Left Bay’s Musings on the Media

Searching for answers in sales and marketing

A Camel is a Horse Designed by a Committee

I’m still a student of design (aren’t we all), but was still surprised that I had not heard this famous hilarious quote until recently. And how true it rings.

I first saw it in this SEOmoz blog entry posted last year, in which web designer Matthew Inman demonstrated the ghastly results that abound when multiple people are involved in the design process. The following graphs are taken from that post (click to view larger).

The Design Curve

The Design Curve 

After I finished laughing (may cause eyes of small children to bleed?!), I got to thinking about it. It’s funny initially, mostly because it’s somewhat true. It’s true that the bigger a team of designers (a team of anything is bound to have its plights), the harder it is to produce something everyone will agree upon, resulting in a sub-par design. Designers across all disciplines have certainly made good designs go bad with the wrong kind of input from the “wrong kind of people,” which Matthew described in his post – basically people with little to no design skills. We’ve all heard “It just doesn’t feel right,” from someone with zero design background, as someone observed in a response to Matthew’s post. What subsequently happens is, the designer goes back into the design, frustrated for hours, and tries to solve the problem of making it “feel right,” which is theoretically impossible to do.

While it’s funny, and true to an extent, input is still input. And input is valuable. It’s important to understand how people (designers and non-designers alike) react to imagery, because they’ll all be exposed to it. I could easily get on my high horse and disregard what my cousin or eye doctor critiques, but why shouldn’t their opinions matter? Aren’t they, like everyone else potentially, visitors to my website or audiences to my designs? Ultimately, it’s up to the designer to make the decisions based on those reactions.


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