Bland GROUP design vs exciting SINGLE design ??

NOT sure how to phrase this, but a colleague and I were having a natter about design and teamworking:

If a single designer is given a project to create a… chair, and a team of 10 designers are given a project to also create a chair.

Will the chair created by the single designer be more exciting, creative, innovative that the group chair?

My argument is that the group chair will be so modified and changed to keep all the designers happy that the end result will be ‘blander’ than the single direction that one designer would create.

Their argument was that groupwork would generate more ideas allowing the final design to be more innovative…

The assumption was that the group were democratic without single leadership and all the designers were of a similar skill and knowledge basis.

Any thought? What do you think…?

I’m of the feeling that 3 or 4 designers working together, with one person being the clear project lead is great, a little competition, a little collaboration, one person accountable for the results… 10 designers working democratically couldn’t change a light bulb, and one might spend a year learning how to make candles…

I wouldn’t count the group of 10 out if there is a dictator. I used to fall under the belief that group design was destined for design by committee prugatory. But as long as the committee has a really strong Design Director (Dictator?) than it is far more likely to succeed.

Pretty much spot on, if you think of your team as sand paper where the number in the team is equal to the grit you get the same effect…smoooooooooth. Smooth design is not inovative, its safe and bland great design (and products) allways have that jagged edge of personality. Smooooooooth design is not all that bad, heck MB is smoooooth but souless as compared to a old Jax XKE. I guess there is a place in the process for “600 grit” design as well as “60 grit” design.

I think it also depends on the designer. Some (including myself) do really well with a small group (2-4 people) as long as there is someone who dictates the direction in the end. I think more people brainstorming together brings out a lot of innovative ideas, but a single person will be better at taking all those ideas and creating a single vision and concept from it that the group should then follow. If you start taking taking ideas from a bunch of people and try putting them together the vision is lost and the concept won’t be as strong.

There are always those designers that can just run on there own too and everyone should just get out of their way or do what they say.

You need a dictator to succeed, and I think the User Centered Design process is the perfect dictator.
The more designers following a well directed UCD process, the more you will see “exciting, creative, innovative” designs.

But the question is, will the final design be “exciting, creative, innovative?”
The UCD answer is: yes but only if the user needs or wants it to be.

Any team that modifies “to keep all the designers happy” has the wrong goals.

Pretend you’re Herman Miller and you have a $1m budget for a new chair design.
Do you give the $1m to the best designer you know?
Or do you give the $1m to the best design team you know?
The answer has everything to do with your preconceptions of the outcome.
If you give the $1 to one designer, you’re probably basing the outcome not on process, but on personal style.

dunno why, but something about the initial post made me think of “1000 monkeys typing on 1000 typewriters”…


the answer to the question you ask is “yes” and “no”.

i think empirically, it’d be hard to find a foundation for the benefits of group vs. individual in design.

however, more the issue, i think that both the assumptions you have-

  1. democratic group and
    2.all designers of equal skill/knowledge

are incorrect, as already mentioned by

  1. ip’s “design dictator”
  2. yo’s “designers changing a light bulb”

there are always social interactions and pressures in any group, each with its own dynamic, and designers of varying personality, experience, skill. we aren’t clones in a bubble.

as much potential and energy an individual has that let’s them succeed, a group is actually a group of likewise potential-full and engergized individuals. this is what makes group dynamics and teams so powerful.

both group and individual ways of working are important and can create “exciting designs”. Often, a type of challenge or circumstance may make one way more appropriate or suitable.

i dont think either are necessarily the only way.