Quantity vs Quality – One of the same?
9th June 2017
Throughout our careers we are constantly faced with opinion in which we must select or push back depending on our own beliefs. Alongside these choices however, our industry seems to come with a glut of sayings and statements that have almost been engrained into the design industry as valid remarks of the way we all design, creating a general agreement consensus. Such remarks as ‘Content is king’ and the long disapproving thoughts on the font ‘Comic Sans’ stand out as generic rules we all seem to naturally agree with; and this is always how it has been until the past few years. We are starting to see a few of these long approved statements being challenged by certain individuals spinning the phrases and making us think of them from different angles, reflecting society or industry changes that have made them less dominant. Such individuals as Erik Spiekermann, typographer and designer who the team last month went to see at Komedia, Bath challenges the Comic Sans argument after being asked by one of the audience what his thoughts on the font Comic Sans was. His answer was unexpected but insightful to say the least:
There is no bad typeface, only bad typography
Suggesting that the font itself is not at fault but the typographer who uses it incorrectly, exclaiming if he so wished, he could probably come up with something quite beautiful with the font. This instigated a thought. In the design industry why do we hate the things we do and who is it that declares these statements for them to go viral enough to become a collaborative belief?
Society a contributor?
Our general culture may have something to do with it. From technology advances and products becoming so available with our ‘renting’ culture we have previously mentioned, from PCP car finance to mortgages and phone contracts, the ease of attaining such items has created a sort of confidence and with it a generation of opinionated reviewers and with the rising marketing stars vlogging, blogging and influencers becoming an integral ‘of the people’ marketing tool to connect with users in their own domain, it’s easy to see where this confidence is coming from. Essentially we are in the most opinionated times than ever before, where the user seems to have attained some overarching power and with the new currency next to data being that of reviews, likes and shares, has generated a more comfortable environment for us to part with our opinion. Could this be why we are seeing such staples of our design traits as these statements starting to be challenged?
Quantity vs Quality
After working in a mixture of agency and in-house environments over the years, general statements have really become of interest in the way people think of certain industries and aspects of our design world. For instance the career path choices such as ‘freelance vs in-house vs agency’ argument with the positives and negatives of each, we all favour one in general and have strong views on why we do and don’t like certain ones. It’s interesting how we all develop our opinions and make generalisations dependent on our experience and level and of course as we grow and develop our opinion may soften or change. However, one statement in particular seems to come up time and time again in all industries “Quantity vs quality.” For years these three words have been an ideal we all live by, not able to withstand a level of quality if quantity and tight time scales are provided, forcing us to sacrifice either or. Discouraging no? But here at Bopgun, we are never disheartened and wanted to get to the root of exactly what makes the process develop this statement and thankfully came across an article that looks at just that.
Computer Arts – Spring 2017
Computer Arts 2017 Spring edition showcases a great article by D&AD New Blood Trustee, Tom Manning, looking specifically at ‘How to be more productive.’ Amongst a wealth of experience, advice and tips are some interesting arguments and one of which is the way he dissects the Quality Quantity argument. Manning suggests that there is no ‘either or’ situation in the statement but a more collaborative connection between the two, allowing designers to have the best of both worlds.
The idea of quality over quantity can be misleading. I believe that quantity can lead to quality. It’s only by doing a lot that we figure out what works and what doesn’t.
Intriguing angle and very true to many of our creative practises, for we all create many iterations before we develop or sometimes stumble on to the be all and end all concept, often creating sheets and sheets of mood boards, wireframes and concepts to get the one truly sharp solution. Obviously this will always be down to time and budget and dependent on what type of designer you are can also be an indicator of how much time we can give, from in-house roles where time is almost absorbed and rarely ticketed, leaving room for more effort on such stages opposed to agency and freelancers who generally budget time closely, having to focus in on the concept more quickly. It’s interesting how many designers favour the quantity side, as generating a lot of ideas can be a good way of getting them out of your head in making room for you to be able to process the big ideas. It’s also a very good way for the design process and practise to develop design skills through creating more work. Manning goes into how by favouring quantity can actively increase creativity as it eliminates the indecision we all have as designers especially when it’s our own work. Again following the process of physically creating the ideas to eliminate and get out of our system the bad ones.
There are those that disagree with this idea however, arguing that by generating too much work can dilute your craft so quality therefore suffers, as well as not being able to decide between the ideas, selecting the stronger ones. The author Donald Roos wrote the book ‘Don’t Read this Book: Time Management for Creative People’ which challenges the quality side for creative people suggesting how to manage specifically the vast idea vault we all struggle with as designers. He details how work practise can be a good way of managing the quantity quality dispute, by being cut throat with your own ideas and archiving them away can allow you to create a sort of hierarchy, again selecting the stronger concept to pursue. Thus creating focus. This battle’s the quantity side of concept creation, maybe not the physical work as such, but interesting that both authors seem to have picked up on the physical work practise as a contributor to this argument. Whether it’s from Manning’s quantity of work to get to the quality idea angle or Roos tackling the work process to minimise time loss, collaboratively they work together to create an interesting take on the age old statement.
Creative Director’s views
We asked our very own Creative Director, Jon Taylor his views on the quality, quantity argument:
It’s a difficult one as both depend on each other. Take branding for instance. I read recently the level of design / designer needed for a brief is dependent on the client’s level of involvement with the process.
For example, a junior designer may take longer due to lack of experience, therefore more iterations will mean the client will be more involved.
However, a creative director is more likely to get to a final solution quicker, therefore less client involvement is required.
So the quantity quality argument must depend on a number of factors, experience level, client’s involvement, time and budget, all working together to ensure a fully creative and efficient solution.
To read the full article checkout Computer Arts Magazine – April 2017 edition, Page 70, ‘How to be more productive.’