Artwork By Committee

June 12, 2009

The artistic temperament is a very tight-wire kind of thing in my experience.

“Van Gogh was not the easiest person in the world to get along with, neither were Picasso, El Greco, or Jackson Pollock. But rightly or wrongly, when we think of artistic temperament, the personality of Michelangelo Buonarroti often comes first to mind. He was independent, arrogant, aggressive, competitive and indispensable. He’s also said to have had a nasty temper.” – Jim Lane (

Such temperaments are simply not conducive to committee work on an art project.  With such styles and temperaments, working as a committee only leads to constant criticism of ideas, great lag periods in getting anything done, and endless dust ups between the strongest personalities over one thing or another.  In the end – many stop contributing or saying much, work slows down, and anything that ultimately results is at best, mediocre.

In the open source project I am currently involved in, we are experiencing exactly this issue.  As much as some (who have a lot of skin in the current game) hate to hear it said, this approach is a wrong one and I believe we need to halt it now and start over.  A far better approach in my opinion would be to utilize the artistic temperament in our current graphics team to best advantage.  We should hold a logo contest in which each member (and anyone else interested) develops their own idea(s) and concept(s) to completion.  That way they can fully express their artistic abilities unhindered.  Then the project team as a whole should select a certain number – say the five best – and put them before the community to vote on.  I know of several linux distributions that utilized this exact method with some really stunning results.

Such a method I believe would bring us a lot of very high quality ideas and images from which to choose.  It would also avoid all the pitfalls found in the committee method.  And finally, it would move the project ahead in a more timely manner without all the delay we are currently experiencing.  We need to think about this carefully.