Universal signals of quality

These are the signals of quality that I’ve found apply to everything. People and artefacts.


In (over)simple terms, the more beautiful something is, the higher quality we think it is. I assume this is because beauty requires effort, and so does quality in general. Any evidence that we have put care into something is evidence of further care.


We judge whether something is high quality by what it is associated with. A common approach to this is social proof, where someone or something is associated with other someones or somethings. We judge a thing by the company it keeps.


If someone or something costs more, we might assume that is because it is worth more. But “cost” does not have to mean “money”. If something takes more time, for example, we might assume it is of higher quality.


Performance could be quantitative like “top speed”, or qualitative like “how does it make me feel”. It could be results-focused like “did it help me complete my task”. In simple terms, if appearance is “how it looks”, performance is “how it does”.