Quality or Quantity?

In the creative industry we are often faced with the choice of quality or quantity at some time or another. As freelance/independent creatives we can be face with choosing between more work, or better work.

When working in an in-house environment the project load can pile up, add in the deadline factor, and before you know it quantity can take precedence over quality. Finances, personal goals, design morals, all of these things influence our choice and approach to the issue of “Quality or Quantity”. In what other situations have you experienced this dynamic?

So I pose the question Quality over Quantity? I want to gather results from the poll and user feedback so please post your thoughts, comments, and or solutions for finding this balance.

**Relevant comments and thoughts will be posted in the article with credits and links to authors.

~ Aaron I

*All articles on TIAL edited by Jacqueline Geary

20. January 2009 by Aaron Irizarry
Categories: Design/Development, User Experience | Tags: , , , , , , , | 39 comments

Comments (39)

  1. Always quality for me. Unfortunately that often comes at the expense of my time and resources—but always worth it in the end.

    Garth’s last blog post..Creative Feature on TIAL

    • @Garth…
      Thanks for the response. I definitely agree with the importance of putting forth quality products/designs.
      Is there anything you could suggest in the area of the type of work you take, or clients you work with (or stay away from) that help insure the quality aspect?

  2. I’d much rather have less work and produce better quality work than to perform a job that just requires enough effort so as I don’t get fired.

    I’d choose to be a starving artist rather than a rich one with no integrity.

    My two cents.

    Khayyam Wakil’s last blog post..008_Hot, Buttered Soul…

    • @Khayyam Wakil
      Thanks for the response.
      Have you ever had to deal with the job pushing for something quick and easy, when you know the better solution was to take some time and make it great as opposed to just being ok?

  3. It is all about the Quality of work you do for your client!!! You may want to get Quantity, especially in this hard economy times that are among us right now but Quality is what sets you apart from your competition.

    Kyle Reddoch’s last blog post..My Twitter BG is on Twitter Background Gallery

  4. I cast my vote for ‘Quality’, but that’s really because it’s my moral obligation. My overall goal for every project is to deliver a product of utmost quality, however there are many factors that can take away from it.

    • Time constraints can reduce the amount of time I can spend working.
    • Budget constraints can reduce the amount of time the client can AFFORD for me to work.
    • A project’s potential can affect my motivation to do my very best.

    The list could go on, I’m sure. Obviously, we designers would prefer that each and every project be of the best quality we could output. But because of client’s temporal expectations, financial constraints, or personal scenarios, ‘Quantity’ can never be TOO far off one’s mind. Especially if you’re the one dealing with the company’s bottom line.

    David Link’s last blog post..davidlink: @tweetbomb I refuse to participate in today’s Tweetbomb for fear of being arrested for Terrorism. Sorry. See you tomorrow.

  5. @aaron: Haven’t we all? In agency world or having a boss world, when there is a CD/AD over your head allotting specific time spent on each project… well then, it needs to go out the door, yesterday. You know damn better than to let it go, and what choice do you usually have in these situations. You can voice your suggestions and most often than not, fall on deaf ears.

    As a freelancer, you are accountable for your client, you are responsible for communicating their ideas, the only one. That means offering up your wisdom at crossroads like these. Communicate the challenge to the client, explain the situation & costs and let them make an informed decision. They are paying you for your talents and wisdom… do your job. Serve out the quality.*

    I guess it all depends on your level of commitment to service.

    *that is if you can rationalize out that you won’t be spitting out jobs like sunflower seeds at a football game and lining your pockets with money – that works for some too ;)

    Khayyam Wakil’s last blog post..Virgin for over 25 years…

  6. Great topic. Overall, most designers will say they choose quality. But who is to say what is quality and what isn’t? Most people don’t recognize that the things they are looking at are actually bad. There is no education on that judgment.

    As a designer, it’s great to do amazing quality work, but if you want to do less quantity and higher quality, your prices go up and your client amount depletes. Resulting in an evening amount of income. Tough to say. Personally, I think there are people out there in the web world who shouldn’t be making an impact on others, it’s causing a downward spiral to all of the Web.

    • @Patrick Algrim
      Great points as always. I have experienced trying to educate those who don’t think what they are looking at is bad… it is quite frustrating.
      Thanks for the input.

      ~ Aaron I

  7. Hands down I have to say quality.

    There is no quality in the amount of quantity that some firms and companies produce. It’s the garbage in, garbage out system.

    But like romancing a woman, you have to take your time and carefully finesse her with love and attention. Making sure not to miss any small detail. Sure it may take longer, but in the end you’ll both be satisfied. :)

    kyle steed’s last blog post..man’s best friend

  8. An interesting subject.

    I vote for quality, and quality only. Maybe because I’m not looking (yet) on the financial part of this business. I’m just another geek who likes to hack code all day. I just don’t feel like releasing an application in to the wild before I tested it as much as I can (I could never test it as a “beta” phase), to really know it. If it’s going to brake the deadline, then brake it. If it’s going to be less money for me, so be it. But that application is my work (or partly my work), and I’ll do all that is in my powers to make it work better.

