The Fast | Good | Cheap Dilemma: Find Out Where We Stand

When I started in the advertising industry, a favorite boss used to coach me that every project focuses on two of three client priorities: fast, good, and cheap. He pointed out that you (or the client) can only have two out of three; never all three. 

I wasn’t sure I agreed until I attempted meeting clients’ requests at 120%. It turns out he was right. Trying to meet the demands of high-quality work at a low cost and at break-neck speed is a recipe for burnout. It just doesn’t work in the long run. If you want to build a brand with consistent, high-quality designs, you’ll need to narrow it down to two. 

Let’s consider the options since there’s a time and place for each:

Good + Cheap + Fast — You might get one project out of a design intern that happens to be Fast, Cheap, AND Good. But you might find you can’t replicate the trifecta for future projects. Typically, the intern burns out or doesn’t return your calls because they’ve moved on to more comfortable and lucrative projects. 

Cheap + Fast — This can be done, but not by Christianson Design. Cheap and fast might work well for a lemonade stand or a discount used car dealership, but not for professional marketers. Your communications need to reflect quality if you’re marketing a quality product or service. Most people make snap judgments. You don’t want to give your audience the wrong impression with a cheap and fast design. However, if your customers are looking for deep discounts or average products, they could be deterred by an elegant design. Cheap + Fast might be just the thing for this target market.  

Good + Cheap — Do you absolutely need that promotional brochure this week, or can you give your design team time? If designers can slow down, there’s magic in the process. We get to skip beating our heads against the desk while frantically coming up with a quick (and somehow brilliant) solution. Allowing a project breathing room gives creativity time to percolate. A longer timeline helps agencies provide top-quality work at lower rates. 

Fast + Good — Doing work fast and well is entirely possible, but it comes with a premium price. Typically, your design team has to stop other projects and work long hours. The proofreading costs alone go up. Why? Mistakes happen when there’s a mad scramble to complete a brilliant design. These mistakes need to be corrected before the project is delivered. Ka-ching!  

If you truly have an emergency and need a top-quality marketing piece quickly, by all means request it. Just keep in mind your agency may need to pay subcontractors more, rearrange priorities, and reschedule other clients’ work. Fair compensation ensures your design team will be able and willing to “jump-through-hoops” again.

So, when it comes to the Fast | Good | Cheap prioritization dilemma, stop and think. Consider your timeline, target market, budget, and brand. It’s always a balancing act, but you can still come out on top. Ultimately, building a solid relationship with a design team is the best way to ensure quality work for the long haul.

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