CaughtAdrift Blog

How We Determine a "Quality" Product

Andrew Maury

Thursday Oct 27 2016

Recently, we wrote about the criteria we use when selecting new brands and products to carry in our shop. Our criteria can be broken down to five words: quality, value, enduring, boutique, and sustainable. We gave a few details about what we mean by each of those, but it didn't feel quite sufficient, given that each of those words is quite subjective. We wanted to tell you more about what we mean by each of these attributes in further detail. We're starting off with the first one we mentioned: quality

How to Define a Subjective Term Like Quality

As we went to write this, we realized just how hard it is to define a term like quality. We don't have a specific definition of what makes a brand or product quality. Instead, it's more of a we-know-it-when-we-see-it mentality. That works well for us, but likely doesn't mean much to you, unless you happen to already know us and trust our definition of quality. 

We made the mistake of Googling how others have attempted to define the word quality. Unsurprisingly, many people have spent far more words and time to this than can be reasonably justified, and there are differing opinions. Of course, we got sucked in to reading many of them that attempted to define the word in a number of different ways. 

Dictionary Meaning of Quality

At the basic dictionary level, the word has two well acknowledged meanings. It can either be used to mean a certain standard or a characteristic. There's some gray area, but these two meanings are relatively distinct. In the case of the brands and products we carry, we're looking for a certain standard of product. 

Quotes about Quality

After the dictionary, we looked a bit at what some others have said about quality. Here are a few of our favorites, found at BrainyQuote.

"Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort." - John Ruskin

"Quality means doing it right when no one is looking." - Henry Ford

"Quality is pride of workmanship."  - W. Edwards Deming

"Quality is not an act, it is a habit." - Aristotle

Eight Dimensions of Quality

We then came across a concept that breaks quality down into a specific list of standards, called the Eight Dimensions of Quality. The concept was first presented by David Garvin in 1987. Garvin identified the 8 dimensions as: 

  • Performance
  • Features
  • Reliability
  • Conformance
  • Durability
  • Serviceability
  • Aesthetics
  • Perceived Quality

Note: Garvin goes into detail about each dimension in his original article (link above), and a summary is available on Wikipedia

This certainly looks like a good list of things to consider when determining the quality of a particular product or brand. 

ISO Definition of Quality

Taking a different approach, the International Organization for Standardization defines quality as "the totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs." It's not exactly poetry, but it's hard to argue with this definition when examined closely. 

Our Quality Test

Inspired by the Eight Dimensions of Quality and the ISO definition of quality, we were inspired to create criteria of our own. We wanted something that would fit our company and the things that are important to us when selecting product. Instead of a long list of attributes, we came up with a simple list of 4 questions:

  • Does it work as intended?
  • Is it likely to have a long lifespan?
  • Would we be proud to give this as a gift?
  • Was there thought and care put into the design & production?

Although this list of questions is new, we've already used similar general concepts when selecting products for our shop. This specific list is now part of our workflow when evaluating new products and brands. It may change over time, and we'll update the list here so you can see how we evaluate products. 


We use "quality" as a major criteria when selection product, but the term itself is difficult to define, particularly due to the subjective nature of the word. We want to be as transparent as possible, have have developed our own list of 4 questions we use to determine if a product is quality.