The quality of creative work is much more than the sum of its parts. It’s not just the hours spent on ‘the tools’ that count. High calibre brands and visual communications are built one thoughtfully crafted step at a time. Time is not just a luxury; it’s an imperative. It’s the quiet, reflective time when we step away from our computers and let our imaginations free that results in creative brio. All too often, time is a luxury we don’t have.
Over the last few years, client deadlines have noticeably shortened without any corresponding increase in budget or lower expectations of quality results. Perhaps this crunching of time is an inevitability in our always-on world. The concept of time poverty — too much to do and not enough time in which to do it — is the stark reality for many people.
This got me thinking about the project manager’s mantra, “good job, fast job, cheap job — you can only have two.” You can have good and cheap (all things are relative) if you’re prepared to wait. But if you want quick and cheap, the compromise is quality — someone has to pay the Ferryman. However, it’s probably safe to say, no one wants crap design, even if it’s fast and affordable. As another saying goes, “people forget how fast you did a job, but they remember how well you did it.”
We can, and indeed sometimes do, clear the decks to meet a tight timeline, providing the client involved understands the cost implications. We will also consider working on a fixed price to meet a modest budget, provided we can do it on our terms, particularly if it delivers a great portfolio entry.
It's the fast + cheap = inferior option that’s the real lose lose. Even if people understand and agree on the limitations in terms of what they will get, in reality, no one will be excited about something that feels like a compromise. The design risks just being a pretty picture with no real point beyond that, no depth and no meaning within the hearts and minds of the audiences it’s seeking to reach.
Well-crafted brands and visual communications are based on a deep understanding of what the organisation and its audiences are about. There are some shortcuts and different approaches we can take, depending on the budget level available, but there are limits.
Here are ways to help reduce time and cost without taking too much away from quality.
One thing to ask yourself, is the ‘drop dead’ date immutable because there’s a time-bound event like a launch that needs to be factored in? Or is it just a line in the sand you’ve drawn because you want to get it done and dusted quickly? If speed is of the essence, do everything to oil the wheels, including:
All the above actions will be factors in keeping costs contained. There are other ways to help keep the costs of a creative job down and quality up:
There’s no secret sauce here. Whatever your budget or timeline, careful planning and quality thought are the ingredients that will have the most impact. However, finding an agency or designer that feels like the right fit for you and your team will also significantly impact how it all goes down — magic happens when like-minded people get together and co-create.