Design by committee never works

OPENSEED Digital Consultancy

Have you ever presented a design to a group of stakeholders and you thought the pitch went pretty well? There were smiles, furtive glances at one another, and the squeaky tilts of the swivel chairs in abject approval. The crowd has spoken. You nailed it.

The group then goes back home, and individually, they begin to process the designs you showed them. One asks, “Can we try a different colour palette here?”, the other, “I saw this design by so-and-so brand and they had such-and-such”, another, “Can we see another 15 more variations of this version in 15 different colours? I’m curious where we can take this”. Your head begins to swell and you feel an intracranial aneurism developing because you know that by applying all these changes is like getting Homer Simpson to design the next Tesla Model Z: it’s going to be catastrophic.

Did you know the new Orlando Magic jersey took 1.5 years to design and approve? And the design was, well… mediocre.

There is an art to pitching – Don Draper taught us that. But, what they don’t teach you in Mad Men is the back-and-forth that happens after the original concept was sort-of-approved – it’s the iterations that kill you.

Rarely does a client look at a first concept and say, “Let’s go with it – send me the print-ready files.” It is not going to be happen, so what’s the best way to deal with this?

My advice: push back.

Many a time, clients don’t know what they want but they do know what they don’t want. By understanding their wants and needs, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and produce work you’re happy with, not just what they’re happy with.

The reality of the situation is that there is a few things going on their brains and they want these things:

  • Reinforcement (this could mean seeing other similar designs)
  • Their money’s worth so they’ll poke at you to get as much as they can
  • Confidence from you that you know what you’re talking about

I believe design by committee never works; however, design by leadership does.

You’re the artist and you came up with the design. It is not a matter of pitching as it is a matter of being able to debate your design in a manner that is logical, thoughtful and confident. Show them you know why you’ve been hired.

Learn this art and you’ll save yourself a lot of time and heartache.

Good luck!