Dealing with Design Subjectivity - Part 2 - Radiant

The Radiant Blog

Posted by Andrew VanderPloeg

In yesterday’s post, I introduced the challenge of design subjectivity and spoke to the need for a clear decision-making structure as the first element of giving your organization the best chance at success in a design project, especially as it pertains to the subjectivity of design. Today, I’ll speak to the other element, which has to do with creating a standard by which all design can be evaluated.

Most organizations understand the value of having a mission and vision statement. We value them because we understand that in the absence of those directive statements, the organization can quickly get off-point and get involved in things that are not only counter-productive, but even counter to the organization itself.

Design projects are no different. They need to have directives surrounding them in order to ensure that they meet the goals of the organization as a whole, and not the whims of a spur of the moment decision, subjectivity and preference. There are two levels to the directives that guide a project.

The first directive is the brand of the organization. Whether you’re part of a Fortune 100 Company, a Not-For-Profit or a Church, you have a brand. Sitting down to understand and document your brand and your brand ambitions are critically important elements of successful management. Those documents are tightly tied to how you see yourself as documented in your mission and vision statements, but they also take into consideration how you are viewed by your audience which can be an entirely different thing.

Understanding your brand and applying that understanding to all your design projects will help to ensure that you don’t send confusing messages about who you are and what you aim to do and that filters down to decisions about colors, layout and font of design projects.

The other key tool is to form documentation around each individual project that outlines the reasons for the project, any barriers to success and establishes the goals of the project (including how they will be measured).

The process of developing that document needs to be a collaborative process and all vested parties, or at the very least, the big decision makers that have the power to veto your decisions, need to buy into the directives within and sign-off on it.

Once you’ve developed that document, you now have a non-biased set of statements which can act to guide the process and the design on the basis of objective business/organizational goals for the project and the brand in general.

Which colors do the people in your organization prefer: blue, green or yellow? Thankfully, it doesn’t matter.