Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Buffer Problem

The one thing that almost always derails good work are middlemen (or women). I don't mean traditional middlemen like people who outsource work, or who work with a supplier to deliver goods to consumers. I am talking about people who stand between you and the real decision-makers. They act as buffers.

These middle-folk like to be seen as the decision-makers, but they really just filter your ideas to the real decision-makers. Unfortunately, the real decision-makers never experience the thought process behind certain solutions. They are often fed a perspective by a party with a lot less at stake than they would have.

The problem with this is that solutions tend to suffer from fear-based decision-making, rather than innovative necessity. Ideas will become politically-correct solutions, solving no real problems except keeping most people from being offended. This leaves solutions on the trash heap of history. They are implemented, but they don't really compel anyone.

Graphic design works the same way. Usually graphic design is sought because there is a problem to solve: increase market share, create awareness, build a brand, support an important information dissemination. But when the buffer effect happens, the design process slowly becomes an impact management process, rather than an innovative solution creation process.

In other words, instead of supporting important information dissemination, the problem morphs into design and writing that meets some internal needs. The end result is something that internal stakeholders and individuals will think is an okay solution, but the intended audience just isn't moved or enlightened by it.

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