Because you’re worth it!
Mark Godden urges signmakers to be proud of their price
Thanks to the dizzying pace of technological development in the sign and allied industries we live in an age where our production is now automated to an extent that many would never have predicted.
We have wide-format inkjet printers. Push a few buttons and designs and pictures issue in broad daylight. We have cutting plotters. Push a few buttons there and a little knife begins dancing. Lettering and logos are soon ready for application. We have computerised cutting system for hard materials. Push still more buttons and a meter tall Helvetica S in 10mm thick acrylic is yours for the asking.
That though, is what you might call, or think of as, ‘the bit in the middle.’ Whether automated or otherwise, without good design input going in, and application skills catching it all on the output side, what all this automation delivers is nothing more than the ability to make a mess even faster and, arguably, at a greater cost.
If you care to distill all this to a raw essence, it’s skills that distinguish the merely adequate from the truly exceptional; the barely merchantable from the irresistibly appealing. Skills are something you supplement with technology and not something – right now at least – that technology can displace.
Just like the technology that in many ways sustains the industry’s capability, skills have a cost attached to them. Oh dear. The very good news is, those same skills have a value too.
It’s a value that, depending where you choose to look, is sometimes wildly overpriced, or occasionally given away. That’s probably because it’s not immediately obvious what’s it’s costing, and difficult to price.
While we’re still poking around in the raw essence, stop and think for a moment whether you’re truly getting your money’s worth out of the time and talent you’re pouring into your business on the skills side of the invoice. Sure there are jobs you do that are little more than ‘a costs plus’ exercise, but others are not. Your fixed costs have to be met, but there’s usually headroom beyond those.
In this industry and others, there’s always ‘the bloke on the other side of town’ who just rips the bottom out of the market and there are always potential customers who’re blinded to the extent they can’t quite fathom what he’s taking out of his costs to hit the price he’s offering. Do you consider it your job to try and build the value back into your offering, or do you consider it your job to chop a few more inches off whatever it is that stops your business collapsing around you?
Someone, somewhere is that ‘bloke on the other side of town.’ Equipped to the extent he can at least produce something, his output is probably a very familiar looking collection of stuff drawn from a painfully limited design vocabulary. His vans are all for different clients but somehow they all manage to look the same. His window graphics stick out, but for all the wrong reasons. His banners look like the staid ensemble of stock images and the same old type that they are.
Fact is, that ‘bloke on the other side of town’ only competes with you to the extent his technology allows. He doesn’t have your eye for lettering and layout. He has no colour savvy. His application is poor and the results look like they’re just waiting for the death that surely awaits the crappy materials he’s forced to use.
Technology though, flatters the talented. People who value the difference gravitate to quality and they accept that it comes at a price. It’s not always a staggering amount but it does reflect the fact that there’s a difference.
Sell that difference. You really are worth it!