Making Sure Everyone's Voice Is Heard in a Design Project

When your business embarks on a design process (website design or branding), it’s crucially important to get it right.

  • You’re paying a considerable amount of money to a design company.
  • The design work will affect how potential customers view your company.
  • The design work will affect how YOU view your company and the direction the company takes.

Larger companies or organizations tend to have a particularly difficult time moving forward with design projects. There are many design stakeholders: people who feel responsible for making sure the project is successful. Every stakeholder deserves to be heard and to have their ideas considered; however, “design by committee” is notoriously ineffective without proper management. Here are a few tips from our experience working with large redesign projects.

Assembling your design committee

design by committee

Your design committee should be made up of people who:

  • Work great together.
  • Respect one another and listen well to each other.
  • Fully understand the company.
  • Understand the current design, the need for a new design, and the direction the company is taking.
  • Are enthusiastic and positive about the work to be done.

You should include actual design stakeholders, such as in-house marketing and design staff, company owners, department heads, and other leaders. You may have other employees who are qualified or particularly passionate about your company’s image, and you can choose to include them on the committee as well. Be prepared to explain your decision to exclude certain people from the committee.

Kicking off the project

The kickoff meeting will set the tone for the design process. Everyone should feel a part of the process, because everyone should be a part of the process. You’ll have your design committee present, as well as the company you’ve hired to execute the project.

The main goal of the kickoff meeting is to give your design company a direction to go with the design. This doesn’t necessarily include colors, fonts, or graphics.

Here are two great resources to consult for your kickoff meeting:

  • Brad Frost recommends a couple exercises:
    1. Do a gut check of how the committee feels about other sites in their industry, and find the “good and bad” attributes of those sites.
    2. Have committee members work together to sketch out and explain a sample homepage layout for the new website.
  • — This site contains exercises like the above, as well as tips and other information geared to help you manage the kickoff of your project. This site is well worth reviewing regularly if you do many project kickoffs.

These two exercises help make sure everyone’s voice is heard in establishing a design direction, while naturally filtering out some of the crazy ideas that can come up in a committee setting. The most important and relevant ideas will naturally rise to the top, in a collaborative and positive way.

Your design company will leave with a unified vision of your company’s values and goals, as well as some important ideas for the implementation of the design.

Completing and approving the new design

Team members celebrating the completion of a design project.

  • Appoint a committee leader — Everyone on the design committee needs to know that there is one person who is responsible for giving final approval to the design at each stage of the project.
  • Allow the committee to review the design at each stage — Committee members should continue to be involved in the design process. This should be done in a group meeting to allow the committee to collaboratively reach a conclusion without getting stuck on an individual idea that may not be best for the company.
  • Continue to refer to the kickoff meeting — The design direction was established in the kickoff meeting, so this is not the time to change direction or introduce a completely new idea. If something crucial was missed in the kickoff, the committee can discuss it. They may collectively choose to bring it to the attention of the designers.

After launching the new design

Congratulations! You completed the project! Now, your company has some design assets that need to be used: a new website, branding, etc.

  • Be enthusiastic about the work that has been done. Your design committee needs to advocate for the final design within the company. Within your business, talk about how the design work was researched and customized for your company and how everybody had valuable input.
  • Don’t compare yourselves to another company, especially an unrelated company. Your business is unique and faces challenges that others don’t. Just because Target has a particular menu on their page doesn’t mean you need it!
  • Be ready to defend the design if someone in your company is having a difficult time accepting it. You should defend the design itself. as well as explaining the process that produced it.

When everyone has a voice in a design project, it’s easier for them to buy into the final product even if it’s not everything they wanted. They should understand that the website or product is bigger than just themselves and that the concerns of the company have been met. Your staff members will be happy and your company will benefit from a unified vision.