The Upside Of Seeing The Downside

Those who work with me are used to me asking “what is the downside” as we evaluate a decision. While it may sound like a negative question, that couldn’t be further from the truth. When I ask for the downside on an issue, I’m really just asking “what is the worst that can happen?”

Here’s an example. When we are developing a website, sometimes the decision makers who are evaluating it say things like “I’m struggling to read the type – let’s increase the font size.” The designer and the developer are inclined to push back because the move almost always has an adverse impact on the design of the site. Pages get long. Sometimes sentences get strange line breaks. Nothing ever fits like it did on the Photoshop file where everything started.

I’m a huge fan of good design, and I hate making it less attractive. However, I am an even bigger fan of making creative that is more effective. So I ask “what is the downside to increasing that font size?” Well, the design doesn’t look quite as nice and people have to swipe a few more times on their phone when they are reading. 

But is anybody going to say “that’s it – the font on this site is so big that I’m not buying anything from this company”? Nope, it sounds silly to even suggest that somebody would react that way. They may think “gosh, that’s a big font,” but they’ll still be able to read it and learn about the product. On the other hand, how about a baby boomer saying, “I’m struggling to read this, and when I zoom in I can’t see half the page – I’m going to look someplace else”? That sounds entirely plausible – even likely. So the possible downside of increasing the font size is marginal. The potential downside of not increasing the font size, on the other hand, is significant.

Does this mean that I ask our designers and writers to compromise our creative principles once in a while? Yes, it does. But it also means that the work we do succeeds a lot more than it fails. Overall, there is a balance to be found, and that is my job as the creative director here at Anchor.

The next time you have a tough decision to make, ask yourself what the downside is. If it’s minimal, and the potential upside is valuable, then your choice is simple.