Saturday, 22 May 2010

Design by committee - a recipe for disaster

You are no doubt familiar with the expression: "Many hands make light work"?

I want to tell you that this might not be such a good idea in the design evaluation process. In other words - design by committee does not work.

Now I know these days everyone tries to be as inclusive as possible to make sure that nobody feels left out. And of course it is a sensible policy to consult with your colleagues and, more importantly, people outside your organisation when designing a piece of marketing material, sales literature or website.

But in this situation a better proverb might be: "Many cooks spoil the broth"

The following is a (nearly) true story:

A few years ago I was commissioned to design a series of information booklets.

I came up with what I considered was a very attractive design which I presented to the client.

He loved it. "I think the design is brilliant",  he enthused "But ... can I just show it to a few of my colleagues to see what they think?"

That seemed a perfectly reasonable suggestion so a week later I had the following feedback:

"Well, most people thought it was great ... but somebody didn't like the typeface so - could we just use 12pt Verdana throughout?

"Oh and someone else didn't like the colour so we have decided to just have it in black and white.

"And the managing director's mother's next door neighbour didn't like the pictures - so we think it's best to take out all the pictures."

I made up that last bit - but you get the idea.

It ended up as something they could have just typed in Word and knocked out on a desk-top printer!

So what I am trying to say is when you are designing something ideally there should only be one person who has responsibility for agreeing the final design.

By all means canvas opinion and see what other people think, but remember it is impossible to please everybody. You have to evaluate all the feedback, take on board the suggestions that you agree with and respectfully disregard those you don't agree with.

That way you will end up with a great-looking and effective publication and the sanity of your graphic designer intact!

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