Cooking up a Storm – The Committee

Last weekend I decided to pay a long awaited visit to my parents. Having not been there in nearly a month (which I knew I was going to get it in the neck for) I’d almost forgotten the comical, everyday squabbles that become increasingly present when you’re well into your 70’s. My wife and I walk in expecting to be greeted by the loving arms of my mother and father, but rather we walk into the mid-rift of a heated row between the two. It all ended with her screaming at my dad saying ‘next time you can do the bloody cooking Derek (my dad), too many cooks spoil the broth don’t you know!’

But why is this? Why do too many cooks spoil the broth?

Is it because each cook has their own idea of what the ‘correct’ taste is? Or is it because there is no one in charge, taking the reins so to speak? Well it’s both; to put it bluntly there is no correct method of cooking or flavor because, like music or art, taste is subjective to the person consuming it. People can usually come to a consensus when something is bad, for example a dish being served with burnt food is not an acceptable standard for any restaurant. But when the question is asked as to how the perfect dish is created can be the start of a downhill spiral for any project.

The same can be said about the design world, which can lead to several issues. The first being the length of time it takes to complete the job, although this is usually no fault of the designer, they are the ones adding the amends which can in turn place them in a negative light. When delving into the causes for long lead times there are a whole host of potential reasons that can be used. The first is that the person(s) making the changes often have no design qualifications, this is not to say their opinion is wrong or un-needed but very often, their opinion is a culmination of various perspectives from different people within an organization, meaning the vision of the project can be lost. This linking closely with my second point being that all stakeholders involved feel the need to put in their five cents worth in order to justify their validity within an organization. Answers like ‘change the colour red‘ or ‘make the logo bigger’ often arise with no consideration as to whether they would actually work within the context of the design.

The question bought forward is whether the fault is in the hands of the person delivering the instructions or if it’s just a case of shooting the messenger? The fact of the matter is, those in charge of the project will want to ensure all parties are satisfied with the finished product. Naturally they are therefore inclined to get more than one judgment when critiquing the design. What this opens up is the world-renowned blame culture that exists within so many organisations. We’ve all seen it, people trying to cover their own ass when things go south. Pete blaming it on Vicky and Vicky saying Natalie and Paul agreed with her, it’s an endless loop and quite often happens when projects are designed by committee.

With all the above being said communication is a two-way process. The designer still has to listen and take on board the criticisms of the client to ensure they don’t stray too far off brief, whilst still maintaining their own creative touch. Restaurants sell signature dishes which are created by the head chef, but this still has to align with the theme of the restaurant. The designer needs to be the head chef. A leader of the project with those involved placing their trust in the capabilities of the professional. Stakeholders involved can still put in their contribution however the overall completion falls into the hands of the designer.

Next time we go to visit the parents I think we’ll eat out.