A matter of quality

There’s always a question of quality when it comes to products whether or not we speak of artists or craftsmen. Quality is the universal measure that ultimately decides whether or not something is going to become a success of sorts.

This isn’t really the case.

How quality is measured is up to the individual customer. As a rule of thumb we can say that a certain level of quality will always succeed, whereas far too high quality will sell less, as will too low quality.

Let me use VHS, LaserDisc and BetaMAX as an example of this. The VHS had the worst quality out of the three in sound and in picture. BetaMAX was superior, and LaserDisc was even better. VHS was good enough in quality, and offered other things that were better in quality, such as price and availability. Low price is always better in quality than high price, and larger stocks are better quality than small stocks. That, and all the best films and series was were released on VHS.

In portable electronicscustomers value long battery life. If a product consumes batteries in a slow pace then it’s considered to be pretty good in quality. WonderSwan, a handheld game console from Bandai, managed to last around 24-26h with one AA battery. That’s something to strive for. Naturally, WonderSwan’s quality, as with any game console, lies in the games provided.

For media equipment this is the measure of quality; can it do the job for you? Will it be able to fulfil what you want to do with the machine? This is a question that haunts anyone who is going to buy a new a computer. Should they go for a Windows based PC or a Macintosh? Should they learn Linux or some other other OS instead? What programs will be there for them, will there be a large software support for the OS and so forth.

Windows is regarded as a high quality OS because of its versatility and how standard it is. You can safely jump from version to version and get hang ofthe new versions safely. Sadly, Windows 8 abandoned this altogether and I can see a lot of people and companies jumping over Windows 8 if there won’t be any proper and fundamental changes in how it’s usability works.

Macintosh machines work well for what they’re intended for. Personally they do not allow me the freedom I want on any level, so for me a Mac has a lower level of quality. If you prefer Mac, then more power for you. Just don’t come up to my face and start spouting that it’s the superior choice.

In film and animation the quality of the product can be measured on many levels; story, visuals, sound, acting etc. Much like with design and other creative industries, the only way to get a better quality product is to go through loads of experiences. A simple example would be a steel table; you can’t make the welding seams good if you don’t train your welding, and weak welding means a weak table. In animation you want to have people who have experience in animation to ensure the best possible product, but even then you need to take in newcomers to give them experience in the actual industry. The finalproduct might not be the best because of this, but you won’t get the best quality product in the future if you only have people who never had any actual experience.

Locally this is actually a pretty bad thing; most workplaces only take in people with experience, and you can’t really get any experience if you can’t get a workplace. It’s a vicious cyclethat should be stopped everywhere. Taking in few new workers would serve everybody’s interest, really.

You can see that quality isn’t something that’s set to stone from the get-go. There are things that do have a set standard (like a welding seam) but things like shape are completely abstract and vary from product to product and from user to user. For some a scene of animation might be bad quality, and for some standard quality.

We’ll be discussing Total Eclipse soon enough

The above, for some, is atrocious cell of animation. For some it looks like your modern TV-animation scene. I personally dig the light effect that’s going on.

While there are certain standards that do exist and are used to measure whatever, they only apply if the user, ie. the customer has the same set of values. Rarely dothe standards of industries and customers meet, even if the industry standardsshould be those of customerson appearance. Still, when talking of quality we do need to have those set standards in order to have a common ground, but even then we always deviate from those grounds because we do see things differently even from the same point of view. Just visit any game forum to witness this first hand.

The industries do have to think the standard of quality differently as well. Money is always one ofthe issues as arethe demands of the customers. Juggling between multiple issues to achieve the best possible product is no laughing matter. Sometimes there are customers whose voices need to be discarded in order to get the best mean quality possible. Serving everybody is an impossibility, and that’s why you need to aim to please as many as possible, even if its outside your own comfort zone.

Still, the last point is used as an excuse to do trophy products far too often, especially in the creative industries. Just because you can’t serve the 4/5 of the possible customer group, it doesn’t mean that you should only serve one fifth.

What is true quality is really hard to measure. Universal standards don’t seem to fit when we take individuals in account, and if we discard the individuals then the standards do not apply. Perhaps if we were cold logical machines we all could have those same standards of quality. It’s a richness that we are so different, and that richness makes things a bitch to make.