Do You Have an Auteur?

One thing we’ve found over and over is that it’s much easier to work with a single decision-maker than to work with a committee. The Auteur vs. the Committee by Randall Stross reminded me of how important this distinction is in design.

The author’s point is that Apple has “taste” because Steve Jobs has taste, and that Google, by comparison, doesn’t have that kind of advantage. It’s in the very DNA of the company, started by two Stanford students, and run in a very compartmentalized way. Apple has an auteur, who makes the final call on every major decision the company makes.

The auteur, a film director who both has a distinctive vision for a work and exercises creative control, works with many other creative people. “What the director is doing, nonstop, from the beginning of signing on until the movie is done, is making decisions,” Mr. Gruber said. “And just simply making decisions, one after another, can be a form of art.”

We’ve worked with all kinds of clients, and you might assume that it would be difficult to work with a company run by an individual with a strong will. But generally speaking, the end product of that collaboration is much better because it’s far less likely to get muddied and bogged down with too many opinions. Too many opinions tend to drive the design decisions toward the safest choices, the lowest common denominator.

By contrast, when we’re working with a single, decisive individual, the big hurdle is getting on the same page. Once we’re on the same page, things tend to proceed smoothly, and the end product retains the strong voice that it started with.

Does your business have an auteur?