Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #26

Cool Conference Swag You Could Laser Cut For Pennies!

Packing for a conference is a lot like packing for a hike.

You have to pack the essentials, you want to pack a few standby items and you’d like to bring certain vanity items along, just for the heck of it. But as you pack, you also need to keep a check on the weight of your pack. Plus, unlike a hike where you probably won’t encounter more than one or two people at most, a conference is full of people who are eager to hand you bags of stuff!

Yet before you begin rummaging through conference bags for stuff to keep, here’s a quick list of things most attendees wish they had brought along which can be laser cut really cheap.

Simple Conversation Starters.

Lasercutwristband

Laser Cut Wristbands.
While you will do your best to network before the session and during the breakout periods, the fact is you won’t be able to approach as many people as you’d like. But rather than rush through conversations with multiple people, you can use a little laser cut panache to draw people to you.

If designed well, this is bound to get you noticed even when you do something as simple as answer a phone call. It also helps you stand out in a crowd by acting as a distinct visual marker. Within a conference setting, you get instantly noticed if you have to raise your hand. And finally, it can be a great way to share your personal details without having to repeat them over and over (just in case your name or email has a complex spelling). Plus, if you run out of business cards, or don’t feel the need to share a business card with certain people … you can redirect them to your wristband for your details instead of the awkward fumble for a pen and napkin.

Things That Make You Memorable.

lasercutbusinesscard

Laser Cut Business Cards.
Getting noticed is only half the battle. Your next step is to leave a lasting impression on your new acquaintances. Here are some easy to produce laser cut items, which can do the trick.      (more…)

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How To Increase Profits with the Best Pricing For Retail

Keep your expectations realistic to secure the highest returns 

Without a careful, methodical approach, it can be difficult for makers (and indeed small businesses) to find the right balance when it comes to pricing their products. Let’s take a look at the considerations and contributing factors, so that this critical part of running a maker business can be controlled to work in your favor.

If you’re making as a hobby, then profits may not be such a priority – but a business cannot be sustainable if it does not turn a profit.

Setting a price for your products

In the creative marketplace, there are 3 key components to consider:

  1. Your cost price
  2. Your wholesale price
  3. Your retail price

This is the simplest breakdown, where the cost price refers to the sum of all the cash costs that go into making each product; the wholesale price is the cost price plus the amount you want to earn for your idea and your time (this can be seen as a ‘creative fee’, but we’ll get to that later); and the retail price is made up of your wholesale price plus the retail margin.

When seen in this way, a general guideline can be followed with the ratio of 1:2:4 where $1 of cost will have a $2 wholesale price and a $4 retail price.

Looking at it from the other direction can also help, as the focus on starting with the final selling price has a stronger connection to the reality of your target market – ie, the price of competing products. There is no point working out a price based on your own production costs, only to find that you are no longer competitive in the marketplace once your product reaches retailers.

Therefore, the simple equation looks like this:

Profitable Retail Price = 2x Wholesale price = 2x Total Production Cost.

How do you calculate your Creative Fee?

The tricky part, particularly when you are just starting out, is how to account for your creative spark and your design/assembly/packaging/marketing/etc time. How long do you spend assembling each product? What about all those trips to the post office? Every moment you spend doing ‘work’ should be accounted for, and given an appropriately proportioned value to insert into your calculations.

There is a handy Ponoko walkthrough on how to calculate these figures that can really help to prevent you from falling into the common trap of under-pricing your products.

Tough negotiations with retailers

Selling direct from your bedroom home office is one thing, but when retailers put the squeeze on you for tighter and tighter margins, the figures you carefully worked to when just starting out can suddenly leave you operating at a loss!

The Ponoko Cost Saving Guide uses a set of laser cut coasters to simulate the full process from initial design through to high turnover retail product. It makes for interesting reading, with a guided navigation through all the considerations that contribute to product pricing.

These include:

Minimum Order Size
Most Profitable Order Size
Minimum Wholesale Order Size
Tough Retailer Negotiations 

Knowing where your boundaries are in terms of lowest acceptable price and also highest realistic goals before you engage in large volume orders can make the difference between whether you actually realise a profit or not.

Making a Profit

Profit is very important, if you are seeing your making as a business venture.

There is no rule that you have to make a profit! It is totally ok to be making for the joy of making, but consider that without profits from your efforts, it can be very difficult to continue your passion for making things for others. When you make a profit, you are also creating new possibilities for yourself… so without a profit, you are not going to be running a business for very long.

