What do you do if you’ve labored for hours (or days or weeks) over a design and your coworkers just don’t like it?
When I create something new, I always show the prototype to a few key people as I’m in process. I can get their early opinions and shift my design if it’s necessary before spending too much time and energy on it. In my dream world, I would use 5 or 10 minutes of our monthly staff meeting to project my designs on the big screen, and everyone would care as much as I do about colors, images, and spacing, and readily and openly share their thoughts on each element of the publication.
But this doesn’t actually happen in real life…you’re lucky if you get someone to say “yeah, I like it,” right? And if they say something negative, like your design is too simple, or that it misses the point, or that –gasp– it’s unprofessional, it almost becomes a personal affront. This is because design often feels very personal after you’ve poured your time and energy into it. However, it’s important to remember that when someone contests your handout, infographic, or web slides, they really aren’t attacking you. It’s likely that the person is just coming from a different perspective, and it’s worth hearing them out and considering revising because design, in essence, is not personal at all. Design is for the public, so it is of the utmost importance to consider the public’s reaction to a design.
A situation like this recently happened in my library, and the solution was to have our staff vote in an anonymous survey (we used SurveyMonkey) on their top choice between two designs. Be prepared, though, in a democracy, your choice doesn’t always win!
May 7, 2013 at 3:33 pm
Design by committee, or democracy, can be a double-edged sword. Yes design is supposed to be for the public but it’s the job of a good designer, or those that have studied the principles of design, to know what will work for the audience they’re creating for.
Design is extremely subjective which is why we see so much clip art and the overuse of Comic Sans and Papyrus in what I would call amateur graphic work. Being able to evaluate the purpose and tone of a design, be it physical or digital is key.
I was part of a web redesign team at a public library and in this same vein we created three website mockups to present to a committee of library staff to allow them to choose which design they preferred. They ended up choosing the one the team liked the least and the one which, while visually attractive, was the least usable and sustainable in the long run.
There does need to be a balance between others and your own sense of design and while taking their considerations into account one should also have the ability to explain why aesthetic and structural choices were made. Being knowledgeable and able to clearly explain the why and how can help open minds and doors when it comes to design.
May 10, 2013 at 5:45 pm
Kelley, I think your point about being able to explain your design is a really good one. I think that it can often help in situations like the one you describe, and also the one that April mentions in her post. Sometimes (although not always) sharing the reasons behind your approach/decisions can also help nudge people in your preferred direction.
I have the hardest time presenting “options” because inevitably I love one more than the others and am always disappointed when my top choice doesn’t win out.
May 8, 2013 at 11:23 pm
I find the best solution in this type of situation is to actually take it to the users and see what works best with them. The committee can only do so much. And after a bit people get trapped by their own dislike of this or that and loose site of the big picture. User test & having staff watch user testing can make a HUGE difference in your results.
May 10, 2013 at 5:52 pm
Your comment reminded me of the episode of Parks and Recreation where the department develops a mural design by committee. It ends up being a big ol’ mess of a soup. I think sometimes designs look awesome to internal users, but when shared with the public we often see missteps (especially with web design).