Design by CommitteeWhat does design by committee mean?

Design by committee often gets a bad rap because it is perceived as a flawed design process. Multiple designers work together to complete a project but due to the contradicting ideas and input that are bound to surface when they all work together there is supposedly no cohesive vision. The plan for the project isn’t considered unified and design problems can’t be solved efficiently. This results in aggravated designers and unsatisfied clients.

But design by committee doesn’t have to be that way! Perhaps a better way to think of it is design by team. Most people have been training their whole life to be able to work effectively as a team, whether they had practice with group projects in school, playing on a soccer team, or even something as simple as coordinating with your brother and sister to plan a birthday dinner for Mom. Sure there may have been disagreements along the way, but the purpose behind collaboration and team effort is to create something even more wonderful than could have been accomplished going solo.

How do you design by committee without the pain?

Design by committee doesn’t have to be as big of a hassle as it’s often expected to be. If you follow a few simple protocols it can actually be a beneficial design process, harmonizing the team and ultimately resulting in a happy customer.

There are two perspectives to consider if you wish to make design by committee work well within your company: 1) the designers and 2) the client.  

Perspective #1: Design Company

The whole “power in numbers” concept relates to the benefits of design by committee. Two heads are better than one. Multiple people working together allows a team to accomplish a common goal more efficiently. However, problems can arise because design by committee typically implies that more than two people are expressing their opinions and vision for the design project. Three or more designers trying to work together who prefer different design styles may butt heads.

But remember that design by committee CAN work well if your team designates specific roles to each member and engages in clear communication practices.

Avoid a tug of war between designers

Design by committee is usually seen as a tug of war between designers. Working together to achieve a common goal is a much more productive plan of action.

Designating Roles

To combat the issues typically associated with design by committee, design teams should designate one person to be the final decision maker. Everyone should be able to agree that they trust the decision maker’s judgement. While working as a team is about everyone having an equal say, what is a team without an agreed upon game plan?

Another important role to designate is someone who will manage the other people in the group and hold them accountable for their responsibilities. That being said, everyone needs to have a clear understanding of their role within the group. This avoids confusion and any unnecessary, overlapping effort that wastes valuable time and money.

Having clearly defined roles can also help with solving quarrels that arise as a result of overstepping boundaries. If the designer in charge of web page layouts for the client tries telling the designer working on the client’s logo what to do, kindly remind each other of your individual duties. Just be respectful on both ends. Ask if you can make a suggestion or offer some constructive criticism. In response to that, listen to the other person’s thoughts and then do with them what you wish.

At the same time as a team, if somebody needs help performing their duties, help them out! Don’t leave them to struggle and then complain about it later when the project isn’t finished on deadline. Remember that you’re representing a design company and the client .

Communication Within the Group

To ensure a design by committee experience is painless, figure out the best method of communication for your design team. Keep organized and establish a standardized communication process within the group to ensure everyone is on the same page to avoid confusion or missteps.

Group communication efforts should also make clear which stages of the process everyone needs to be included in, as well as which tasks they are not part of. Don’t put too many cooks in the kitchen; people end up bumping elbows and adding the wrong ingredients.

Perspective #2: Client

Successful client meeting

Successful client meetings end with high fives, not goodbyes.

Another curve ball thrown into the design by committee mix is accommodating the opinions of the client. While the client’s input is extremely important to ensure satisfaction with the end product and their vision fulfilled, measures should be taken into consideration to avoid additional strife.

Just as it’s important for any team of employees to work together, not just designers, it’s also important for those involved on the client side to communicate a unified vision to the company they’re collaborating with, whether it be a design company or endeavor.

Consolidate Opinions

It can be difficult for designers to create a cohesive design when hearing contradicting directions from the client side. It’s important for clients to understand the design by committee approach and realize attention must be paid to create clear communication.

Consider the idea of “if you try to please everyone you end up pleasing no one.” Confusion ensues when multiple people are giving revisions on the project and they haven’t coordinated their wants and ideas. The design company doesn’t know who to listen to!

To avoid this possible confusion, discuss ideas prior to the meeting and only include the project’s key players in meetings, the decision makers. Leave the full entourage at the office.


Projects, even if design by committee, can be executed efficiently by assigning one person to communicate with the design company. If you’re the designated communicator and decision maker on the client side, don’t second guess your decisions. While reviewing a project, consult all the people you wish, but consolidate and form a more cohesive idea before meeting with the design team to discuss revisions. Mom may hate the design, but in the end, it’s up to the decision makers. Approach the design team with a concrete idea to keep the process working smoothly.

Design Company and Client Interactions

When it comes to the interaction between the designers and the client in a design by committee environment, here are a few things to keep in mind to preserve a painless process:

  • Listen: The design company needs to listen to the client, as they’re the ones being hired to do the work. The client should also listen to the designers based on their expertise.
  • Don’t get emotional or overly defensive: Any design decisions that are made should have a rationale and clear meaning behind it. Designers should avoid becoming emotionally attached to their client creations to keep from taking any criticism personally.
  • Discuss as adults: Remember that this is a professional relationship in a professional setting. Don’t instigate heated debates.
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