Design by Committee

Why it's ineffective and the alternative.

June 4, 2020

I had a call with a prospective client yesterday looking to get some collateral made for their company. During our call it became clear that there were going to be multiple people making the decisions and signing off on creative.

It's not like it was just two people either, hell it wasn't even four. On this project, there would be eight people that would have to look at this an approve it. Eight!

That's a lot of cooks. Respectfully, I said that it doesn't work out well to design by committee and that it didn't sound like it would be a good fit. They agreed and we got off the call.

Here is why design by committee is a bad idea: vanilla ice cream.

Allow me to explain, there are hundreds of unique ice cream flavors. From cookies and cream, mint and chip, rainbow sherbet, Ben and Jerry's Dairy-Free Peanut Butter Cookie Dough (my personal favorite), or even ice cream with candied grasshoppers. These flavors are memorable, whether you like them or not, because they have elements of distinction.

Now imagine you have eight different people in a room and you try and get them to agree on one flavor. Fat chance.

You will end up with choosing vanilla because it's good enough to do the job and it won't upset anyone. But it's not going to turn heads like the others. What's more is that if one person decided on getting a unique ice cream flavor, like cookies and cream, I doubt anyone would be morbidly detested by the choice. It's ice cream for Pete's sake.

Same thing with design. As long as you follow the basic principles, it's difficult to arrive at a detestable solution. It's well designed, that's what matters.

The alternative is this: understand that you aren't building something for yourself, you are building something for someone else. Be it investors, customers, whomever it is, build for them.

Next, establish one decision maker. Someone who can be trusted to make a good decision and let them do their job.

Do not design by committee.

More you say?

Cliche Branding No-No No. 1

A common phrase that you should exclude from your branding.

1.8.2020

It's hard to understand how some fads become established. Across all levels of business, I've seen a formulaic headline being used in ads, on websites, and anywhere else copy is used.

It goes something along the lines of this:

"Our (insert service/product here), your (insert benefit here)."

Most recently, I saw it in a Hootsuite ad that stated "Our social media tool, your success," to provide a concrete example.

There is something about this that feels off. Partly because it feels like I'm being lead by a carrot on a stick. Use our tool and all of your dreams will come true, they say. The thing is that no one actually believes these kind of statements because they know the real meaning behind them is sales. No one likes to be sold to, it seems needy.

What makes this distaste for a "salesy" ad even greater is when it's used over and over again in the form of a cliché. Think about it, how many times have you seen an ad that touted a similar phrase?

"Our team, your peace of mind."

"Our social media tool, your success."

"Our burgers, your satisfaction."

The list goes on and on and on, and for what? In the hopes that someone is going to feel something from a plug-and-play slogan, they've heard four times in the same day?

This phrase is for companies that don't have anything better to say or the courage to be authentic. Don't let that be you.

read more

Stop Lying

Small falsities that make your startup less likable.

4.7.2020

Of all the things wrong in this world, telling a lie is my least favorite. Mainly for this reason: it prevents anything from improving.

If you tell a lie about a situation, you are intentionally shoving any prospect of fixing it out the door. In the startup world, this comes in many forms, "we're gonna have a billion dollar valuation," "our financials are steady," and my least favorite "we're the best."

Look, don't get me wrong, I think you should strive for a billion dollar valuation, you should strive for steady financials, and you should put your best efforts forward, but don't let these aspirations replace the truth. Like the fact that your startup is maybe worth $20,000 as it stands. Or that your financials are super shaky and your revenue streams are scattered. Lastly, don't confuse your best efforts with being the best solution available.

Why? Because if you let these lies replace the truth, you will certainly overlook what is stopping them from becoming true.

Without a doubt there are aspects of your startup that are amazing, and that you are brave enough to go out there and make something happen. But you will never get better if you cannot look your shortcomings in the face and accept that things could be better.

read more