Shepherding Designs Through Committee: Part 2

In Part 1 of my series of posts about shepherding designs through committee, I set the stage and ended with five recommendations for success. Here I offer more detail about the first three recommendations.

1. Lay the groundwork early on.
Your interactions with the relevant committee should start long before the first design comp is prepared. If your first introduction to the committee is the meeting where your design comps are unveiled, you’re doing it all wrong. A shared and upfront understanding of project goals, primary audience, and creative strategy before design begins is key. For greatest success, you need to set the stage with your committee in advance by reviewing a project summary document or creative brief. And, the designer should attend meetings when this early discussion about the project takes place.

2. Make it real. Don’t rely on the imagination of the committee.
People often have a hard time imagining how something will look. Your design comps should always include believable details and look as real as possible. There’s nothing like something that looks like it’s finished and polished and, frankly, final. Committee members are more likely to trust and accept what seems to be a finished product. So, whenever possible, your design should use photography from your campus, include actual copy, and follow brand identity guidelines; you get the idea. Remember, comp is short for comprehensive layout; make sure yours is.

3. Don’t just prepare comps. Prepare for the presentation.
Careful preparation for the meeting where design concepts are shown for the first time is critical. The presentation should be a planned, formal, official, and in person part of the committee meeting and all the details around the unveil matter! In advance of the meeting:

  • Rehearse the presentation with people you trust. During the rehearsal, practice responding to questions the committee members are likely to ask. Prepare thoughts about concerns you expect them to express about the designs.
  • Ask your boss or executive sponsor to be ready to weigh in or respond at particular points, or to particular questions, during the presentation. If you can, provide talking points to be used.
  • If you are using a projector to show the designs, go to the room you’ll be in at the time of day you’ll be in it, just to see how things will look. The projector and a different laptop can really change the way a design looks; colors are often washed out, visual elements can be distorted, and fonts might be missing. Control the environment so that designs look their best.
  • Proof and review and proof again, and again. Every committee includes outspoken people who eagle eye in on errors, typos, and other inaccuracies. Immediate concern about minor errors can even distract otherwise effective participants, derail the discussion, and potentially reduce the credibility around the comps you are presenting. Count on your best proofreader before the reveal.

In Part 3, I’ll explore the last of my five recommendations for shepherding designs through (the dreaded) committee.

(This first appeared as a feature in the Summer 2013 edition UCDA Designer Magazine. “Shepherding Designs Through Committee” was published as Vol. 38, No. 2.)

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