Design Strategy: Fight to Be Fearless

by | Jul 28, 2014

In business, as well as other aspects of life, there’s a tendency towards risk aversion. This also affects the exhibit design process. According to Sara Federici and Dave Chan, Art Guild’s exhibit creative directors, they see this happening in their world in two main ways:

–  When it comes to new exhibit design, people don’t chance something new. Instead they ask for the look they think represents design’s leading edge at the moment – for instance, the “Apple Store look” has been popular for a number of years now.

–  Or without being specific, people say they want something “really different and breakthrough”, and then whittle away at the resulting concept, until the idea is a shadow of itself, and looks a lot like everybody else’s.

So what drives this?Budget is a big factor, but based on their experiences, Sara and Dave see two other forces at work:

1.  Fear – it can be scary to fight for something that’s really different in an environment that does not support it, and it may feel safer to go with a design that’s similar to the competition, rather than one that breaks away from the category

2. The “regression to the mean” phenomenon, a particular specialty of the “design by committee” process, where everybody removes the one design element that makes them uncomfortable until sameness is again achieved

To counter these forces, the design team offered this advice. Sometimes fitting in is a legitimate strategy, but typically there is far more to be gained by differentiating your company (and yourself personally) by pushing the envelope. If you do it strategically, in a way that’s right for your audience and that supports your brand and story, you will have the power to defend it.  Be willing to take a risk, and Sara and Dave and our other designers are always eager to help you do it.