Design By Committee: When Collaboration Goes Awry

PUBLISHED: June 20, 2017

Whether you have an agency on retainer or a go-to freelance marketing specialist, giving clear direction and insightful feedback is essential. A good marketing collaboration breeds innovative, well-executed products and campaigns. The healthy exchange of ideas from a vested team can be a recipe for a happy workplace and business success.

However, when the conversation is tipped too far in one direction, the results can be disastrous for both the project and team moral. As they say, too many chefs in the kitchen can ruin the soup. Suggestions feel more like commands and personal gain trumps the company’s vision — this is “design by committee” which is product death by a thousand cuts.

Mastering this balance of power (and egos), especially through the design process, is a dance usually curated by the account director or project manager.

  1. Designate roles from the start.
  2. Collaboration is about building momentum. Identify stakeholders that need to be engaged early on in the process to avoid and last minute feedback that could stall the project. Assess the expertise of the contributors so that you can weigh the opinions on an appropriate level — the loudest voice might not be the most rationale. Assign a point person to collect the input from others and insure that there are no conflicting directions.

  3. Feedback is a negotiation, not a mandate.
  4. Collaboration is conversation. The designer should be able to defend their design choices just as well as the client should be able to convey why the changes are necessary. Marketers want strategic partners, not yes-people. “Make my logo bigger” can be translated to a design team as “I’m not sure the visual hierarchy is correct on this page” — this simple re-phrase allows the designer to consider the piece more strategically and removes personal preferences from the discussion.

  5. Review, evaluate, adjust.
  6. Collaboration itself is the ongoing process of improvement. If you have the good fortune to have reoccurring projects with the same team, build in a “post mortem” after the project completion to discuss openly about the challenges you faced and how the team could work better. After all, we are all human and want our opinions to be heard.

Modern designers are equal parts facilitator and creator. When you can communicate effectively within collaboration, you’ve found a good partner.

Published online at Community Newspapers.

About Brand Poets

Founded by Tana M. Llinas, Brand Poets is a collective of strategists, storytellers, and digital artisans crafting smart, poignant campaigns that command attention.


Industry insights you won’t delete. Delivered to your inbox weekly.

Thanks for contacting us!

Skip to content