abloh, creates unique works that authentically reflects his vision but also respects his clients and the product’s practical, cultural and commercial DNA.