A camel is a horse designed by a committee – a designer’s guide

camel-horse-designed-committee

“A camel is a horse designed by a committee,” is attributed to Sir Alec Issigonis, the creator of the iconic Mini in 1959. This is generally regarded (Wiktionary link) as another version of the phrase ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ albeit I would add particularly if some of the people on the committee are not cooks, or creative, or have any knowledge of food but are convinced they are just naturally gifted, or that cooking is easy, and simply have no understanding or respect for the art of cooking or, significantly the importance of one person’s vision, talent, knowledge and creativity, controlling the design, sorry cooking, process, and the great results that can come from that.

And breathe.

Camel love

It has always bothered me, that camels get a bit of a bad rap from this often quoted phrase. It is essential to recognize the strength of camels in their own right. These resilient, magnificent creatures, are themselves a fantastic piece of design in the function over form principle, and as a camel may well say, “Let’s see how long your beautiful horse lasts in the desert!”.

If the goal is to design a creature to conquer the scorching desert heat, then a camel is clearly a design classic. However, if your vision was a sleek, four-legged racehorse, you’ve messed up, or you had to listen to input from an egotistical nightmare of a CEO,  a couple of self entitled brat interns, a project manager who failed to make the grade as a designer convinced of their own genius, and another person who aren’t sure themselves why they are part of the committee, but thought they should add an opinion to make sure they showed they were awake during the meeting, as they hadn’t spoken for a bit.

Striking a Balance

Acknowledging the importance of feedback and diverse opinions in the design process is crucial. The challenge lies in maintaining a delicate equilibrium, ensuring that the cacophony of voices doesn’t drown out the clarity of the design objective. A singular, guiding voice is the rudder steering the ship through the stormy seas of creative collaboration. It’s not about stifling input; it’s about channeling it effectively, much like the way a herd of camels moves cohesively across the vast desert landscape. See, told ya, no anti-camel sentiment here!

A lot can be learned from camels, they could be considered as a mascot of endurance and adaptability, thriving in challenging environments. Like, for example, working with a committee of ‘design experts’.

Alec-Issigonis-mini-camel

Alec Issigonis designer of the Mini – not a camel fan, allegedly

Silence Isn’t Golden

“A camel is a horse designed by a committee,” doesn’t imply that silence is the solution. In the realm of design, fostering an environment where everyone feels heard and valued is vital. It’s not about muting voices but orchestrating them into a symphony that produces a harmonious design. There needs to be respect for design, an understanding of what quality design can bring, and mutual understanding that a good design solution is the aim. Not power or control, or to give a narcissist their supply.

committee-camel

The talent in the room, will be who the committee are looking at…

In the ever-evolving landscape of graphic design, the analogy of a camel designed by a committee serves as a humorous reminder of the challenges inherent in collaborative creativity. Embracing diverse perspectives, respecting the strengths of each element, and steering the creative ship with a steady hand ensures that, in the end, you don’t end up with a camel when you were aiming for a horse—or vice versa. After all, the desert of design is vast, but with the right blend of creativity and collaboration, your creation can endure and thrive. Ultimately it is all about intent and motive. Is it the designer’s ego that resents the input from non designers, is the desire to interfere from non designers based on disrespect for the field of design, a desire to play at being creative, a desire for control, or is everyone in the room a perfectionist that wants the very best outcome for the company or organisation? Because if it is the last one, that one is a good committee. It can be challenging and hard work for all, but great quality designs can come from that experience. Ultimately that is the goal, and it doesn’t matter how you get there.