The design process was broken: How Trader Joe’s fixed it

The design process is broken.

Keep reading to understand why and how Trader Joe’s (yes, that Trader Joe’s) fixed it. And how you can benefit from their genius hack.

The modern design process & where it went wrong

The design process forgot you exist. It’s not thoughtful – in the slightest.

No wonder companies feel overwhelmed when the “preferred” design agency gives you 50 logo mockups.

Even worse, their team of 10+ marketers, product managers and executives will have such varying opinions that their feedback isn't helpful to the designer. Leading to more confusion and a ruined design process.

We get it though – Designers gives their clients as many choices as possible to make sure they cover their bases. But it’s hard to give focused, helpful feedback when you have too many options.

Contrary to popular belief, the more voices and opinions and choices you have, the more convoluted the process becomes.

Thankfully, there’s a solution. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks to an unlikely source in one of America’s most beloved brands: Yep, Trader Joe's.

How Trader Joe's fixed modern design

Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch. But their business model did inspire the solution. (Plus shoutout Spruce Rd for showing me this awesome anecdote.)

Ever been to a grocery store and stood in the aisle staring at all your options because you can’t decide? For every item you need, you have at least 19 options to select.

Want some chips for a party? Here are all the brands you typically see (I literally went to the Jewel to check):

  • Bugles
  • Cape Cod
  • Cheetos
  • Doritos
  • Fritos
  • Funyons
  • Herr’s
  • Kettle
  • Lays
  • Pringles
  • Rold Gold
  • Ruffles
  • Smartfood
  • Sun Chips
  • Utz
  • And on and on and on…

Take a trip to Trader Joe’s and they have two, maybe three options.

They’ve limited the number of choices and made the decision-making process easy for their customers. We’re forever grateful, Joe. Thank you 🙏

Now, apply the same principle to the design process.

The paradox of choice & importance of simplicity in the design process

The paradox of choice is the idea that having too many options can actually make people less confident and less satisfied with their ultimate decision.

Too many choices means too much difficulty choosing the best one. As a result, your customers get paralyzed and end up not making a decision at all.

This is the opposite of what you want in the design process.

What Trader Joe’s shows us is the power of limiting choices and simplifying the design process.

So simplify the design process, make it more focused and benefit in these ways:

  • Provide helpful feedback to the designer
  • Make decisions more confidently and satisfyingly
  • Decide on actions more quickly, which saves time and money

Just for fun – Here are 5 more rules that might break your concept of design:

  1. You don’t have to know what you want to start a design process
  2. You don’t always need to stand out. Sometimes safe is smart
  3. A logo should evolve over time (like a good pair of jeans)
  4. You don’t have to like your brand. Your customer does
  5. A logo needs to be both beautiful and strategic

Agree or disagree?

The design process is broken. Too many options and an overwhelming complexity are to blame.

Trader Joe’s fixed it with a simplified model and solution to the paradox of choice. This is how modern design should work.

And we’re proud to use that exact principle in our branding process at Emerald Design. We give you what we think is the best one or two mockups for your brand – not our top 50.

Want to learn more? Book a consultation and see how we can transform your company’s look and feel.