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The 4 T's of Quality Design & Development

By:

Jason Clark
Jason Clark

on 8/8/2014

A huge driver of positioning VIA Studio as “Digital Craftsmen & Communicators” is the concept of doing strong, conceptual, strategic, and most importantly, quality design & development work. Not only is it the job that we’re paid to do, science backs up that in order to enjoy your work (both agencies and their clients), it less about “following your passion” and more about filling your time with meaningful work. To me, meaningful work is quality work.

As an agency, and for the bulk of my life as a creative professional, we’ve had to explain the “Triangle” of project work. Pick 2: Cheap, Fast, or Good. Unfortunately, there is no right time to have this discussion. At the beginning of a project this may confuse or scare a potential client. Saving this conversation for later when we realize we are in the middle of the triangle frustrates the client even more. We want all three, and no one ever wants to sacrifice quality.

triangle-300x300.jpg

I’d like to reframe this discussion to talk about what it actually takes to achieve a quality deliverable, whether it’s a branding project or a web application. Bringing these factors to light as early as possible with a potential partner will help define the discussion in a positive and meaningful way.

Talent

You’re not going to get far without talent. Talent, unfortunately costs money, so it may be difficult obtaining a solid product for a “deal”. Even at standard agency rates, it’s difficult to keep a healthy profit margin. Contractors or smaller firms that win by charging the lowest dollar have a hard time keeping good talent. Don’t be afraid to pay for (and expect) quality.

Teamwork

To get any meaningful work done requires a group of people invested, not in their own ideas and skill sets, but in how to make a project or client successful. This also requires the client to think of themselves as a partner, and a part of the team. Any project requires the insight and communication of the primary stakeholder. Vendors, don’t be afraid to make your clients part of that team, and by all means don’t disappear for months without showing work! Clients, participate so you can understand the process, and participate in a way that benefits the big goal.

Time

With project work, I’d personally rather do it right than do it fast. The situation can be mutually exclusive. The best designers I know almost never hit the mark on the first try. Respect the time it takes for real craftsmanship, and don’t sell yourself short to win work by promising a deliverable in less time than you really need to do it right. With most agency work, we are literally creating something from nothing, only the ideas generated by business goals. Obviously deadlines are helpful, but unrealistic timeline expectations will either result in poor work or overworked staff.

Thought

You would think that time and thought are the same thing when considering quality, but they are not. Thought is a team construct, and also a self-discipline – I’ll address both. With teams, you need your time spent together in meetings or huddles to be as productive as possible. That requires listening, collaborating, and participating. Answering calls, texting, or otherwise playing with your phone during a meeting is unacceptablet. Be there and be there 100%.

As far as personal self-discipline, putting real thought into a challenge means finding ways to think deeply about the challenge at hand in ways that are meaningful to your workflow. Here at VIA Studio, we go on walks or out for a beer to discuss the initial challenge or brainstorm ideas. Working solo, turn off your email. Get in front of a whiteboard. Grab a notepad and start scribbling. Detach from all other obligations so you can focus. You’ll be amazed at what comes out in just one or two short hours of focused work.

The Four T’s – Use it!

So instead of framing the discussion in a way that is at best, annoying, and at worst, infuriating, let’s talk about what it really takes to do quality work.

Til next time…

~jason

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