I kinda sorta get what you mean, but in my opinion and experience, with today’s tools it’s possible to iterate close to final quality without needing to work in quality stages like what you’re doing.
I say this, but I’m also used to working on a certain type of machine, so I don’t know if you’re running Blender on a more modest set up that can only handle very low poly/low RAM scenes.
For instance, I find the pipeline of Ian Hubert to be a good example on how to iterate in a way that yields high quality results even in the early phase of the project. Ian works on very low poly meshes, and utilizes cheap or free textures, but the results speak for themselves:
Of course I am not suggesting that Ian’s workflow and esthetics should be used across the board, I am merely using his work as an example of what the currently technology allows to create from a very early phase of design all the way to final output.