Quantity vs QualityAll creative people want to do their absolute best work all the time. I remember several students in art school who would throw out an assignment they had been working on for weeks the night before it was due because they were not happy with the results. It is said that the painter Frank Frazetta would keep working on his paintings after they had returned from the publisher until they were exactly the way he wanted them.

Creatives are never satisfied with their work or their level of craftsmanship. They will always seek to improve their craft and will never settle for work that does not meet their expectations. They can see the end creation from the beginning. They may not know how to get there, but they can envision it in their minds.

This, like all things, has its advantages and disadvantages. If given enough time, creative types can produce extraordinary creations and imaginative ideas that area a marvel to all. The problem is that you are also trying to run a business and can’t be writing blank checks or extending deadlines for art projects.

This can be a source of frustration and even conflict between your creative employees who want the highest quality and your accountants who want the lowest costs. How do you balance the quality of art you want to achieve with a realistic budget and timeline? 

Add In Excellence            

One principle I have learned over the years is to “add in excellence.” Try to start with the base of the project first and then plan on adding the bells and whistles in later stages. You are not saying “no” to a certain level of quality; you are simply planning the progress of the project. This should satisfy all the parties involved. You will meet your deadline and stay within your budget and your creative team will know that their dream will one day come true.

Take some time to plan the necessary steps to make this vision a reality and then set a realistic timeframe for each phase. Start with the end goal in mind and then plan realistic stages of development based on your time and resources. If you do this, you must be sure that you come back and allow your creatives to finish what they have started. Failure to do so will cause them to lose their creative spark and be less willing to work with you in the future.

In today’s marketplace there are few projects that are ever finished. There are always improvements to make to an existing product. Whether it is a roll of toilet paper or a software program, it is likely your project will never see completion. This means you may have to revisit the stages and deadlines for that project again and again as it begins to grow.

Hyperbolic Curve Principle

Another tool that’s useful for budgeting is what I call the “Hyperbolic Curve Principle.” Essentially this means the longer you spend on an art project, the less noticeable the changes will be.

For example, let’s say I am working on a painting. The first ten minutes are really going to look like I’ve made a lot of progress. The next twenty minutes are going to look pretty good too, but it will take a little longer for me to reach the same level of improvement. As I keep working on my painting, it is going to take longer and longer for you to see a noticeable difference. What first took ten minutes will start to take hours as I continue to reach higher and higher levels of improvement.

Or let’s say you are writing a novel. The first few pages, chapters, and maybe even the first draft of your novel are going to come together pretty quickly. As you begin to rewrite and make edits the changes are going to become less and less obvious. In fact, to an outsider, it may seem as if there aren’t any changes being made at all. The last few tweaks to your novel are going to consist of punctuation and changing only a few words. Even though this is the most time-consuming portion of writing a novel, the changes are hardly noticeable.

Another quick way to think about this principle is that about 50% of your resources will be used on the first 90% of your project. The remaining 50% of your resources will be spent on the last 10%. If you are creating an animated video, the first 90% of the video will go fairly quickly. However, the last 10% will take almost as long as or longer than the first 90% did. This is because the final details are hardest to get right and also the hardest to see.

Define your Priorities

Another trick you can use for balancing quality and quantity is to define where your priorities lie. Determine ahead of time what areas you are prepared to cut corners on and what areas must be perfect.

There may be certain areas of your budget that can be trimmed down. Could you achieve the same effect you want using a different style of art? Could you use stock images or video instead of having custom art created?

Generally speaking, when you look at a project there are some areas that can be skimped on. Talk to your team and your creative professionals to brain storm ideas on speeding up your timeline or trimming down your budget.

For more ideas on saving money on artwork see my article here.


So how does this help you budget your art projects and ad campaigns? You need to decide what level of quality you can reach with the resources you have. Using these principles you can have a better understanding of what can be done before you launch and what can be done afterwards. These ideas should help you know what style of art you can afford and where your resources are going to be needed most.