There is a time and place for a popular consensus to make decisions—our country was founded on this great principle—but the creative process is not always one of them.
All too often we see great marketing opportunities killed in the boardroom by well-intentioned individuals who are jumping into the decision making process late in the game just to have a voice in the process. This can lead to trouble.
This is exactly what we mean when we say “design by committee”—A large group of people within a company being asked to make decisions or give input on design projects.
1. Personal preferences can impede effective design choices.
When clients and the 11Web marketing team first sit down to discuss a project, the goal of the project is discussed as well as the target audience.
From that point on, we make all of our strategic decisions through the “lens” of the target customer. Content and design choices are made based on what appeals to that target with the hopes of creating a loyal customer.
When a website (or other project) is nearly finished and passed around to employees outside of the initial small team, we start to see personal preferences pop up. “I really don’t like red” or “I don’t like that picture” or “can the logo be bigger?” The list goes on and on, but often distracts from the main goal of attracting target customers.
Design can seem like a wishy-washy field, but there are “rules” to successful design, research on what works and what doesn’t, and a “science” behind colors, fonts, tone of voice, etc.
Good designers will base their designs off of this body of knowledge and experience, so before you veto a color because it reminds you of your grandma, ask for some rationale. It may sway your opinion, or upon further review of your target audience, the small team making decisions can decide what is best for the target.
2. Different perspectives, different priorities
Have you ever tried ordering pizza for a group of people? Some people like cheese, others pepperoni while others prefer tons of toppings. If you asked everyone in your office to pick 1 topping for a pizza, the end result might not taste so good.
The same is true for design. Different people in different positions will have a different design preferences for a website.
These goals do need to be explored because they contain important information. The best time to gather such information and to ask these questions is at the start of the project during the exploratory phase before any design is started. That way, all voices can be heard and good ideas gathered and implemented.
Once the process is started, then it’s time to narrow your focus and consider the target audience’s needs with a small team versus a large one. That way, you won’t end up with a barbeque/alfredo/Thai pizza that no one will eat.
3. Would you hire surgeon to manage your IT department?
Design seems to be a field where lots of people speak into the process—regardless of any formal training—perhaps it’s because we all inherently possess artistic abilities.
That said, some decisions are made best by experts.
Think of it this way: would you hire a surgeon to manage your IT department? The surgeon is obviously a super smart dude—but in a completely different area of expertise. He could learn IT, and make ok decisions, but would they be as effective as an expert in the IT field? Probably not.
The same rings true for design. We love when clients are able to share and help guide the creative process—it helps to ensure the end product is a good as possible. However, when a client says, “I have a sketch…” and expects that design to be followed to the T, they are simply paying for the designer’s execution ability, not their knowledge, experience, and expertise.
If your business hires an agency to work on a project but then opens the design review up to the whole company for a vote, the effectiveness of design is at risk because a lot of really smart people are being asked to take on the role of an expert in a field that isn’t theirs.
4. “I don’t get it”
Chances are, there will be times when advertising or design that speaks to your target audience will not speak to you.
That’s ok, you are probably not the target audience.
What do we mean by that? There are times when your clients are similar to you. For example, if you open a farm to table cafe because you are concerned about the food you put in your body, your loyal customers will likely share your same concerns. Marketing designed for your target customer will also speak to you.
On the other hand, let’s say you are a bodybuilder who opens a gym and later realizes you could tap into the market of moms looking to get in shape, take classes together and socialize. The messages geared towards the mom market will probably not resonate with you.
If you allow a whole committee of people to review design work, there will inevitably be people who don’t think the message resonates with them. If they haven’t been briefed on who we’re designing for, they may suggest personal changes that move the project away from the discussed goal.
5. Too many people who may be “stuck”
Familiarity with a service or product can hamper creativity around it. Business leaders have had years of experience working with a specific product or service and have knowledge about what works and what doesn’t.
However, that knowledge can create a bit of a rut, making it hard to step outside of the rut and forge new roads to new markets and possibilities. “What if….” ideas can easily be dismissed because something similar was tried in the past.
Just because something didn’t work before, doesn’t mean it might not work in today’s ever-changing market. Allowing your marketing team to provide recommendations will open new ways of thinking that lead to exciting new opportunities.
Tips for a Successful Decision-Making Team
Now that we outlined some of the common pitfalls we see with committee-based design projects, here are a few tips to make the process smooth, enjoyable, and effective.
1. Choose your team at the outset of the project.
Different perspectives can be helpful, but the team making final decisions should be small enough to efficiently work together and make the choices that are best for the company. Make sure the team and agency you are working with knows who has the power to make decisions.
At 11Web, we typically recommend 3 people work together from the initial kick-off call to the final launch of the site. This provides consistency and eliminates “too many cooks in the kitchen.”
2. Outline the criteria that will make your project a success.
Consider questions like:
- What is our goal of this project / website?
(example: to double our online leads)
- How will we know if we achieved our goal?
(example: we will double our online quote requests)
Coming back to this criteria can ward off issues of personal likes and dislikes. “Pam” may want a full page design layout, but doing so would eliminate the sidebar with the prominent “request a quote” button. The group will be able to discuss the value of the sidebar in regards to achieving their goal instead of arguing about what looks better.
3. Know your business and trust your creative team
You are the expert at your business – you know the ins and outs, what has worked before, what your clients are asking for, and where you want to go. On matters that pertain to your business, insist on being the expert.
On the other hand, your creative team has a lot of knowledge and experience regarding what works visually and aesthetically. You hired an agency based on work that they have done, so let your agency make the final creative recommendations. After all, isn’t their expertise why you aren’t doing the design in-house?
We’re always happy to help clients through the process of choosing their internal team and defining project roles. Let us know how we can help!