Putting Together a Suitable Team

What are the qualities required by a good production team? They are of particular interest to employers in drafting job advertisements and to producers in putting together teams. The following material is the result of preliminary research into job advertisements in each design area, published materials, and from contacts with multimedia employers and designers, either in face-to-face interviews or by means of letter, Internet E-mail, bulletin board and discussion forums.

Joining the Team

Most employers, of course, want to employ someone who can step into the job and be productive immediately, rather than have to undergo an expensive six-months training programme. They tend to look for candidates who already have professional multimedia skills, exhibiting a sound understanding of technology and design issues and have flexibility in working with different software packages. Usually the possession of strong interpersonal social skills, the ability to write fluently and legibly, the ability to relate to clients, a creative and enthusiastic approach and the possession of project management skills will have employers anxious to take on a person. They look for artists who can draw and design, new from Art school, and are not put off by endlessly retouching in image-processing packages such as Photoshop, who also have experience in 3D-modelling and animation. They look for programmers who work in C, visual basic, and a variety of authoring packages such as Director. And at all times they will expect the ability to demonstrate the possession of professed skills.

(For further information, see "Training and Recruitment".)

Development-team structure

Clear roles and responsibilities for team members will result in a good team structure and effective team working. Roles may overlap but responsibilities should not. Here is a list of those generally involved in putting together a multimedia title. Click on each for a more detailed explanation of roles and skills profiles.

It is, perhaps, more appropriate to consider these as roles rather than as individuals since the same individual, depending on their expertise and availablity, might appropriately carry out several roles. For instance, in an extreme case (not so extreme, perhaps, in the early days of multimedia development), a single individual might be responsible for putting together a title: writing the program structure and content, designing interface screens and iconography, gathering, creating and integrating assets, programming, and even producing the design disc labels and support materials. A more usual team-size is three people: 1. the interactive/instructional/copywriter designer-director and project manager; 2. the graphic artist director/designer/animator/modeller/photographer; 3. the programmer/network manager. In general, the smaller the team the more efficient the unit, since everyone has an intimate understanding of the program's objectives and can react more flexibly to the unanticipated need for changes later in the projects life. Also, team communications are much less of a problem in smaller teams. With bigger productions, the size of the team may need to be increased and this can make project planning and management more problematic.

Attitude, Ideology and Communication

From its mix of personnel, policies and environment, every organisation represents a unique working culture which will affect the design process. Designer's personal skills and qualities significantly affect team-working and this may be explored by an examination of individual team-member profiles above.

Additional factors influencing development-team dynamics include team members' attitudes and professional ideology. As far as attitude goes, excitement and enthusiasm are valuable commodities and can be encouraged through praise and appreciation. Praise where it's due costs very little. Being overly critical and cynical towards other's work can lead to a dulling of the critical faculty by blocking one's openness to alternative ideas, reducing the will to experiment. Studying the worth and the limitations of other people's work is an obvious source of inspiration. History is not necessarily progressive and the past contains many avenues which, due to limitations of resources or technical possibilities, have not been fully explored. The team should be always looking for ideas that are fresh, fun and effective. Having found such ideas, studying and copying the methods of their realisation can lead to the development of new ones. In the end, it is also important to hang on to the idea that there is no guideline that cannot be contradicted to produce good design. Contradiction itself can be used to good effect. Challenging a user's expectations gets attention; it can, however, be overused.

Good communications between team members and with the outside development community, if only to keep abreast of developments, are also important for success. This applies to communications in drawing up initial project plans, in keeping good documentation and in problem solving. Acknowledging and talking through problems can be helpful in lifting mind-blocks, even with team members who do not specialize in the particular area you do. Sometimes a suggestion from a completely different direction can be just what is needed in reengaging one's creative thought processes. The more development team members understand the various languages of design, the more effective and efficient will be the team.