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Design Pairing: Can two designers really share a screen?

This post is pair-authored by David Friermor and Nina Mehta

Traditionally, pairing has benefited both pivots and clients improving productivity and quality of output. We want to see if design pairing is a way to move creative, collaborative work forward. We define design pairing as when two designers, work with two mice, two keywords, two displays but only working off one computer. We paired all this week and want to share our reflections with the community.

This week we did remote user testing, script writing, card sorting, sketching, wireframing  prototyping and some visual design. Because we worked in a pair, we had more fruitful research findings and came to a better site architecture for our current project.

What’s awesome

We found that the quality of what we produced was higher and done faster than if we worked in silos and came together just for reviews or critiques. By working in pairs, we were able to share processes, skills and techniques to find the best answers of the design problems we were facing.

Pairing also allowed us to put our work through a rigorous process and have focused discussions as decisions were made. Real-time critique makes our work better and let us execute and build upon ideas as we were having them.

What’s hard

Design etiquette and pairing etiquette is already difficult; combining the two is no walk in the park. Letting go of control is hard. Letting go of your keyboard, your ideas, and your chance to say something is all hard. And especially when you don’t want to.

Design is traditionally an internal process; it’s difficult to discuss and explain every thought. We are trained to defend our ideas and refine a thought before sharing it. Getting into each others’ minds at first was uncomfortable and made us feel vulnerable. Once we got over the first hurdle teaching each other what we knew became fun and made our work better.

Well, now what?

We only paired for a week and feel like we’re stepping into somewhat uncharted territory. We recognize that design pairing is not feasible for every project, however we want to see what this can do for other product designers.

Do you have experience design pairng? Tell us about your experience.


  • Chad Woolley

    “it’s difficult to discuss and explain every thought” – yes, this is one of the main benefits of pairing. If you are forced to explain it, your thoughts will take different paths, and you will realize shortcomings in your ideas which you otherwise would not have.

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