So, I was on this super chill vacation in the drop-dead gorgeous valleys of Tuscany. Wine, pasta, more wine—you get the gist. I was minding my own business when I saw it: A Pontiac Aztek sitting in a parking lot, like a weird beast in the midst of Italian sports cars and Vespas. And I thought, “Yo, should I rent this bad boy?” Why? Why NOT?

Then reality struck. I remembered why that car is a case study in disastrous design. Imagine a platypus mated with a minivan, and you’re getting close to what the Aztek looked like. Jokes aside, it’s not just ugly—it’s the poster child for what happens when a design team suffers from “too many cooks in the kitchen.”

Speaking of my Italian adventure, I tried speaking the language after imbibing said Chianti, and folks, I was bad. Imagine someone who sounds like they’re jamming Spanish, French, and Klingon into a blender and hitting frappe. That was me. Embarrassing? You betcha. But not as embarrassing as the committee-driven catastrophe that the Aztek turned out to be. Seriously, it’s like they played “Pin the Tail on the Donkey,” but with design features.

Why am I telling you this? Because if you’re in design, marketing, or basically any field that requires a smidgen of creativity, you’re in danger of the same messy outcome. So, today we’re diving into how you can dodge that bullet, keep your sanity, and maybe even create something that doesn’t look like it’s from another planet.

The “Head Chef” Strategy

When you’ve got a bunch of chefs in a kitchen, each adding their own twist, what do you get? A hypertensive, unpalatable dish that not even Gordon Ramsay would swear at because it’s beneath him, that’s what. And let’s not even get started on the Aztek; I’m convinced that car was designed by a committee of people who’ve never actually driven one.

But hey, enough roasting. Let’s talk solutions.

First thing’s first: the “Head Chef” strategy. Now, what does this mean in the design context? It means establishing roles early on, homie. Before the crayons even hit the drawing board, someone needs to be given the role of a “Head Chef.” This person gets the final say. They’re the one who’s going to keep your project from going off the rails, from becoming an Aztek 2.0. Because let’s face it, nobody needs that.

The Head Chef doesn’t have to be a dictator or a micromanager. They just need to have the final say in the event of a disagreement or debate. Think of it as a referee with a creative flair. Their main job? To ensure the design vision stays clear, authentic, and, most importantly, good.

How do you pick this design demi-god? Well, they’re typically someone with experience, a strong portfolio, and the ability to navigate the turbulent seas of team dynamics. If this person is you, congratulations, you’ve just been promoted to “Captain Obvious.” If it’s not you, that’s cool, but support the one who is. A strong Head Chef makes a strong design, and strong design means you’re not turning into the laughingstock of your industry.

Remember, in any project, it’s crucial to get everyone to agree on roles upfront. And this is not just some corporate mumbo jumbo; it’s the difference between an organized, streamlined process and utter chaos. It’s what separates a design that has a clear vision from one that’s a hodgepodge of everyone’s favorite Pinterest pins. You need to be aligned from the get-go; otherwise, you risk wasting time, energy, and a boatload of money.

Got it? Good. Because, trust me, you don’t want too many chefs adding salt to your project. You’ll end up with something so salty, even a mountain goat wouldn’t touch it.

Your User

Let’s move on to a point that often gets ignored, like the terms and conditions of a software update: Your User. Yup, it’s not all about you or your team’s creative genius. So, let’s cut the nonsense, because I’ve got news for you: nobody cares about your Aunt Gertrude’s take on the color palette.

Let’s hammer this down: If you’re designing something, whether it’s an app, a website, or, God forbid, a car, you should be obsessing over your user like a barista trying to get that latte art just right. Stop with the opinionated feedback based on personal biases. That’s like saying all pizza tastes the same whether it’s in Italy or New York. Newsflash: It doesn’t!

So how do you actually get to know your user? You do what any self-respecting entrepreneur or designer should do: research. Listen, I’ve been in this business for decades, and I’ve seen more projects crash and burn because they relied on assumptions instead of user insights. You might as well shoot yourself in the foot.

Think of your user as the ultimate judge. They’re Simon Cowell, and you’re on the stage, belting your design dreams. You can’t assume you know what they want. You can’t assume you understand their problems and needs just because you’ve got a slick portfolio or because you’ve done something similar before. Uh-uh, doesn’t work like that.

Collect direct insights from users. Talk to the dude who’s actually going to use your app, or drive your car, or whatever. Conduct surveys, user interviews, usability tests, and so on. Don’t rely on that second, third, or fourth-hand information like you’re playing a game of Telephone. Get it straight from the horse’s mouth.

