Ante Meridiem Design Blog


Why Design Committees Fail

There is never one clear reason why design by committee fails. Usually it is a combination of factors that plague the project from the start. If you haven’t read Matthew Inman’s How a Web Design Goes Straight to Hell, it is the one of the most entertaining portrayals of design-by-committee-gone-wrong to date, along with Stop Sign Designed by Committee. Gary Hartley at The Floating Frog describes a typical design by committee outcome:

  • Susan loves it
  • Clive hates it
  • Malcolm gives his thoughts 2 weeks later that contradicts his original changes
  • Mike wants it how it originally was
  • Clive’s wife adds her two cents
  • Two members of the committee fail to give feedback

Sound familiar? Most committees end up in this kind of circular, unproductive feedback loop because the group operates on many or all of these principles:

  • Lack of a clearly stated objective
  • Suggestions based on individual opinions
  • Absence of a strong leader
  • Disorganized feedback process
  • Personal or political agendas

Despite the obvious pitfalls of design by committee, there are effective strategies for navigating the process that can produce positive outcomes. When done right, the product of a well-run design committee will satisfy all parties involved and produce a better design than if just one person were in control.


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