I work with a range of product developers, each with different needs and areas of specialization. The cost can vary a lot from designer to designer. I've found this can create confusion around price. I can quote one designer a low price. Then I can quote a designer producing a similar product, a higher price. The source of this discrepancy is the number of hours the studio needs to spend getting the order ready to print. The more production-ready you are, the fewer hours we need to spend getting it ready.
I thought it would help to break this down so you can see where you are. This will give you an idea of what services the studio is providing in your quote (hint - it's not always just cutting).
It's also a great way for me to share what goes in to product development. I realized I do this every day so it's second nature. For folks that don't do this for a living, all of the steps involved may be something you've never encountered before. Knowing what those are can help illuminate why paying for design is worthwhile. If you're a fairly experienced designer it might show areas where you can up your skills to streamline orders. No matter where you are, I'll give you some tips on how to save money on laser cutting.
Let's start at the top. A fully trained product developer who specializes in vector files:
Graphic Artists, Industrial Designers, Product Developers
What Your Order Looks Like: Vector File, Outlined, Set Up In Correct Artboard Size, Cutting Lines Labelled Red, Duplicate Lines Removed, All Parts Are Located In the Same File, Appearance Attributes Removed, Clipping Masks & Compound Paths Removed, Fills Have Been Removed, All Raster Elements Have Been Vectorized, Type Size Has Been Tested For Legibility, Thicknesses Have Been Verified For Durability In Chosen Material, Interlocking Parts Have Been Set To The Thicknesses Used in This Studio, Patchy Vector Lines Have Been Repaired To Form Continuous Cutting Lines, Type Has Been Linked Or Bridged, You Have A Clear Understanding Of Materials & Their Attributes, You Can Choose Materials Without Advice
What You Pay For: Set Up Fee & Cutting
Who You Are Hiring: Straight Laser is your Piece Goods Manufacturer.
How To Save Money: Make the best use of your set up fee, material layout and shipping costs by ordering in quantity. As with any manufacturing process, once the set up is done and changes minimized, costs drop significantly. Order repeats through the same service provider to save money.
Product Designers OR Businesses With A Professional Graphic Artist
What Your Order Looks Like: You Have Your Logo In A Vector Format, You May Have Vector Files For The Product You Want To Cut, Your Understand Product Development Even If It May Not Be In The Graphic Design Industry (Examples: Skincare Company, Clothing Designer, Pet Accessories Company...), You Can Provide Specs And Have A Good Handle On Estimating Size, You Can Provide Comprehensive Detail On What You Want, You Have A Basic Handle On Materials And Have Preferences, You Have A Clear Design Direction
What You Pay For: Some Consulting On The Best Materials For Your Project, Some Size and Construction Spec Work, Graphic Design Time To Develop Your Digital File, Graphic Design Time To Make Your File Production Ready, Test Cuts, Set Up Fee & Cutting, Sometimes Finishing
Who You Are Hiring: Straight Laser is your Product Developer & Finished Goods Manufacturer.
How To Save Money: If you're partial to your internal graphic designer or need to keep them working, hire them to fully complete the product you'd like to create. Graphic design needs to happen either in your business or in this studio (you can't skip this part). If using your internal artist is advantageous, do that. Get clear on the exact sizing you need and read the list of materials I stock in the studio to know what's available. The more you can have these things decided on before you contact me the less time it will take and the less it will cost overall. If you're seeking post-cutting finishes but the price isn't a fit, consider ordering raw parts and doing the finishing yourself.
Service Businesses, Retailers, Resellers, Businesses That Don't Employ A Graphic Designer, Artists Working In Analog Formats
What Your Order Looks Like: You Are Coming To Me With An Idea, A Problem To Be Solved, Or A Request (Maybe for a sign or printing), You Created Your Logo Yourself Or Through An Online Generator, You Have A Raster Version of Your Logo & Don't Have Access to The Vector File, Your Business Doesn't Use A Style Guide, You're Requesting Atypical Materials or Custom Sourced Products, Your Request Is A One-Off Item To Solve A Specific Problem, You Would Like To Create A Product But Are Not In The Business Of Design or Product Development
What You Pay For: Sometimes Logo Creation & Branding, Converting Raster Logos To Vector Format, File Clean Up & Repair, Product Costing, Design Direction To Ensure Product Aligns With Business Branding, Custom Materials Sourcing, Material Selection & Testing, Consulting On Proportions, Size, Fit & Finish, Design Direction For The Product Being Created, Consulting on Specs & Construction Methods, Product File Creation, Making File Production Ready, Test Cuts, Set Up Fee & Cutting, Finishing
Who You Are Hiring: Straight Laser is your Designer, Product Developer & Finished Goods Manufacturer.
How To Save Money: Hire a professional graphic artist for your logo and branding. I provide this service in the studio. Please ask me for a quote. Doing so will save money over the long term as you develop your business. Determine exactly what you need the finished product to do with as much detail as possible (Example: it has to fit on a shelf that is 7" tall...). Provide lots of photos: either inspiration pics, or pics from inside the office where the item will be used/placed. Read the list of materials I can process and try to align your project with a material I stock. If you'd like custom materials sourced, order in enough quantity that it lowers the cost of bringing it in. If your idea is out there in the market or can be solved with a ready-made item it is almost always cheaper to go that route. Consider product development when your idea is custom, branded or it just isn't out there in the marketplace.
There are a lot of steps in product development that may be invisible if you're encountering it for the first time. Even for seasoned pros, each manufacturing process has its unique needs and quirks. I hope that by describing the process I've shown you a few areas where you can do prep work to lower laser cutting costs.
In a future post I'll cover file prep in more detail so you can create production-ready files.
I'll also create a post about how cutting is priced and give advice on designing your product strategically to reduce costs.
Thank you for reading. Was this post helpful? Questions? Let me know in the comments!
To start your cutting order check out the Ordering Page.