Graphic Design Problem Solving (in 3's)

October 25, 2011 | Jason Thompson
Graphic Design Problem Solving (in 3's)

A not-so-inside joke among graphic designers is if you say something was “designed by committee”, you’re disavowing any responsibility for the look of it. There were likely so many hands in the pot, the end result either looks bland and lifeless or like a rainbow run through a meat grinder.

At the same time, designers can’t live in a vacuum. We do our best work when inspired by something or someone else. We need to bounce ideas around with others and work from unexpected tangents. I’ve recently come to the realization that the perfect number of people for collaborating on nicely inspired and effective design work is three. Get three people in a room, no more and no less, and the idea flow and problem-solving seems to be smoothest. The brainstorming doesn’t have the chaos of four or more, and you don’t have the empty stares and mind searching with just two. With three, everyone’s a participant.  Nobody can space out in silence.

Wait…[Googling]…there’s actually evidence for this?!  Studies show that groups of three to five are ideal at problem solving and outperform individuals or groups of two.

So put into practice; let’s say, as your company’s design diva, you’re handed a project from someone who has some idea of what they want to accomplish, but little idea what the end result should look like.  You could just run with it and create what you think is a fantastic design, but it may not convey the message coherently. Before expending the time and energy on a design that may be tossed aside, pull a third party into the discussion, even if they aren’t associated with the project.

On the other side, if you’re color-blind and have tube socks where your right brain should be, but you know your goal, don’t just rely on the designer’s intuition to execute it.  Bring in someone else to round out the perspective.  And if you don’t have a designer to help, it’s common knowledge that three non-designers equal one decent designer.  Well, maybe that will be common knowledge after this blog article?

This ‘rule of threes’ almost guarantees you’ll approach a problem from all angles and craft a more effective solution. Having three people feeding each other helps break the creative barrier. The bonus of this rule is you’ll have buy-in from three voices, not just one or two, when more hands want to grind the rainbow, so to speak.

Give it a try the next time you’re stuck for creative inspiration or need to solve a problem. Drag two others in a room, hash it out, and let us know how it went in the comments below.

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