By Ingrid Sapona
Recently I had to choose some artwork (an icon) for a
project I’m working on. The illustrator came up with three designs. They were
similar, but there were definite differences. One of the icons appealed to me
right away. It so happened it was the one on the far left (all three were on
one page). The background colour on the one that jumped out at me was also
different from the other two – it featured a yellowish-gold palette, the other
two featured dark red palettes.
This business of choosing an icon was new to me and because
making the choice is a one-time thing, I felt I owed it to myself (and the
illustrator), to give it some serious thought. So, I set out to mentally canvass
what might be behind my preference.
I wondered, for example: did the one that I liked appeal to
me just because it was the first one I saw as my eyes moved from left to right?
Or was it because the colour was different? Would I have liked it as much if it
had appeared at the far right? Might the illustrator be playing a mind game on
me by giving me two that are basically the same colour?
After mulling it over for a few days (ok, over-thinking it
for a few days), I decided to do something I don’t usually do: seek other
peoples’ opinion. I took a straw poll. I sent a quick e-mail to a few people
who have provided me information for the project, as well as to a few friends
and family members who know a bit about the project. I asked them which icon
they liked best, and if they had any comments. It was an ad hoc group, for sure, but I figured it was a good cross-section
I was gratified that people responded and moved by the
thoughtfulness of their comments. Some folks had very specific comments about
the lettering size and fonts, others remarked about the variations between
them, pointing to particular elements in each that they liked. Most indicated which
they liked best, or they ranked them. When all the responses were in, there really
was no clear consensus. (Interestingly, the three people who had provided me information
for the project – the folks who know me the least – all liked the same one I
Besides liking the colour of icon number one (the yellowish-gold
one), I also liked the design elements of it more than the design elements of
the other two. But, since so many people commented that they liked the red
colour palette, I asked the illustrator to show me icon number one in the red
palette to see how it would look. Well, that did the trick! I liked icon number
one in its original colour much better and that’s the one I ended up going
A few days after deciding, one of my sisters asked which I picked.
When I told her I chose icon number one, she said she thought I was making a
mistake. Apparently she didn’t like some of the design elements of icon number
one, and she REALLY did not like the colour. I tried to explain my rationale,
including all the factors I considered. She listened, but then asked the
fateful question: “Why did you ask others if you weren’t going to take their
advice?” I told her the opinions were all over the map, but I think she found
that hard to believe. We discussed it a bit more and kind of agreed to disagree
and then switched to a different topic.
Besides feeling exasperated at having to defend my icon
choice, her question about why I bothered asking others their opinion really
gave me pause. As I said, that’s not something I usually do – and clearly my
sister knows that about me. So why had I this time?
One reason was because I wanted to try to see the icon choices
through others’ eyes. I knew what specific things attracted me to icon number
one and I was interested in seeing if others might mention those things. I also
thought maybe someone would point out something I hadn’t noticed or mention
something I hadn’t thought about. And, perhaps most importantly, I asked because
I worry that I make too many decisions in a vacuum. It’s an occupational hazard
for sole practitioners, I think, and a habit that I’m trying to break.
Looking back, I’m glad I took the straw poll. The comments
and opinions offered were very helpful and I took them all to heart. But in the
end, the decision was still mine to make. Though my choice may leave some folks
thinking that I didn’t value their input, I hope they realize I was asking for their
opinion, not advice.
© 2012 Ingrid Sapona