New day, new project.
In our creative department, each day brings a new challenge. From branding to strategy, from a simple wireframe to the final development, the whole process of corporate communication involves plenty of decisions, and rounds of feedback before a project is approved. That’s business as usual for all agencies.
But at the heart of each new design project there is something in common: the germ, the essence. It’s that moment when the core idea germinates as the team brainstorms around different ideas and concepts. Collectively there’s a “wow that’s IT!” moment when we all see the main concept floating in our minds. In that moment, we feel really good because we know it’s the right one for our client.
From there, the process accelerates. Design, development, construction, editing, broadcasting, etc. The project starts to have a life of its own and things (new ideas?) just happen all around you.
Watch out: this is potentially the most dangerous moment when the so called Frankenstein Effect can occur.
The Frankenstein Effect? It’s when new ideas and concepts are added to the project without any connection with the global concept which made sense. If it happens on a massive scale, then the whole project becomes a kind of monster, a construction of un-connected modules, that strangles the clarity and direction of the original concept. And when we see this result, we feel really bad.
To illustrate the point imagine any one of those thousand corporate websites you visit. Have you noticed some sub sections of these sites are completely different from another? Different fonts, different colours, different graphics. Or think about all those unfinished mini-sites, each with a different design and no corporate identity that links with the corporate site. And what about the flyers and deliveries (collaterals)? One red, one with Arial font, another with a relaxed tone while another is very formal.
Fighting against the Frankenstein Effect can be perceived as killing creativity, but it’s about defining the rules to ensure the original goal is met.
How does the Frankenstein Effect happen?
The Frankenstein Effect can occur for two reasons. The first happens when a project involves many people, including clients, designers, and developers, each with a different opinion. If the agreed design concept isn’t managed and communicated properly to all teams, individuals less connected to the project and unaware of the original objective can start taking the project in a new direction.
The second reason can happen over time when key people leave the project and new people pick it up. They make changes which they believe are improvements without understanding the all up goal. If left unmanaged the original project is unrecognizable after one or two years, which is a real shame.
How to avoid it?
Really simple: ongoing communication. The team needs to be aware of the rules and the goal. If everybody knows, everything goes 🙂
Guidelines are always a good starting point accessible on a document sharing system that includes tracking throughout the duration of the project. Also, remind others of that original germinal feeling to keep them on course. Avoid several people giving different feedback at the same time.
And finally it’s very important to clearly establish roles at the beginning of the project.
A whole project is like a speech. It can evolve over time; it can grow and follow along different lines, but at the end it always has a global meaning. The same way words create a complete meaning within a paragraph, different communication activities within a design project need to be structured to deliver a clear concept. That concept which during the brainstorming session, at the very beginning of the project, made us feel really good.