If Aunt Gertrude doesn’t like the color blue, but 98% of your user base finds it calming and trustworthy, you’d better believe we’re going with blue. And if you’ve got someone on your team who insists that their opinion trumps what the user is literally telling you, you’ve got a problem. It’s like asking a vegan what the best BBQ joint in Texas is. Not the right fit, get it?

User-centric design isn’t just a buzzword; it’s the foundation of any successful project. Forget the egos and make room for user data. Or better yet, let the “Head Chef” serve up that user feedback like a five-star meal. Because at the end of the day, it’s not about you; it’s about them. And if you get that part right, you’re not just avoiding a design by committee fiasco; you’re creating something truly remarkable.

The “Sherlock Holmes” Design Method

Alright, buckle up because we’re diving into my personal fave: The “Sherlock Holmes” Design Method. No, this doesn’t mean you’ll be wearing a tweed hat and solving crimes in your spare time—although, that’d be pretty dope, right?

So, what is the Sherlock Holmes Design Method? It’s being driven by facts, my friends. We all know those kids back in school who just BS’ed their way through group projects, right? Yeah, those guys are the epitome of design by committee. And what happens? The project becomes a hot mess express, full of inconsistencies and half-baked ideas.

Holmes doesn’t guess; he deduces based on facts. So, instead of assuming that people will love a neon green interface because it’s your favorite color, how about doing some actual research? Look at data, carry out A/B tests, gather user feedback—do whatever you gotta do to make sure your design choices are backed by solid, irrefutable evidence.

Fact-driven design isn’t just a good practice; it’s your shield against the chaos of too many opinions. When you have facts backing up your design choices, no one can argue against it. It’s like having a royal flush in a high-stakes poker game; you’re unbeatable. This isn’t just about being right; it’s about ensuring that your project doesn’t get sidetracked by a plethora of subjective opinions.

Sure, there are instances where you might have to rely on gut feeling or intuition, but those should be the exception, not the rule. If you’re making design decisions based on “I think” instead of “I know,” then you’re setting yourself up for a potential fiasco. And in the fast-paced, ever-changing landscape of design and technology, you don’t have the luxury of doing do-overs because you relied on hunches. That’s a luxury only cats and their nine lives can afford.

Even Sherlock had Watson—a trusted sidekick who provided an extra layer of scrutiny. In the design world, this could be your fellow designers, your stakeholders, or even your users. They provide insights you might have missed and offer a different perspective that could prove invaluable. Just make sure that, at the end of the day, you’re relying on facts, not conjecture.

So, the next time you’re at a crossroads in your project, ask yourself: What would Sherlock do? And if the answer involves anything other than cold, hard facts, you might want to rethink your approach. Because nothing trumps evidence, not even the most charismatic or persuasive person in the room.

“Prove It” Feedback Policy

Next up: the “Prove It” Feedback Policy. Oh, I know you’ve heard it—those words that make you grit your teeth: “I think I know better.” Newsflash, folks: thinking isn’t knowing. Unless you’ve got evidence to back up your grand design idea, zip it. Take a seat.

Now, the “Prove It” Policy is your defense against the chaos of subjectivity. Imagine it like a bouncer at an exclusive club. You gotta be on the list to get in. The list, in this case, is made up of validated ideas supported by research, testing, or, you know, anything resembling a fact. No name on the list, no entry. Pretty simple.

But let’s dive deeper. Validation can be quantitative or qualitative. You might have numbers that show 80% of users clicked on that big, shiny button you designed. Or maybe you’ve got testimonies from user interviews saying how intuitive your interface is. That’s your golden ticket.

Why is this so important? Because everybody thinks they’re an expert. Yeah, I said it. You’ve got Bob from accounting throwing in his two cents about user interface like he’s Steve Jobs reincarnated. If Bob can prove that his suggestions will improve the user experience or solve a design problem, then sure, let’s hear him out. If not, thank you, next!

Look, a little homework never killed anyone—although it might have made you dread school a bit. The same goes for design. The burden of proof should be on the person making the claim. Got an idea? Prove it. Think something should be changed? Prove it. Otherwise, you’re not contributing; you’re just making noise.

And this policy isn’t just for team members; it applies to stakeholders too. Yeah, even the big kahunas. Their years of experience or high-ranking titles don’t give them a free pass. After all, would you let someone operate on you just because they’ve watched a bunch of medical dramas? Didn’t think so.

