1. Extract ideas, don’t dictate them. It’s in human nature to like your own idea better than someone else’s. Get others to start developing good ideas and you’ll get better team and atmosphere.
2. Coach ideas more than you coach execution. There are few things more disappointing than ideas that have been only half-incubated before they’re executed. Don’t tell us how you’re going to build a graphic or package, tell us why, and tell us how you arrived at that plan.
3. Encourage brainstorming subgroups. Don’t make them come up with every good idea either by themselves or in your presence. Help them develop brainstorming alliances that will strenghten teamwork within the visual group, and have group present their ideas to you.
4. Make them learn to articulate their ideas to nonvisual people. Have them start by articulating ideas to you, and give them tips on how to better articulate ideas to others. It’s the only way their batting average for edgy ideas will be high enough to satisfy them.
5. Set clear, but not ridiculous, parameters. Let them know the barriers they can not cross. They’ll appreciate the structure.
6. Be the reader advocate. Always have in mind how the readers see your design, not editors or designers. Cool and edgy – stops being cool at all when the net results is that it’s too difficult to read or confuses the message you’ve been charged with making clear.
7. Understand “pink shirt” issues. Don’t fix things in which the only flaw is that it wasn’t done to your personal taste.
8. Don’t let them “win” because it’s “their turn” or to place them. Make them earn it. It’s easy to feel sorry for someone who has four ideas in a row shot down. Bot don’t let No. 5 be a gimme because you feel bad for them. Doing so produces inconsistent feedback and confuses designers in the long run.
9. Make feedback clear and consistent. An old editor of mine used to say:”The cow that gives the best milk isn’t the one that’s pampered with sweets, it’s the one that’s milked every day at the same time. That first one will just give you a lot of bullshit.” The point is, as you try to milk the best work out of people, they need to feel your presence and hear your opinion often – both good and bad. It improves their consistency.
10. Make them laugh. I’m sorry, but I’ve never seen creativity fostered in a snarling atmosphere. One editor in chief I worked with in Croatia didn’t like laughter. It’s hard to be creative when your butt cheeks are clamped that tightly together.