As a designer, illustrator, writer and animator I have hit this issue head-on many times. The dreaded committee decision.
The New York Times has a good article in their technology section by Randall Stross that looks at the issue by seeing how Google and Apple differ on their approaches to producing products.
It touches on many of the issues associated with committees making creative decisions. Having seen this process first hand many, many times, as have many of you, it’s interesting to look at the results the two companies have had with their products.
As a dedicated Apple fan boy (I even got to work for Apple, indirectly through a design agency, when I first moved to California and designed some Quicktime training CD’s and video tapes. I even worked at Apple’s Quicktime booth for a Macworld. I was in heaven.) I am always impressed with how beautiful Apple’s product integration is. Obviously much of the world feels the same way. And I always felt that Google was an advertising company with engineers. They don’t do anything very special, but they use technology to sell adds. Apple uses technology to mostly sell things and experiences.
Nothing is worse for a creative person than to sit down with a big group of people to make a final decision. Advice and feedback can be helpful, but when you have to make a final decision on something as subjective as art/design, a committee can’t do it. In my past when I worked at various entertainment companies there were two decision making processes that really confused me.
One was the idea that sheer intelligence will make the best creative decision. The ‘smartest’ person will make the best decision. As if creativity can be judged by who passes a fill in the blank test about American history with the highest score.
Intelligence is handy, but I don’t know of any circumstance where intelligence alone made the best subjective, creative decision. Often logic fails too when making an aesthetic decision. That’s why it is a creative process.
The other action that took place in the studios was the idea that getting a group of people who have no talent or ability in say, drawing, or writing, or design, or layout to make final decisions about these things. As if by bringing in the people furthest from knowing or caring about the issues involved, they would get a better decision. I hope that when these same executives go to a Doctor they use this same methodology and gather the opinion of an arborist, a sheet metal worker and a baker about their low white blood cell count.
In the article is the following quote: “Apple Is a Design Company With Engineers; Google Is an Engineering Company With Designers.” I’d generally agree. And I have worked in software companies where engineering lead the way and ones where marketing lead the way. Both systems have their problems. The difference was usually the people at the very top, and how they trusted the employees who were in charge of certain issues. If in the end they empowered the particular employees to make the decisions they were being paid to make.
This has been going around the net lately. I short booklet that Chris Sanders did for a Disney retreat that touches on many of the same issues. How can a creative company produce the best products.
For the most part creative processes are inclusive, especially when they are media properties, but someone in charge has to know when to pull off the committees and trust a creative person to make a creative decision.
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