The Design Triangle – Time, Cost, Quality

by Media Two on March 26, 2008

in Design

Design Triangle

Designers have a tough job. It may be seen as a cushy job, but in actuality it’s very demanding and exhausting. I’ve worked as a designer myself, (ok, it was costumes and not graphics) so I know the demands and challenges that each design job brings to the table. Every project has the same expectation. And that expectation is perfection. As we all know, nothing in this world is perfect!

I love what I do. As production manager I am able to balance my creative side with my business side. I get the joy of working with creative types every day, participating in brainstorming sessions, and performing QA checks, while also putting my business sense to work through scheduling, estimating, and keeping a generally unorganized crew on target.

When you are planning out your next design project, keep the graphic above in mind. The design triangle has three sides: Quality, Time, and Cost. Design takes time. Design takes resources. And design is expected to be high quality. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to turnaround a great design fast and cheap. Also think about the following questions. “What do I really need? When do I need it? Why do I need it? And what can I cut corners on?”

  • If time is of the essence, say the project is event driven, then the price may increase, or parts of the process must be skipped to meet the deadline. Skipping parts of the design process means that quality will suffer.
  • If your piece must be mistake-free, then expect to spend more money for quality assurance. If the piece is going to be seen by the general public, this is an aspect you definitely should not cut corners on.
  • If your budget is next to nothing and you don’t have a designer in your family to run to, then quality assurance will be lacking, and your project will become a lower priority compared to more profitable projects, therefore taking longer to complete.

While the goal of every job is to maximize all three of these factors, typically one suffers at the expense of the other two. As my father always said, you get what you pay for. That is true for cars and stereos, and it is also very true for design. Good design does not come cheap nor does it come quickly.

The Design Process

Just as music has theory behind it, so does design. I don’t think this is a well known fact, so I thought it would be good to include the process of a design job. This starts after the estimate has been approved to start work. You will be able to see why it takes time to turnaround an successful design project.

  1. Create the Design Brief – this is a document, typically created by the Account Service person, which details the goals, needs, and deliverables of the design project.
  2. Scheduling/Timeline development
  3. Research & Discovery
  4. Concept Development/ Content Development – in an ideal world we would have all content before concepting begins, but this doesn’t always happen.
  5. Concept Selection
  6. Design Comp
  7. QA/ Edits – this could be one round or five
  8. Fine Tuning/Final Development

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