    Perhaps, when I’ll have a family to look after, I’ll do most of my work as quickly as I can, to just get it done and get cash into the house. But, also I’ll have a side project, for my pleasure only, and for that, only the quality will be important.


    Robert’s last blog post..This time it’s personal

    • @Robert

      If it’s going to brake the deadline, then brake it. If it’s going to be less money for me, so be it. But that application is my work (or partly my work), and I’ll do all that is in my powers to make it work better.

      Well put. I also like the idea of of taking work on the side that you are able to take time on.

  9. Quality, always. If it’s set up so you can have quantity AND quality, go for it, but if not always go for quality. I’ve run into this several times when I’ve been coding for classes or writing reports or similar times. Often, there are facets I could add that aren’t needed, but that would possibly cause bugs in the overall code, or I could add more words to a report instead of leaving it polished.

    • @Matt
      Thanks for taking the tim to read and comment.
      At what point do you determine where there is a possibility for Quality and Quantity, or that one needs to take precedence over the other due to the situation.

  10. In-house designer here. I can totally relate to the project load that comes through and the pressure of deadlines. Yes, everyone has deadlines, but when your “clients” can come to your desk and ask what the holdup is, the pressure is much more in-your-face!

    I voted for Quality because I have a very high standard for design (it almost feels like a moral obligation to provide the highest quality possible) and I find it personally fulfilling to take on meaningful projects where I can show the client the value of good design and explain why what I’ve done will work for their target audience. This is as opposed to what I see Quantity as: production work, executing someone else’s ideas (which is one thing I hate about a lot of in-house work).

    On the other hand, I can see Quantity as advantageous, too, because then you get a lot of experience start to finish and you can learn quickly what works and what doesn’t in the process, which is definitely valuable.

    @kyle hehe, you have one lucky wife :)

    LaurenMarie – Creative Curio’s last blog post..Enhance Your Designs with the Principle of Rhythm

  11. Quality is more important! Especially if your writing an information product such as an ebook or a blog post. People don’t want you to drag on and on and on. Nor do they want a watered down article because you think its better for the search engines! Write for your readers and they will link back to you because of the quality of the content not the quantity. @seotips2go

    Martin Canchola Your Web 2.0 Consultant’s last blog post..WE ARE WEB 2.0!!!

  12. Quality over quantity. Your reputation is built on the quality of work produced: a dog turd covered with icing is just a dog turd underneath.

    netta’s last blog post..Organizing the Freelance Way

  13. I didn’t see any votes or comments for Quantity. And rightfully so in my mind. I do agree with most of the comments on the restrictions of quality. Especially in an agency environment because if there’s no real consensus on what “Quality” means, then you can’t really achieve it. Also, the time restriction on when the project must be delivered. So it would mostly be the highest achievable quality in the provided time frame.

    John Wang’s last blog post..Disqus Custom Author CSS WordPress Hack

    • @John Wang

      Especially in an agency environment because if there’s no real consensus on what “Quality” means, then you can’t really achieve it…

      The time restriction… So it would mostly be the highest achievable quality in the provided time frame.

      Thanks for posting. I live in the exact environment that you just talked about. Good points!

  14. I’d absolutely have to go with Quality over Quantity, however, when working for a commercial organisation where quick turnarounds for banners/graphics etc. are essential to the business, time is often not available to produce the level of quality that I’d like.

    I’d say in most commercial organisations a decent balance between the two is usually required.

  15. Indeed, quality is important, in probably most of the cases. But I think you have to “estimate” your work :

    If you are hired for re-design nytimes.com, you’ll probably spend more time to achieve your work, than if you are working for your baker’s website.

    I don’t mean “let’s produce shi*** work”, but “quality” requires personnal opinion, and that’s subjective.

    Reputation comes with client’s satisfaction, right ?
    So give them what they want :
    You can send your design, or spend 30 more min on a “drop shadow”, and your client won’t notice this last little change…

    Quality ok, but not Perfectionism.

  16. It’s all simple math. Higher quality can make you larger $$$ amounts, therefor you can take on less work and make the same amount of (or more!) money as you would from working yourself into a frenzy with a bunch of low-budget jobs.

    Liz’s last blog post..5 Juicy Packaging & Web Designs

  17. Hands down – Quality. Why? Because we are in a business and field that we LOVE…we are Passionate about design…right?

    I know I am – I eat, sleep, breathe, feel, drink design 24/7 – it is a love affair I have had for over 12 years. Some might say quantity, in order to have the bills paid, the kids fed, and a roof over their head, and that might work for some people.

    Not for me – my work (all of our work) is a symbol of who we are, a little slice of ourselves. Yes, we let it go, we have to…but it is still a piece that came from within our mind…our genius.

    How many times have you come to the end of a project and noticed one little pixel off, or a hairline offset of something that is supposed to be exactly centered? Did you let it go? Or did you fix it before it left your hands?

