Join Lauren Bacon for an in-depth discussion in this video Avoiding design by committee, part of Collaborative Design: Process and Efficiency.
- At this stage I hope it's clear to you that collaborative design does not have to fall into the awful, terrible category of design by committee. It can be not only efficient, but also a highly effective way to work. By engaging the right people at the right decision points in your project and by coaching them on how to provide helpful feedback, you can create extraordinary outcomes. Better by far than anything one person could create on their own because the solution you develop will have been informed by diverse perspectives and reviewed by several people who are deeply invested in achieving the strategic goals.
But let's talk for a minute about what we mean when we say design by committee in case you find yourself afraid that you're veering into that territory. Usually, we describe a process as design by committee when we feel like the project has had all the life sucked out of it by an endless series of compromises. I think it might be helpful to break down some of the component parts of this in order to understand how to avoid it. When we design by committee, we favor compromise over healthy conflict. Compromises often arise when we're afraid of confrontation and simply try to placate everyone by giving this person something they wanted, conceding another point to that person over there, and so on.
The fix for this is to resist the temptation to placate and instead dig in to critical feedback to find out what's really behind it. If there's a genuine problem at the root of the person's concern and not simply a question of personal taste, you'll be able to find solutions to that problem that don't involve compromising the integrity of your design. Design by committee also suggests a process that's inefficient and dreary. The solution to this is to have a clear purpose, outcome, and process for each meeting. And to make sure that everyone on the team understands the impacts of disrupting the process.
There's no reason you can't have effective and efficient meetings with a larger group, you simply need to make sure everyone understands why they're there, what input you need from them, and how much time you've got. And finally, I think the other facet of design by committee that makes it so horrible is that the results are ineffective. We can spot these designs a mile off because they're so bland as to be forgettable. Well, I've never worked with a single client who said they wanted to be forgettable and I'm sure you haven't either. But those forgettable solutions come about because somewhere along the line the team lost sight of the target audience and the strategic goals.
So by focusing relentlessly on your end-users and your vision and strategy, you're far less likely to wind up with something blah. In fact, you'll probably end up with something that knocks everyone's socks off and that might just convince them all that design by committee can actually be a good thing.
- Setting expectations
- Assembling your design team
- Gathering input from stakeholders
- Getting effective feedback from non-designers
- Avoiding pitfalls