Our culture is enamored with Cheap.  The notion of “more for less” permeates every sector of the economy.  Wal-Mart and Ikea, for example, have made money these past few years touting this philosophy.

However, at its heart Cheap is a lie, and on some level we all know it.  There is no such thing as, “more for less.”  Behind the seductive illusion of “scoring a deal” are troubling consequences our culture is beginning to face.  Consequences in regards to questionable labor practices, as with Wal-Mart, or environmental abuse, as with Ikea.

We make trade offs for Cheap, whether we know it or not.  Cheap production is no different and means three things:  Cheap design, labor, and gear.

Cheap design has little impact.  It is functional and predictable – be it with gear or techniques – emphasizing not innovation but mimicry.  Cheap design speaks to muddled branding desperately trying to reach an audience through half attempted, recycled gestures.

Regarding Cheap labor, former President William McKinley said it best, “Cheap merchandise means cheap men.”  He was speaking about five-and-dimes, but the analogy is apropos.  Knowledgeable, courteous, well trained men (and women) are not Cheap.  When things go badly, it pays to have them on your side.

Third, it means Cheap gear.  That means volume, which supersedes maintenance as a priority.  Suddenly gear is faulty and support is unreachable or far away.  The “deal” on gear suddenly costs huge money in wasted time and labor.  Was the equipment packed intelligently?  Do the pieces fit together?  Is the gear even appropriate for your job?  These aren’t the concerns of Cheap gear.

What works for Wal-Mart or Ikea spells troubling consequences for production.  In a world focused on Cheap, we all – our audiences, our labor, our clients, our world – get less for less.