Fast, Good, and Cheap Design.

May 1, 2017

Although fast, effective, and cheap design sounds very appealing to most people seeking it, there are many reasons as to why all three can never be achieved simultaneously. But, more importantly, there are many reasons you should be weary of those promising all three. Below is a diagram to help better explain this concept and why a designer’s promise of all three variables can often lead to a client’s worst nightmare. However, this idea doesn’t only apply to the design process; you can apply this concept to almost any business to figure out how each variable effects the ultimate outcome.

Below, we take a look at each variable to get a better understanding of how these it can effect the overall design process.

As you can see, there are three main variables in the design process diagram: time, quality, cost (we converted them to “fast, good, and cheap” so you can get a better understanding of how they directly affect the design process). We will take a look at each of the four possible combinations of variables separately to get a better idea of how they affect each other and to explain why having two variables instead of three can be a much better design process for the designer and the client.

Fast & Cheap

Fast and cheap is a designer’s worst nightmare, but in most cases, is, preferred by the client (at first). There are several reasons why you shouldn’t go this route.

Let’s start with the most obvious reason: What’s the point of hiring a designer if you don’t want a good design?

Requiring the design process to be fast and cheap causes the most important variable to suffer: the quality of the design. This is one of stories we hear all too often – what clients thought was a great deal, quickly turned into something sour. Fast and cheap design will never be good design, and it’s difficult to find a designer worth their salt who will be willing to make any kind of effort under the “fast and cheap” circumstances.

As a client, make sure to understand that “fast and cheap” rarely comes with quality. Be ready to negotiate on one of the other variables to achieve an effective, meaningful design for your business.

Cheap & Good

Cheap and good is preferred over “fast and cheap” by designers but still not ideal. If you want a cheap and good design, it will not be fast, and will lack any kind of real deadline. For clients working under personal or company deadlines, this isn’t preferred.

While most designers don’t like to admit it, we get distracted – we can look at inspiration for hours if you let us. So, not having a timely deadline can be a matter of life or death for a design project. Without that deadline, some designers can find a way to procrastinate until the end of time. Designers work off deadlines – we thrive on them! It’s not unheard of to pull an all nighter around here to perfect a design until right up to the due date (why else do you think we drink so much coffee!).

Cheap and good design will never be fast. It takes time to produce good meaningful design and if you’re not ready to invest in that, be ready for it to fall on the back-burner for most designers.

Good & Fast

Good and fast is probably the most preferred by any designer. Why do you ask? Not only do we get to design something good and meaningful for you within a reasonable timeline, but we also get paid doing it. This is what designers live for – that strict timeline, that meaningful design, and the pay that comes with the appreciation for all their hard work.

Unfortunately, with good and fast often comes a higher price tag. And depending on the budget, this can sometimes be a less-than-preferred option for clients. Because of this, they resort to the other two options (“fast and cheap” or “cheap and good”) which normally don’t yield desirable results. Or worse, they find another company that promises all three: fast, good, and cheap design. And this choice leads to our final topic of discussion:

Fast, Good & Cheap?

At first thought, this sounds amazing right? Who wouldn’t want to go with a designer who is fast, cheap, and produces a good meaningful design? Here’s the problem with designers promising all three: they aren’t being honest with you (and perhaps not even with themselves).

All too often we’ve heard horror stories from clients after bad experiences dealing with designers promising cheap designs with a fast turnaround and a professional look. One of three things usually happen in this scenario: they fall behind on the timeline to complete the project; the quality of the design suffers, or the client starts seeing additional charges left and right to make up for the cheap estimate initially provided to them. In some cases, more than one variable suffers in the end, causing huge (and even potentially legal) complications with the business interaction. And the client is left with unmet expectations and, likely, a less than stellar relationship with their designer.


Overall, we’ve covered why it’s not ideal to seek out a designer who will to provide fast, good, and cheap design. Rather, in order for both parties to be happy with the design process, the best approach is to be flexible on each variable (preferably time and cost) in order to reach common ground. This will not only achieve the best results for both parties involved, but it will form a lasting business relationship for many years to come.

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