    That’s what I mean – everything we do is a representation of us, our values, the love and TLC we give to our creations. If it’s schlock, and was done half-hazard, just to get it out the door on time…have we done our job?

  18. Aaron,

    I think the problem is exactly what we see here–everyone sticks out their chest and says gallantly that they will only take on jobs they can devote their best work to, but is that really how it works every day?

    Isn’t the slip into taking on too many projects caused not by accepting 5 jobs at once, but taking on one job you think you can get done in ten hours that ends up taking 50?

    Or thinking you have a reliable subcontractor who flakes out, leaving you holding the bag while you either do the work yourself or scramble to find someone qualified enough to handle it mid-cycle?

    I find a good balance between multiple projects is a job in itself–massaging some jobs to slow down and others to speed up and be done with–but it’s always a fluid experience that can be upset or tranquilized by any number of external factors.

  19. Awesome post buddy…….

    A great rule I try to follow and push myself to achieve is a quantity of quality. I was browsing some great design work I was seeing in some community galleries early in my career and I asked one of my mentors why the artist wasn’t well known or picked up by top agencies. He responded that you have to have a balance between the time and quality of your work. If I create beautiful, well organized and innovative design, but it takes me 13 months to complete then I have missed the mark. However if I can achieve the same result in 2 weeks I have accomplished much.

    We will always have corporate managers/clients who will give us insane deadlines but I believe being a good designers isn’t just in our color theory but in your ability to rise above any deadline I know I’ve pulled some 30hr+ days in order to achieve the quality while time (and sleep) was not an option.

    To sum it up – We should never sacrifice quality for quantity, but strive for a quantity of quality.

    • @Jman
      Hey pal good to hear from ya! Great insight into this one. Again I think that we are seeing that balance is a major part.

      thanks for taking the time to read, and comment.

  20. I’m beginning to wonder if the “quality vs. quantity” issue is similar to how some people even perceive other issues such as drinking and driving (though let’s be clear–with significant differences–people [usually] aren’t killed or maimed and property isn’t ruined based on shoddy design work).

    No one says they willingly drink too much and get behind the wheel, just like no one says they’ll gladly take on so much work that the quality will suffer.

    But like a lot of drunks who insist they’re fine when they close their bar tabs and pull out their car keys, I’m sure a lot of designers may not even realize they’ve bitten off more than they can chew until it’s too late.

    I’m not trying to start a flame here, but just trying to provide a different perspective to what seems like a “me too” discussion.

    Chris Avore’s last blog post..CTIA’s Perception Vs. Our Reality: Mobile Device Usability

    • @Chris,
      I want good diverse discussion… the goal is to unpack this topic more than unanimously agree to what we all think is the “correct” response should be as designers.
      There has been a lot of great input up to this point, the more varying points of view the better.

      thanks again for commenting

  21. As a student, I am self taught with web design. I love design and creativity and have spent hours and hours exploring new designs. That being said, I’m going to present a voice for quantity for two reasons:

    The more work and projects you’ve been a part of, the better you get. Every site or logo you design or program you build contains elements from previous works. By increasing the amount of work and not limiting yourself to projects, I believe it opens up the ability for you to meet and go above and beyond the requirements for your task.

    Also, I do not believe in recreating the wheel. Obviously if the wheel is broken or you can’t use it for what you are working on, start over. But, in order to take on more jobs to gain more experiences, I believe in working efficiently and economically to finish projects in order to move on to the next.

    That being said, I have only designed a few websites, so I’m just an amateur.

    • @Trent
      Good points about getting more work into your portfolio, not to mention sometimes we are able to up our game in times of pressure, or meeting challenges.
      Thanks for taking the time to post.

      ~ Aaron I

  22. I think quality is of prime importance BUT one can be mislaid into thinking it’s an end in itself. Sometimes the best is the enemy of the good and quality can’t be taken in isolation of other factors like client requirements, opportunity to solicit feedback and hell, even the bills you need to pay.

    Owen’s last blog post..Introducing WordPress.tv

  23. Quality will always prevail over quantity.

    This is the main reason I refuse to shop at Wal-Mart and similar companies. Even in these tough economic times, I’m more inclined to support the local grocer, baker and gift shop vs the national chains.

    As a designer, I’ve always focused on quality. However, due to unbelievable deadlines some sacrifices have been made; but those are rare occurrences.


  24. Quantity
    I think the question should not be quality vs. quantity – as the maximum of quantity you should ever accept is the one you can bare. The problems present itself when you don’t have enough jobs.

    To understand how to avoid calm phases (or to not panic at them) and to get a steady stream of work in the “qualitiy-league” you want is one part you have to learn.

    Quality should not be connected to the type of work, but to your output.
    Establishing what is the “quality” work you want to do it the best way you can. Do you like giant corporate design jobs or small logo jobs. Just like a shop. If you sell high class stuff you need less customers, middle rangte you need more and low-cost you need the masses.

    Conclusion: Not Quality vs. Quantity but the best quality and the right amount.

    DerFrankie’s last blog post..Loving and hating free fonts