The Horror of Logo Design by Committee
Design by Committee is one of the more frustrating scenarios when working as a self-employed logo designer, or more precisely, the horror of ‘logo-design-approval-by-committee’. Obviously nothing touches on non-payment, but this whole shit-bags worth of: every board member, CEO, Director, MD, partner needing a say in what passes as a solid logo design for their new identity, really frosts my y-fronts.
The one thing that I can guarantee that will completely ruin your month, and screw you right up in ways you didn’t think were possible? You believe you are working with the one person who is responsible for the smooth passage of the logo design process, you have established a great designer/client relationship, and you feel that this is a perfect, almost symbiotic, relationship.
They are critical but constructive, they are enthusiastic as well as grounded, they don’t allow their personal subjective views of design to interfere with the logo design process, as they are clearly aware that what is right for the company, may not be right for them as an individual.
You are feeling so positive, so motivated and enthusiastic, that you are so personally and professional behind this new logo design in every possible conceivable way, that you almost feel invincible. Why of why can’t every logo design project goes as smoothly, and as fantastically enjoyably as this one?
During the critical part of approving and/or fine tweaking an idea to reach that ‘so close I can smell it’ project conclusion, when you both have expended huge amounts of emotional and physical energy in the creation and formulation of the company’s new identity, your soul is crushed, shredded and vaporised into the closest and biggest black-stinking-hell-hole.
How so?–By the way, if this doesn’t sound familiar to you then I hope you never ever have to become familiar with it. At some point towards the apparent end, your amazingly cool client confronts you with, something along the lines of, “Well, now we have really created something amazing together, I’m going to present this to the board for their approval.”
Queue temple and blood vessel throbbing of such extreme proportions that you want Thor’s Hammer to smash repeatedly in their face.
Your brother-in-arms, your go-to-person, the best client ever, turns out not only to not be part of the actual logo design approval process, but they have somehow, and quite incredibly, been working to a brief that is completely foreign to the newly introduced logo design approval committee.
This is that moment in a graphic designers’ life where you can literally feel the will-to-live ebb from your body. The bewildering realisation that what they have been on some kind of personal mission that shares absolutely no similarities with the completely different views/opinions of the logo-design-approval-committee.
The premise that a graphic designer is ideally designing with their clients and customers mostly in mind, and mostly not to personally please and serve each member of the committee, is of such horrid foreign nastiness, that they laugh and spit in your face.
It goes without saying that the story doesn’t end at all well for all concerned, but it can be, and absobloodylutely needs to be avoided at all costs.
When you are close to confirming a new client you must, at all costs, ensure that the person you will be liaising with understands the following: that all persons, who will have say into the final design, are both kept up to speed during the project, and that any conflicting feedback they might have at any point during the project, is filtered into one cohesive voice before landing back on your table.
It is of no use for a client to send you 5 differing set of views on your latest logo design proposal, because every one of the 5 members of the logo-design-approval-committee have completely different opinions on what sort of design should be adopted. If they are unable, between them, to come to a mutual agreement about which opinion to go with, then that’s more of an issue for them to resolve, not the designer.
For sure, I sometimes find it interesting to hear what these conflicting thoughts and opinions are, as they can actually create useful insight, but that’s only when I know each member of the collective understands that the new company logo isn’t going to be a personal reflection of their personal taste in design, and that the current set of comments have already gone through the process of being filtered into one collective voice.
Never allow/tolerate a client to surprise you, and put you in that very difficult position of having to wade through, and somehow make sense of, conflicting thoughts and opinions about the latest design proof, when you have previously been lead-to-believe you had been on the right track. It’s simply not on, and also reflects poorly on the client if internally, they can’t see eye-to-eye on something as crucial as their brand’s new logo and identity design.
The key-word above is surprise. I think there are always exceptions to this rule, but only if you are confident about taking control, banging heads together, showing them you are the boss/professional etc.
You might already be aware, before getting too deep into the project, that there is a possibility of some challenges in getting people on the same page. Also, maybe the person you have been working so closely with, and whom sincerely believed they WERE working to a unified brief, are themselves surprised by those members of the logo-design-approval-committee. In these cases you can allow for time, maybe charge additional costs for time-wasted etc, but the worse possible case is having your go-to-person lead you on a merry dance all the way to the gutter, especially when you’ve done nothing but follow all that amazingly positive feedback for week-after-week.
Design by Committee Sucks
I have been known to pull the plug on the whole project if no one from the committee shows any willingness to budge/compromise on their own personal views. There really are times when there is no way to move forward until the committee can see how their collective stubbornness is actually damaging the natural evolution of the company’s brand.