Quality vs. Quantity? The Answer is Yes.

by | Feb 20, 2015 | Commentary, Design, Featured

A while back, I saw one of the most foolish and misguided quotes regarding graphic design.

“As a student, live by these words, ‘Quantity rather than quality.’ The more you design the better your quality will become and you will continue to grow.”

I wish that statement were true, and it’s sad that people put thoughts like this that out there for young people looking into the graphic design field. Unfortunately, that statement usually isn’t correct and here’s why. Let’s do some math. (And this is one reason why the statement is exceptionally invalid. Artists don’t do math. That’s why they became “artists,” or so the joke goes…)

That quote, boiled down to its basic premise is this:

Quantity = Quality

As anyone that has been in the design industry for a long time knows, that statement is false. Just because a designer can pump out tons of stuff, doesn’t mean that it becomes “quality work” at some point.

But, I’ll give the quote the benefit of the doubt and adjust our equation a bit. How about this one?

Quantity NOW (over time) = Quality LATER

Unfortunately, that, too, is a false statement.

Bad design, or even slightly mediocre design, no matter how much you do or how long you do it, is never going to miraculously become good design, just because you did a ton of it. Anyone that thinks that is fooling themselves.

That said, practice coupled with constructive criticism, to a humble designer, can lead to better quality. The key is to have good interaction with other designers, whether they’re other students or seasoned professionals. Find designers that have experience in the field that you, as a designer, are interested in. I’ve spent my career helping other designers, both seasoned and fresh, to know a bit more about my perspective in the world of design. In turn, I try to learn from other designers around me as well. The creative world is never an island. We need to have the feedback, both positive andnegative, and thoughts of others to make this crazy process work.

I’ve seen plenty of designers over the years. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this business, it’s that creativity is something that we’re blessed with. Not everyone in the world is going to be artistically creative. My father is a brilliant technical writer, but he couldn’t design his way out of a paper bag. I firmly believe that artistic creativity can’t be taught. You can show people how to mimic creativity. You can teach them how to use the tools. But when it comes down to it, you can’t teach anyone how to be artistically original. Creativity comes from within and not everyone has it inside. It’s either you have it, or you don’t. I’ve seen too many students over the years try to force themselves to be creative and it never seems to work that way. Some people were meant to be designers. It takes guts. It takes risk. It takes a certain level of crazy. It definitely takes creativity. And it takes being able to receive and act on the critiques of the work we do. If you don’t have all that, all the quantity in the world won’t make you a great designer. Without constructive thoughts from others, Quantity will NEVER equal Quality.

If you want good advice, oh ye student of Graphic Design, here are my thoughts. Quantity is good, as long as you’re learning, critiquing and trying new things. Quantity for quantity’s sake is a fool’s errand and will profit you very little. Sure, practice. Try new things. Try things that don’t work. Don’t be afraid to fail. Keep testing. But above all, don’t be afraid to take and give criticism. We all tend to hate it, but we all need it to expand our creativity. No one has all the answers. (If someone claims that they do, they’re probably really in sales and they’re just a poser!) Just play around and have fun. It’s design. You can’t break it.

A lot of us who have been around a while tend to like helping new designers. There are tips and tricks that us old timers know that can benefit other designers. But there are also perspectives that the new generation of designers have that can benefit everyone, even the seasoned pro. When it comes down to it, we’re all in this creative journey together. Don’t let promises of miracles distract from the real process.

Quantity + Constructive Criticism = Quality.

Bring a fellow designer along for the ride and don’t let your creative progress happen in a vacuum.