The Pros and Cons of Design by Committee

How to manage 'design by committee' involving several stakeholder members without your project taking forever!
Last updated: August 5, 2022

When asking most web and graphic designers about “designing by committee,” you may get a lot of reluctance. There’s a reason for that: design by committee involves several stakeholder team members instead of just one or a couple.

Because several stakeholders have a say on how the project should happen, this strategy could result in a haphazard plan, followed by low-grade output that isn’t in line with your audience. This, in turn, may result in extra rounds of revision, dissatisfaction, and an overall bad customer experience.

However, that’s not always the case. While “design by committee” is most often used as a pejorative term, there are also pros to this strategy when it’s well-conducted.

In this article, we’ll weigh up the pros and cons of design by committee, so you can decide whether it’s a good fit for your business.

Pros

Alternative Points of View

As long as you’ve established clear decision-making roles before execution, different points of view won’t be a bottleneck to the project. You’ve got one brief with one end goal, and all team members involved in the project should be aligned with this same goal. If they aren’t, there should be clarifying discussions before you can move forward.

Besides, alternative points of view can help designers raise important questions about the brief. For instance, there could be a lack of essential information in the current brief. Or maybe, the current design concept won’t solve the conversion issues you’re looking to solve.

Having a single designer in charge could mean following the brief to a T, but hurting conversions down the road due to a lack of clarifying questions.

Less Overwhelm

The knowledge of having a whole team behind your project can be comforting. Especially if you’ve set specific decision-making roles in the beginning and every team member has agreed to a single result, you can rest easy. There are a lot of people making it happen.

What’s more, having multiple professionals tackle a single project means all eyes are on the target. Unless major changes are needed mid-project, it’s unlikely that the team will miss deadlines or key areas of improvement.

More Enthusiasm From your Team

Helping team members feel included is key to increased productivity and job satisfaction. When team members are encouraged to participate in bigger projects, they know they’ll be contributing to something that will benefit the whole company. And when it’s clear that the project can’t move forward without them, they become enthusiastic about reaching positive results.

Cons

Too Many Points of View

Unfortunately, to some professionals, personal preference outweighs the goal of a brief. And even if a big team is aiming for the same goal, there are infinite paths to get there. That’s where opinions and personalities may clash and derail the goal of a brief.

Choosing the right direction can be impossible when there’s no unifying vision in place. Therefore, the best way to succeed when designing by committee is to set a project management framework, such as a DACI (which stands for Driver, Approver, Contributor and Informed.)

Confusion for the Designer

The project designer can’t implement everyone’s suggestions. Without a single point of contact from a responsible team member, the designers will become overwhelmed.

It’s important that any modifications are properly discussed and the team can reach consensus before informing the designer. Note that team members should also have clearly assigned points of contact before suggesting any changes.

Conflict in the Team

Personality clashes can get the best of your team members. If an agreement isn’t possible, any preference of one suggestion over another can seem like favoritism – even when this isn’t the case at all. A single source of conflict can obstruct the entire goal of a design project, which is to create a high-converting design project for the brand’s target audience.

How to Deal With the Cons of Design by Committee?

Below are some actionable steps you can take to prevent your team’s opinions from clashing and derailing the project.

  • Avoid overwhelm by reaching internal consensus before informing the designer of any changes.
  • Collect all feedback from team members and arrange a meeting to open-mindedly discuss why some feedback will work, while other shouldn’t be implemented.
  • Allow everyone to have a voice internally, but keep your project management framework in mind. Also, keep in mind that not all contributors are approvers.
  • If possible, ask for the designer to create up to three variations of the design project. This way, you’ll have different options to choose from.
  • Ask the designer to give a presentation of the project, explaining their thought process behind their choices. This way, the fact that some suggestions wouldn’t have worked becomes more acceptable.
  • Team members must make sure that their feedback is constructive. Feedback such as “I like it” or “I’m not sure if I like it” aren’t helpful, as these answers are based on personal preference.
  • Provide enough information in the brief. Provide references, imagery, and streamline contact so the designer has all the necessary key points for a successful project.

In conclusion, it’s impossible to please everyone. Comprehensive team members won’t take declined feedback personally, but rather listen to the designer’s reasoning and embrace a solution that benefits the brand. These are the type of people you want on your team.

If you find that design by committee isn’t a match for your company, keep a trusted designer in charge of the whole project. In the end, the best solution is the one that pays off for your business.

Duncan Isaksen-Loxton

Educated as a web developer, with over 20 years of internet based work and experience, Duncan is a Google Workspace Certified Collaboration Engineer and a WordPress expert.

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