I recently got into a conversation with my brother – a seasoned programmer – regarding some of his negative experiences working within a mobile game development company. Among other issues, he was quick to point out to me the pitfalls of design-by-committee in the video game industry. His major gripe was the lost of vision that occurs when there are too many producers and directors providing input on a single game. Since the project does not have a strong, singular idea you often end up with a final product which is watered down and pleases nobody.
This problem is not exclusive to the video game industry. Anyone who has worked in the creative arts sector (graphic design, web development, etc) has at least a few horror stories stemming from terrible design committees. Speider Schneider has done an exceptionally good job of describing these types of struggles in his article, Why Design By Committee Should Die:
There’s a saying I love: “a camel is a horse designed by committee.” A variation is “a Volvo is a Porsche designed by committee.” Some of the best product advice I’ve ever heard goes something like “damn what the users want, charge towards your dream.” All of these statements are, of course, saying the same thing. When there are too many cooks in the kitchen all you get is a mess. And when too many people have product input, you’ve got lots of features but no soul.
I personally lean more towards a “design dictatorship”, where one person has near total creative control of a project. This sort of approach may result in a less accessible finished project, but evades the vapidity and sterilization that emerges from a committee design.