Design By Committee, No Thanks

meetings are toxic

Let Designers Do Their Job

When it comes to the design of a website, everyone and their mother has an opinion on what it should look like. I’ve sat in on numerous meetings where marketing, product, customers service, are all given a chance to voice their opinions over the possible layout/look of a website. In what other industry would this be acceptable? Because we all use the internet on a daily basis we assume that our input is valuable. We also drive cars everyday. Now imagine walking into the GM assembly plant and telling the engineers how to fit the engine block properly. That would no doubt end catastrophically. Why aren’t web designers given the same autonomy as their counterparts within other large companies/organizations?

Dear Product People: Go “Product” Something

product people

The web designers don’t tell you how to do your job, butt out of theirs. At least the marketing department has a lens on brand-ability and customer expectations. People in product (yes this especially includes the higher-ups) should have the wherewithal to know their place. If these people are brought in at all it should be during the phase in which one or two iterations of the final design are completed. They should be treated and surveyed as civilians, potential customers – not influencers during important developmental stages of the project.

Compartmentalize When it Makes Sense

I hate the term synergy. It’s another bullshit marketing credo that has been bastardized to the point of irrelevance. Perfect synergy to me, is when software and business processes are tied together in a coherent fashion, allowing for seamless reporting and quick analysis. In a human and organizational context, many assume synergy means that all departments must meet and “collaborate” to reach common goals. This mindset is toxic for several reasons:

  • Employees leak into discussions where they really can’t bring anything to the table I.E- product people in a design meeting.
  • It wastes money. These large, cross-department meetings waste valuable time for everyone involved, resulting in wasted salary hours.
  • Politics ramp up, egos get involved and the focus is shifted aways from the product. Everyone thinks their idea is worthy. Close-mindedness in the wake of rejection has a snowball effect that stifles innovation and forward thinking.
  • It assumes everyone is on the same page. While designers are working on their own unique schedules so are the other departments. Bringing them all together in a meeting often means a lot of “catching up” needs to be done, another waste of time.

The Rise of Project Management Software

Software has no feelings. It doesn’t lie. Goals are goals. Work is work. Time is defined and expectations are assessed in real time. Most companies don’t need big, fancy offices to have “meetings”. Software is quick and everyone gets on the same page through the click of a button.

I’m a huge fan of 37Signals’ BaseCamp Software. It enables designers, product people, and marketing to keep up to speed with each other without wasting their time in pointless meetings. What do you think? Is it easier than ever to avoid meetings that disenfranchise and stifle creativity within your organization?

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