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Design by committee is a phrase that gets tossed around a lot, but what does it mean? Design by committee is often used to describe situations where multiple stakeholders are involved in the design process. A design team may be made up of designers, developers, project managers, business analysts, and even stakeholders. When many voices chime in to offer their opinions on how something should be done, each with its own plan, the result can be disastrous. However there are two sides of design by committee: good and bad.
Pros of Design by Committee
Alternative points of view
There’s a certain magic of design by committee. It can be a great way to get lots of ideas in one place, and it’s often helpful to have a balanced view from lots of different perspectives. Having multiple points of view will help you produce better outcomes because each member will see things from their perspective and offer suggestions based on what they know best—whether it’s graphic design or marketing strategy.
Having a team can take a massive amount of stress off your shoulders during a design project. You have more people to bounce ideas off and more feedback on what works and what doesn’t. There will be less pressure for you to get input from all different people at once, and you can take your time to decide what direction you want the project to go in. The committee person can also split up the work among other members or hire professionals for different jobs as needed, so everyone’s time and resources are being used efficiently.
More enthusiasm from the team
When your team is contributing to the decision-making process, they will feel more included in the overall project—and you’ll probably end up with happier clients, too! If everyone has their area of expertise and if everyone understands that each contribution is valuable, the level of enthusiasm will rise. Some people will naturally excel at certain things (e.g. graphic design, writing). In contrast, others may be more interested in other aspects (e.g. working directly with clients to understand their vision). It’s important for individual contributors to feel like their particular talents are being put to good use.
Cons of Design by Committee
Too many opinions
While it can be tempting to seek out the expertise or opinions of others while working on a design project, there is always a risk that a team member’s idea can come from personal preference rather than the goals of the design brief.
Although you want to ensure that everyone on your team has a voice, you also want to avoid having too many people make critical decisions. There is always a risk that a team member’s opinion can come from a personal preference rather than the goals of the design brief. Suppose you have several people working on the same project. In that case, each person’s unique perspective and experience can be valuable to the outcome. However, if all of those perspectives are conflicting, there is no way to reconcile them. This can lead to logjams and endless revisions, potentially delaying the completion of the project.
Confusion for the designer
It can be difficult for the designer to grasp how the client want the product look. This is because there are no set points of contact and no one individual making all the decisions. So, if the client is not specific about what they want, or if there are too many people adding input, then the designer will find themselves in an overwhelming situation, forced to sift through every suggestion.
Designers will either throw in too many ideas or forget some of the suggestions altogether. That’s why it’s important that only one or a few people must be in charge of making changes to the design. This way, you only need to follow up with those people instead of constantly checking in with every member of the team.
Clashes in the team
There’s no doubt that designers are passionate about their work. But when it comes down to it, you are also just people trying your best to create something beautiful for your client. And while everyone has different opinions about what constitutes beauty, there are some things you won’t budge on as professionals: color schemes, typography choices, and page layouts. You feel strongly enough about these things that you won’t compromise them at all (even if they’re not exactly what you had in mind and cause trouble).
There’s no denying the importance of teams on big projects. They can potentially help good ideas to flourish and provide a more democratic and inclusive voice to the projects they are a part of. But there’s also a price to pay for all this, and it’s often that the team may lose focus. This problem is magnified when multiple companies or organizations are involved. Keeping everyone in check—and on the same page—can be a challenge. But if done successfully, it can make all the difference between an average product and one that makes history.
In the end, it seems that design by committee can be both a boom and a bust. The more people you involve in the discussion, the more well-rounded and flexible your design will be. However, as any professional designer will tell you, sometimes it’s better to leave the critique to the professionals.