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5 ways to stretch the budget on your next big design project

Your ideas always come with a price tag, but with a bit of planning, strategic use of materials and smart production, you can still deliver a high-quality project on or below budget. Whether you design spaces for corporations, retail locations, museums, schools, hospitals or other organizations, the list below might help you think about your next project in a different way.


There’s no reason you can’t save money and still deliver a portfolio-worthy result.

Here are the first five of our top money-saving tips for designers:


1.        When you don’t need top-of-the-line, spec a less expensive choice.


The quality of our own client base dictates high-end output, so our default is typically to the best material available. However, there are printer providers who always quote using the cheapest options. That’s why it’s important to define your expectations.


To help match materials to project needs, the next time you send a project to a printer for price quotes, make sure you include information about the display duration, location and usage. As an example, if a project is in a high-touch public area, durability is more important than if its somewhere with restricted traffic, so that may open you to new alternatives. You can also ask your printer if they can recommend a less-expensive option – perhaps PVC instead of acrylic – if they don’t automatically do so. They should be able to explain their recommendations and the potential cost/benefit of each choice to help you make a final decision.


2.        Check sizes for maximum yield.


When our large-format printers print directly on a substrate, a small amount of blank space is required around the edges of each design element to accommodate a router bit – which is needed to create a crisp, clean edge. Don’t forget to factor these additional margins into your design plans so you maximize the number of elements we can fit on one board.


As an example, 48” x 96” is one of the standard board sizes. While it may seem logical that you could place four 12” x 24” elements side-by-side on that board, you haven’t allotted any space for routing. If not resized, it’s actually going to take a second board to print all four elements and you’ll end up with a lot of waste.


However, if you can resize your design elements to account for the needed margins, you can go back to just one board, which can really add up on big projects. Depending on your design, you might even be able to adjust just one element to make enough of a difference. While these layouts require a bit of math, your printer can help. And just a little design flexibility can increase your yield and lower your cost, so it makes sense to check! 


3.   Can you create dimension in a different way?


We understand why designers love thicker materials; when you vary material dimensions across a project, it grabs attention and imparts a quality feel. But depending on where your project’s being installed and how large each element is, shifting from acrylic that’s 1” thick down to a half-inch might not make enough difference to justify the cost.


You can also consider print techniques that add a sense of dimension even on a flat surface, including use of first and second surfaces, pairing frosted surfaces with a back printed color or using a combination of matte and gloss finishes.  


4.        Develop a standardized design deck.


We have multiple clients that reuse many of the same design elements – retail store displays or construction site signage as two examples. Instead of starting from scratch for every new location, we’ve worked with designers to organize the elements that will be used again and again into an online portal. As a new store opens or a construction company moves to a new site and needs materials that are specific to that location, they simply provide the new copy details to be added to an existing template. Because we’ve already completed the custom set-up, the cost and production time are considerably less.


5.        Ask your printer if they can mimic the result you want with a different material.


Instead of wood veneer, we can create a print that looks like wood, which not only costs less, but may work better for some applications. Ditto for print techniques that replicate metal. Both print options are simple substitutions that we’ve provided without losing the overall effect the client wanted.


Think of the possibilities. We recently created a metallic print that can be mounted to acrylic. After we cut and apply metallic paint to the sides, you’ve got the look of solid metal lettering for a fraction of the cost.


So even if you have an “expensive” idea, don’t toss it out before asking your printer if they can brainstorm a lower-cost creative substitution. You’d be amazed what’s possible with our cutting, routing, molding, painting and printing technology. There’s yet to be a project we couldn’t deliver!


Look for five more money-saving ideas in our next blog


There’s nothing we love more than coming up with ways to deliver more for less. Our next blog will share five additional ways you can cut project costs without sacrificing quality. See you then!







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