What Makes a Successful Collaboration?

If you're following other artists online, odds are you've seen two or more people team up to make something awesome. I want to break down the barrier and explain how you can do your own artist collaboration, regardless of what skill level you are at.

But why collaborate?

If you make art by yourself, it may seem unnecessary (or even hindering) to work with someone else. But if you only work solo, you are missing out on a ton of fun and learning.


Collaborations challenge you to think in new ways.

When a process works for us, we tend to repeat it and build a comfort zone for ourselves. I say, screw that! Through collaboration, we can learn from the way others work in their craft, and bring a new perspective back to our own work.

1 + 1 = 3

Whether you are teaming up with a lettering artist, photographer, painter, sculptor, scientist or chef, you are bound to take something away that you wouldn't have discovered on your own. The results are often more unpredictable as well. Therefore, the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts.


Collaboration forces you to compromise

Designers are control freaks by definition. We see all the details and the flaws and we're trained to fix every little thing one until we are satisfied. So why would we want to compromise on our vision? It sounds like a negative thing.

You can see where I'm going with this...

There's no right or wrong way to do things when it comes to creating. Yes, there are "design rules" that are taught, but in the end they are meant to be broken. Having another person there helps you zoom out and it takes a lot of the pressure off. Especially when you are experimenting with a new technique, you will find that the details are not as important.


What to look for in a Collaborator

Luckily, the internet has made it so easy to find and contact artists to work on a new project, but that doesn't mean you should ask just anyone to work with you. When you're looking for a partner, there are three main things to look for:

  • Diligence and Passion
    This one seems obvious. The project will fall apart if your partner doesn't have much passion for what they do. Each person needs to be ready and excited to do their job, and hold up their end of the bargain.
  • Alignment on Goals
    What are you looking to get out of this collaboration? Is it just for fun or do you have a goal in mind? Ideally you want to find someone who has a similar vision to you. Write out those goals and get on the same page before starting the project.
  • Skill Level and Good Taste
    This one is impossible to measure, particularly with diverse skills. You just know it when you see it. Ideally you want to find someone who is close in skill level and has similar taste. Aim too high and your partner will be calling all the shots, or they might not be interested. Aim too low and you won't get that much out of it.

Having these three things as a guideline will help your project succeed. However, if you can't find an awesome partner who is down to work with you, that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. The worst case scenario is that you don't share the results and move on to the next on. So just give it shot!

I've done a few collabs over the past month, and I'll be posting more about those in the coming weeks, including a time lapse of the above chalkboard I worked on with Will Pay. Keep an eye out for those on Instagram and Dribbble.


I hope this article gave you some ideas for how you can work with someone else on a new project.  I challenge you to come up with an idea for a personal project that involves a collaboration. If you have any questions or results you'd like to share, feel free to reach out!

Eric Friedensohn