I’ll tell you what, the “Prove It” Feedback Policy is like a sanity preserver in the sea of design opinions. It keeps you focused on what matters, and more importantly, it ensures that every decision, every change, every iteration is purposeful. You’re not just spinning your wheels in the mud; you’re making tracks towards a successful, user-centered design.

Remember, you’re looking for collaborators, not commentators. People who can back up their ideas with facts, data, or informed perspectives are the ones who should be shaping the project. Everyone else can join the peanut gallery.

So, there you have it. The next time someone wants to “help,” hand them the mic but tell them they better have their receipts. Because if you’re not proving it, you’re probably losing it.

The Art of Convincing: Stakeholders’ Edition

Strap in, because if you thought dealing with design opinions was a roller coaster, try selling your vision to stakeholders. It’s like playing 4D chess while blindfolded and riding a unicycle. No pressure, though.

First thing’s first: data is your best friend. Nothing screams “listen to me!” louder than a treasure chest of facts, user insights, and analytics. It’s your royal flush in the high-stakes poker game of boardroom presentations. You want people nodding, not snoring, am I right?

The goal is to align the big fish with your vision. But let’s not forget that different stakeholders care about different things. The marketing team wants to know how it enhances brand value, while the finance team wants to see how it affects the bottom line. Guess what? You gotta make them see the IMAX version of your idea, not the bootlegged one. That means tailoring your pitch to show how your design links user needs to cold, hard cash—or whatever currency floats your boat.

Here’s the kicker, though: it’s not just about the facts. Oh no, you need to tell a compelling story, too. You could have all the data in the world, but if you can’t weave it into a story that grips ’em by the heartstrings, you’re missing half the equation. Facts get them to the table, but storytelling keeps them there. It’s the emotional connection that transforms data into something resonant, meaningful, and ultimately, convincing.

And let’s be real for a sec. Stakeholders can smell BS from a mile away. Authenticity is your ace in the hole. Don’t just try to tell them what you think they want to hear. Speak your truth and back it up with data. In other words, make sure your steak has some sizzle, but for the love of all things holy, make sure there’s actually a steak there.

Now, the more vested a stakeholder is in your project, the easier your job becomes. How do you get them vested? Make them a part of the journey. Include them in crucial decision-making processes. Show them early wins, even if they’re minor. It builds momentum and, most importantly, trust. Because when they trust you, they’re more likely to back you. And in this game, a stakeholder’s backing is like rocket fuel for your project.

There you have it. That’s how you play the high-stakes game of convincing stakeholders. Build your case like a pro, tailor your pitch, bring ’em into your world, and above all, be genuine. Because in the end, the most compelling argument you can make is one that’s rooted in both fact and passion. So, bring the heat and make them believers.


So, here we are at the finish line. You’ve listened, you’ve laughed (I hope), and you’ve probably had a couple of “Aha!” moments. But let’s bring it all home. Design by committee? More like design by catastrophe if you ask me. The Pontiac Aztek learned it the hard way, but you don’t have to.

Look, we covered a lot of ground, from being the “Head Chef” who’s the maestro of the design kitchen, to knowing your user better than they know their Netflix password. We dived into the “Sherlock Holmes” method of design where it’s all about the clues, baby, and zeroed in on the “Prove It” policy that’s stricter than my high school principal.

But why does all of this matter? Why should you care? Because your designs have the power to change perceptions, to make life easier, to solve problems that haven’t even been articulated yet. That’s a lot of power for one person or a small team to have, so wield it wisely. Your designs could be the next iconic logo, the next user interface that becomes second nature, or the next product that people didn’t even know they needed until they saw it. That’s a superhero level of impact right there. So put on that cape, but remember: with great power comes great responsibility.

The other big takeaway? People. You’re not designing in a vacuum; you’re part of a team. And outside that team are stakeholders, clients, and users. Each has a role to play in the success of your project. So, you’ve got to master the art of working with people as much as you’ve got to master the art of design. It’s not just what you bring to the table, but how you bring others to the table with you.

Let’s squash this idea that design is just about making things look pretty. No, my friends, it’s about problem-solving, about telling stories, about human psychology, and yes, even about politics within your organization. It’s complex, messy, challenging, and that’s what makes it so damn beautiful.

So, keep these strategies in your back pocket. Whip them out when the time’s right and keep your designs sleeker than an Italian sports car, or you know, just anything that’s NOT the Pontiac Aztek.

About the Author: Geoffrey Byers
Geoffrey is one of the world's foremost Designers. He is also a Serial Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker, and Mad Scientist. Hypothesis-Driven experimentation is his love language.