The Holy Trinity of Design (aka The Quality Triangle)

This “pick two” theory of the quality triangle is something we joke about but continually aim to challenge and achieve. The premise is simple. We all strive to produce quickly, with exceptional quality and at a reasonable cost. But is this really possible without sacrificing one of these vital cornerstones?

I hate saying that having all three is impossible. Improbable is more like it.

Here are some scenarios:

“Make it ‘pop’. Jazz it up. Include artificial intelligence. Budget is $50. I need it tomorrow.”

“This is a rush due EOD. Use lots of stock photography. Don’t spend too much time on it. I’ll know what I want when I see it.”

“Pull out ‘all the stops’. Sure…die cuts and varnishes are great! Keep the budget of $500 in mind since I only need to print 20 for our tradeshow next week.”

These types of interactions are destined for disappointment for both parties.

So, can we have it all? I’m not certain about that but what I do know is that we can come closer to achieving all three if we do our homework and have an accurate scope going into a project. This helps manage realistic expectations and adds structure to a project or relationship. Sadly, it’s the step that often gets neglected in the hustle and bustle of our industry. Communication is key, especially up front. As designers, so much of our job includes educating. We need to teach our clients what is realistic in terms of resources, timing and technology.

This got me thinking… and Googling. This theory transcends more than just our industry. Here are some entertaining “pick two” examples:

College: Work, Sleep, Play – Pick two.

Men: Handsome, High-Earner, Faithful – Pick two.

Girls: Single, Sane, Smart – Pick two.

Operating Systems: Fast, Efficient, Stable – Pick two.

Bicycle Parts: Strong, Light, Cheap – Pick any two.

“Pick two” may sound like some sort of Three Stooges mantra but the truth is it can leave us wanting to poke our eyes out if we don’t do our part to educate, communicate and manage expectations. Come to think of it, the true Quality Triangle should be comprised of these three elements which are completely attainable.

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