The Fast Path to Bad Design

The fastest way to ruin good design is to run it by a committee. True story. There’s even a saying about it:

A camel is a horse designed by committee.

Let’s talk about why this typical “meeting-of-the-minds” strategy is damaging, and how you can avoid its devastating grip. Here we go…

At the outset of every project, folks tell us how they want to “stand out from the competition,” and “get noticed.” And as designers we get all gooey because we think someone else understands the importance of distinction. But as time passes, we learn that people are afraid to be different, they’d rather blend into the small business landscape.

If you blend in, you have failed.

Clients hand you money because they think you’re special. Why would anyone choose your company when you look and sound like everyone else? When all providers look the same the only noticeable distinction becomes price. Trust me, you don’t want to compete on price.

Okay, so now we understand why it’s important to be different. Doesn’t it logically follow that a committee can help you identify your strong suits? Sure. Hold a brief discussion to figure out which characteristics are most important for your future prospects. Now…

Dismiss the committee. Their job is done.

Seriously, if they’re here for the next phase you’re going to be disappointed.

Think about the last team meeting you attended. Each participant shows up at the table with an ego, emotions, maybe even hidden agendas. There are contrasting personalities, varying confidence levels, folks with experience and authority, others without… Sometimes, participants are simply afraid to shoot down bad ideas. Talk about complicated.

And when all was said and done, do you remember which ideas received the seal of approval? The best and brightest? Or just the loudest?

Don’t waste your time and money.

Face it – appeasing everyone just leaves you with cluttered and ineffective results; devoid of character, impact and appeal. So how do we avoid the damned camels?

1 – Define the objective.

It’s not easy, but do your best to identify one clear goal for your project. If you can’t do this, pour more bourbon and try again. The more targets you aim for, the fewer you are going to hit. Besides, customers want a simple message. Throw too much at them and they shut down.

2 – Name an ambassador.

Even if you have several needling coworkers behind the scenes, you really need a point man. This streamlines communication and keeps the instruction set clear. Things start to fall apart when the vision gets muddied.

3 – Stick to the schedule.

We understand, things pop up from time to time. You might need extra time to think things over, but don’t dally too long. The longer your project sits idle, the more money you’ll spend. Pushing deadlines can also mute the passion that fueled the project at inception. Better to ride the enthusiasm right to the finish line.

One last thing – a designer’s primary function is to deliver solutions that effectively address your needs. When you allow the committee to take over, you’re placing their “feelings” over professional experience. That ain’t good…

Trust your design team, it’s why you hired them.

Brian Parker