In design, as in life, there are two measures of value - perceived value and literal value. This topic resonates with me, not just because it is Christmas time, but because the purposeful intentions in the selection and specification process are often overlooked by most. The subtitles of design are more often than not the opinion and experience of the designer slightly guided by the client's values. So what is it exactly?
Literal value is the measure of the quality against a comparable in the marketplace. Perceived value, on the other hand, is difficult to measure because it is your history and experiences (or ego) determining the importance of the material. Perceived value is what we will automatically gravitate toward first, and it is the the most difficult to comprehend. For example:
Mary Jane would like a new pair of patent leather shoes to replace a well worn pair. Mary Jane's friend, Sally, had a similar pair of patent leather shoes but they did not fit well. Sally never purchased a pair of shoes from that brand again. Mary Jane, on the other hand, is impartial to the brand is looking for the best price for these particular shoes. She has had three pairs previously, all from different manufacturers, and she liked them all but they were all the same style Mary Jane wears. Well, today, Mary Jane is looking for the added visual interest of a bow to her patent leather shoes. Mary Jane goes from store to store to store, and she is just not happy with the price of patent leather shoes with bows these days. Mary Jane resorts to shopping online, and she spends hours upon hours searching for the perfect pair at an exceptional bargain. A couple days later she found them online, bought them, and when they arrive several weeks later she realizes that they just don't feel the same as a particular pair she tried on a few weeks ago. Now Mary Jane is disappointed, but she settles for this new pair until they wear out. Then, and only then, will Mary Jane remember this experience and purchase a pair of patent leather shoes with bow (and maybe polka-dots) that fit well.
What we learn is that "Value" does not mean inexpensive, but it is specially reserved for those materials or feelings that are fair and reasonable with moderate outcomes. This is the true meaning of value.
As will all materials and feelings that are perceived value, what is fair in value can be a challenge to determine. Fair may not mean a sacrifice, but a compromise on a particular style, colour, or performance. But what is good for the goose isn't necessarily fair for the gander, so understand what is fair to you first and foremost.
It all stands to reason, and the method of reasoning will be different for each person, but the overall outcome must be satisfactory. And apples to apples approach will work well with establishing reasoning. Finding the middle ground doesn't mean going too far one way or the other, the balance of what is reasonable is somewhere in the middle and we must all understand what that is. Resisting everything is like resisting the universe.
Everything in moderation, and that means a particular luxury brand item may not be the same quality or workmanship as a lesser brand. The mere term "Luxury" implies that it will be perfect, yet history tells me that it is actually quality that I am looking for. How we quantify moderate value is determined by our history and our past excessive-ness. It is important to not live down memory lane or on the yellow brick road, but rather be somewhere that is detached from those excessive experiences in order to have a clear picture of what moderate means to you.
As you go forward assessing the price of value to you may come at a lengthy debate and a longer decision making process, this is normal, but it does become easier the more you practice it. Ultimately, observing our choice of a particular material or feeling is going to lead us to a successful design process and installation.