I love projects with short timelines

Posted: July 12th, 2010

I’ve heard this saying in the design community and it’s also on wikipedia. You can pick 2 of the 3: quality, speed and cheap. I couldn’t disagree with this more.

Supporters of this thinking say that if you want something fast and great quality they have to charge you more. In saying that they’re also saying that if you want a project to take forever, be great quality then they’ll make it really cheap.

This is foolish and bad business. First of all, if I’m working on a project with a client and they want it to take a long time, it’s going to cost a lot more. It’s going to take more time and effort than if it was going to be a short and quick project. A project with long deadlines gives the client more opportunity to provide feedback and constant revisions and sometimes to ill effect (sometimes to good effect, too).

The downsides of a long deadline.

Long deadlines are torture for designers. They’re so far away and so hard to grasp that it makes it difficult to focus on what you need to do today. You end up dragging your feet and spinning your wheels. You lack focus and proper parameters. You second guess your decisions and constantly rethink things over and over again. Achieving little to nothing until the last few days before your deadline. And then, when time is almost up, you get things done.

The benefits of a short deadline.

In my experience, designers do their best work and they do it most efficiently when they have short deadlines (1-3) days and are able to focus on a single project.

I’ve never seen anything to get people to focus like a short deadline. Designers, copywriters, developers, art directors, creative directors, brand managers, CMOs, anybody. People focus under pressure and get things done. You’ve got a challenge in front of you, you’ve got the parameters of a short schedule to craft your solution and you don’t have time to constantly second guess yourself.

There is something to be said for taking the time to think things through to get really good quality, but in my experience, the best designs and the best ideas come very early on in a project. Your ideas are a little more raw, a little more real and they’re not diluted by over analyzing and second guessing yourself.

What about refinement? Yes, that takes time and a few rounds of revisions. But it doesn’t take months and years to do. It takes days and weeks.

Cheap is bad for everyone.

I don’t care what your schedule or budget is, cheap projects are not good for anybody.

The agency feels like they’re getting screwed. They don’t put the effort into it that they would on other projects. It doesn’t matter if they have 3 days or 3 years to get a project done. The work is going to suck because they’re not going to care about your project and you’re going to get poor quality work.

Expensive (unrealistically overpriced) projects are not good for anybody either. The client feels like they’re getting screwed. They become overly demanding on the project and start requesting things outside of the realm of their expertise. They paid their agency too much and now they expect the moon to be delivered to them. The agency will never be able to live up to this expectation. The work might turn out okay, but the relationship will be ruined and you won’t be getting another project.

Make it a fair price.

Fairly priced projects are good for everybody. The client feels like they’re getting a good deal. The agency feels like they’re getting a good deal. Everybody involved cares about the project, the relationship and about completing it in a timely fashion. Decisions are more likely to be made decisively and real progress can be made. The project ends and if everybody knows what they’re doing the quality can be superb. The relationship is in good standing and everybody ends up wanting more (another project). The agency gets repeat business and the client has a vendor they can rely on at a fair price.

If somebody tells you can pick 2 of the 3 you’re in the wrong place. Reject the premise. You don’t want all 3 and they don’t either.

If you want top quality design, fast and at a fair price, contact me. I work at Creative B’stro. We’re an advertising agency in the San Francisco Bay Area. We do great work, fast and at a fair price.

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