Growing up, visiting my friends and family in Israel came with an overwhelming electricity of seeing each other for the first time in a long time. We would kiss and hug one another, then hold each other at arm’s length, reacquaint ourselves with each other’s faces, discovering new freckles and wrinkles, filling in the blanks of our memories of one another — finally!
Today, speaking face-to-face with friends, family, clients and colleagues only requires a screen. Sitting at mission control (my desk) with my elevated laptop, my second screen and at least one additional computer at each desk, the first thing I do is open Skype. I hear that familiar tone and seconds later, I see my business partner’s face. Frenzied by half a day gone by, she fills me in on everything that happened in our Tel Aviv office while I’ve been asleep.
She shares her screen, showing me design progress for internal QA. I give her notes and she fixes each item on her screen. I say, “move that a little to the left.”
She clicks the mouse a few times and replies, “There? Is that good?”
It’s an impossible conversation to have without screen-sharing. Next, she grabs our lead designer to weigh in, our developer to tell us if the design is feasible within the parameters we are working — and boom. It’s as if I’ve been transported to Tel Aviv.
Video chats are not just for the team to communicate from across the Atlantic. Many of our clients, even if they are located in the same city as the designer on the project, prefer to video chat. Sitting in the comfort of their own offices, the clients see our designers screens and can weigh in on their projects in real time — speeding up the revision process exponentially and creating an atmosphere of true collaboration between designer and client.
The phone has become obsolete. Without fail, each client phone call ends with, “You know what? This is too hard to explain over the phone. Let’s move to a video chat so I can share my screen.”
Words cannot express an aesthetic nearly as well as images can. Even looking at the same thing on different mediums isn’t as efficient as the alternative at our fingertips: the shared screen.
However, sharing your screen with a client can lead to some embarrassing moments if done without some prep work. Remember, inviting someone into your computer is just like inviting someone into your home. Tidying up is important! So consider the following steps:
- Clean the dirty dishes: Close down any apps that are not crucial for that conversation. For example, you don’t want to get a text from a friend with NSFW content that pops up as you are talking about market and competitor research.
- Wipe down your surfaces: Make sure that if you are going to show someone your web browser, you have your Fresh Direct, Facebook and even work related (but not conversation related) tabs closed.
- Prepare snacks for your friends: Make sure that the content that is necessary for the conversation is open and ready for viewing.
- Know how to operate your television: if you have to make tweaks on the fly, make sure you are confident and comfortable utilizing the programs at your disposal. If you fumble, it could lead the client to lose confidence in your technical abilities.
The gift of the video call allows us to show each other everything from our hand-drawn doodles to digital designs. Sometimes seeing a colleague’s unkempt desktop can communicate a lot about them. We see each other’s organizational habits, facial expressions and hear each other’s feedback. We even have our fair share of inter-office shenanigans, creating a real sense of community, teamwork and dare I say, friendship.
Fostering this sort of interconnected environment requires a full integration between the body and the computer. Utilizing inter-office communication applications like Slack is crucial. We create multiple channels; one for each project, one for each office, one for both offices and one for shenanigans alone. This signals to our team that we are here to have fun but also work hard and work smart.
There are endless programs we use each day to create deliverables for our clients, from Sketch to Illustrator to AfterEffects. I never dreamt that Skype would play such an integral role in the creative process. Without it, we wouldn’t have two offices on opposite sides of the world.