A client contacts you for work, you settle on payment, timing, and all the other important details, you work hard to get them a preliminary design and then it happens. Their response? “I have to show it to a group of people here and then I’ll get back to you.”
‘Design by committee’ is one of the most frustrating and annoying aspects of being a designer because opinions can range widely within even the smallest of groups and, usually, clients give way to personal preference instead of logical business, marketing, or design principles.
So how do you deal with ‘design by committee’?
1. Don’t avoid the topic
If you’re pretty certain design by committee is going to happen with any given project, don’t avoid talking with your client about it. The best way to deal with design by committee is to bring it up before you get too far into the project. Usually, clients will understand and appreciate your concern.
If a client tells you “Well, it doesn’t matter what looks good or works well, whatever my boss wants changed you have to change. No questions asked.” Please drop that client. Negative relationships (business or otherwise) disrupt that harmony and suck the life out of the creative process. Try to avoid THEM as much as possible.
2. Appoint a committee filter
Your best friend during the design process will become whoever is responsible for filtering feedback. Work with your client at the beginning of your project to appoint someone to filter committee feedback.
Not all feedback is good. Make sure someone with a little bit of power and influence has the ability to veto or filter suggestions that are unimportant, irrelevant, or not needed. This will save you time and pain.
3. Take feedback with a grain of salt
Even with someone filtering feedback, you should always take suggestions with a grain of salt. Meaning, you should use your judgement in deciding what feedback to implement 100% and which ones to work around.
If a client tells you the fonts need a bevel and a drop shadow so that they pop more, dig until you find the root of the problem: in this case, low contrast. Try making your font bigger with higher color and hue contrast before just slapping a bevel and shadow effect on it.
If you can find clients who trust your vision and will give you creative freedom to guide their projects, this is ideal. It takes time, but its possible. At the end of the day it’s your choice. Sometimes we need to take gigs that pay the bills but offer little creative satisfaction. The best one can do in this situation is to try and recognize when “design by committee” is more likely than not, and quickly divorce yourself (emotionally) from the project. If you’re good at what you do, there will always be another idea, another inspiration and another opportunity to flex your creativity. Good luck!