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?

Rebels Are Confident

Key pillar number two.

2.18.2020

Be sure to read pillar one before diving into this article:

Rebels are Honest

Being honest opens the door to a hidden superpower: confidence. Because of their honest nature, rebels exude confidence. Why is that? When you consistently tell the truth, you get really good at it. Unlike their deceptive counterparts who constantly have to watch their words to make sure the lies add up, an honest person can speak the truth with the same effortlessness as drawing a breath.

Furthermore, because of their willingness to accept the truth that things are imperfect, rebels can be themselves without feeling the need to impress other people. It's confidence that allows a rebel to say, "I don't have a Ferrari, I don't have 50k followers on Instagram, and I'm not a millionaire, but it doesn't matter to me. I'm still going to get out there and make a difference."

As the old adage goes: confidence is not having everyone like you, it's the ability to be yourself whether people like you or not.

Rebels are honest.

Rebels are confident.

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Typefaces and Fonts for Startups

How do you navigate using fonts and typefaces in your startup?

4.16.2020

Let's set a boundary here: the design elements of your startup can change and evolve as your company grows. As such, the earlier your startup, the simpler the solution. As you grow and scale, things can get more dynamic. This article is dedicated to new startups that are experimenting on their own and have found choosing fonts to be a hurdle.

I'd imagine the scenario that led you to this article is something along these lines: you're putting together pitch decks, business cards, websites, etc. and you feel like you have to pick a new font every time. It's draining and you're not even sure if you're picking a good one for your brand.

The solution? Pick one, generic, easy-to-read typeface and use it everywhere.

Yep. Skip over mulling through MyFonts or TypeKit and use something that has been around for a while as a starting point.

Some recommendations:

Helvetica

Avenir

Futura

Montserrat (this one is free)

"But Zach, I want something unique and pertinent to my brand."

Yes, you do, but you're not ready yet if you can't afford to hire an in-house designer or outside consultant to even define your brand. Your goal right now is to appear trustworthy and dependable to investors and customers. Trying to choose unique typefaces will end poorly and hinder you from getting you to a point where you can pay someone to take this off your plate.

Pick a typeface from any of the above, use a bold, regular, and light versions, and play with hierarchy and scale to create compositions.

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