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In the office at Imagine, there is a poster from the Oatmeal about web design and client interaction that I find both funny and sadly relatable when it comes to design in general: https://theoatmeal.com/comics/design_hell

We work with a lot of DMOs, boards, and volunteers on branding, rebranding, and marketing. More often than not, the proposed decision-making group gets larger and larger. The more ideas the better, right? Not so much. “Design by committee” is often considered a poor method for design approval for several compelling reasons:

  1. Difference of Opinions: When multiple decision-makers with varying preferences are involved, it can lead to conflicting opinions and preferences. This diversity of viewpoints can cause delays, increased costs, and difficulties in reaching a consensus.
  2. Obscuring the Original Concept: Trying to incorporate everyone’s ideas can dilute the original concept and design direction. The need to please everyone may lead to a design that lacks a clear and coherent identity.
  3. Endless Revisions: The inability to make decisions promptly can result in endless revisions, which can strain the designer’s resources and budget. Designers typically include a limited number of revisions in their contracts, and exceeding this limit can lead to additional costs.
  4. Layered and Labored Process: Design by committee adds unnecessary layers to the approval process. Instructions and feedback from different decision-makers may be misinterpreted or misunderstood as the design progresses up the hierarchy. This complexity can lead to a convoluted and confusing revision process.
  5. Poor End Result: The pressure of client-based deadlines is common in design projects. When approval processes are protracted and revisions are numerous, there’s a risk of settling for a subpar design simply to meet deadlines. The rushed decision-making often results in a design that is neither effective nor visually appealing, leaving no one satisfied.

Large group thought hinders the design process by introducing delays, conflicting opinions, and a convoluted approval process, ultimately leading to a compromised end result that may not meet the original vision or objectives. Stopping “Design by Committee” is essential to maintain the clarity and efficiency of the design process. Here are three key strategies to help you avoid it:

  1. Keep Your Team Small (4-6 People): The size of your design team plays a critical role in decision-making. While it’s important to have diverse perspectives, too many stakeholders can slow down the process and lead to conflicting opinions. A small team, ideally consisting of 4-6 members, is large enough to bring different viewpoints to the table while still allowing for timely consensus. This size strikes a balance between creativity and efficiency.
  2. Ask the Right Questions at the Beginning: Start the design process by asking the right questions. Define the project’s objectives, target audience, and desired outcomes. Clarify the project’s scope, timeline, and budget. By addressing these fundamental questions upfront, you set clear expectations and provide your team with a solid foundation for making informed decisions throughout the process.
  3. Hire Outside Expertise: Sometimes, the best way to avoid the pitfalls of design by committee is to bring in external experts who are not directly involved in your organization. These experts can provide fresh perspectives, offer creative solutions, and challenge conventional thinking. The further outside your industry or field they are, the better, as they bring a unique and unbiased viewpoint. Consider consultants, freelancers, or agencies with a proven track record in design and innovation.

By following these strategies, you can streamline the design process, maintain a clear vision, and ensure that your final product is both innovative and effective. 

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Rebecca Barnes

Rebecca aka DMO's Best Friend is the CEO of Imagine. With more than three decades of experience launching and operating award-winning companies, she gained invaluable insights into the intricate challenges that businesses encounter. Harnessing this expertise, she has build successful tourism marketing programs, initiatives, and campaigns for counties, cities, towns, venues, hotels, and captivating destinations. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her Grands, reading, traveling, and sleeping.

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