Once dollars are involved, rules become very important. In Chris Anderson’s 10 Rules For Maker Businesses, profit heads the list, and with good reason. Reading through these articles will give you many tools and insights that can help to set and maintain realistic goals for your maker business.

“…if you don’t get the price right at the start, you won’t be able to keep making” – Chris Anderson

Let us know in the comments below what your personal experience has been in balancing the tricky task of how to achieve the best pricing for your retail products.

 

10 Rules For Maker Businesses

Ponoko Cost Saving Guide

Stop Under-Pricing your Design Products

 

 

Laser Cutting Some Cheer

Laser cut holly, pharmaceuticals, dragons and saints, watermelon!

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Above is a graphic holly Christmas card. It is laser cut from paper, like Ponoko.com‘s own Cardstock, and comes from Storyshop.

After the jump, pharmaceuticals, dragons and saints, watermelon… (more…)

Burning Through the Bills: Laser Cut Money

Scott Campbell’s Laser Cut Skull

Scott Campbell Skull detail

At a time of year when spending patterns can make it seem like people have money to burn, this laser cut skull by Scott Campbell sends a sobering message. Produced as a one in a series of laser cut US currency sculptures, the thought-provoking collection pokes fun at all those cashed-up buyers with their wallets out.

Highlighting the arbitrary nature of money

The leering skull featured above is an image familiar in the world of tattoo art (Scott happens to be a former tattoo artist himself). By placing this iconic form into a dead-man’s chest made out of $11,000 in real, legal currency, the value of money is brought into question as we reconsider how much the items that we buy are really worth.

scott campbell skull full

Laser cut layers

Using the technique of layered construction creates a solid three-dimensional object from the 2 x 2 foot sheets of currency. This is an effective way to generate 3D forms, as it takes advantage of the precision enabled by laser cutting and (as Scott shows here) the resulting topographical layers create a distinctive visual texture.

For further pieces that challenge the big spenders, you can find additional skulls laser cut from dollar bills at Scott Campbell’s Studio.

 

Ironically Retro Laser Cut Time

Laser cut clocks, stars, and a small business!

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Above is an alarm clock housing for your smartphone. It is laser cut from MDF, like Ponoko.com‘s own, and comes from vincent.verheggan over at Instructables.

After the jump, stars, and a small business… (more…)

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #25

Wrapped in a Living Hinge: Laser Cut Clutch

laser cut living hinge bag michael harwood

There is something almost magical about the way a flat sheet of rigid material becomes flexible when laser cut using the ‘living hinge’ technique. This method of achieving a 3D shape from 2D material is ideally suited to laser cutting, as it exploits the natural tendency for stiff materials to flex around voids or notches. With a distinctive visual identity, the functional design elements can also be quite eye-catching.

The result is a smooth, organic curve that can be controlled rather efficiently if you are willing to either put your head far enough into the mathematics of how it works, or simply enjoy the prototyping process through several rounds of trial and error.

About living hinges

Learn more in our post on How To Design a Living Hinge where the mathematics behind this construction technique are revealed. While many examples of living hinges use simple lines as the decorative and functional element, it is in fact possible to adapt complex graphics (such as icons or company logos) to achieve a similar physical manipulation in the material.

See the following examples of patterns increasing in complexity, and how they respond when they are a part of a living hinge. To the left is a basic staggered line element, similar to the clutch bag design featured above from Michael Harwood. Moving through to chevrons, larger voids in a plus symbol and then the more detailed Space Invader sprite, it is clear that visually recognisable icons can indeed become living hinge elements.

Applying this technique to your brand

Staggered lines are an excellent starting point when looking at living hinges, as the behavior of the material is much more predictable and therefore easier to control. To keep things interesting, we do also encourage exploring more complex designs for maximum impact. Consider both the form that is created when the material bends around the living hinge, and how best to incorporate brand identity.

Have you bagged the perfect fashion accessory using the Ponoko Personal Factory? Let us know in the comments below. For more ideas for Agencies and Brands, see the other posts in the series.

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All Facets of Laser Cut Animals

Laser cut animals, rulers, spaceships, and California!

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Above are geometric animal coasters. They are laser cut and etched into maple wood, like Ponoko.com‘s own Premium Veneer-MDF, and come from The Campbell Craft.

After the jump, rulers, spaceships, and California… (more…)

Laser Cut House Cats!

Laser cut  houses, and cats!

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Above is a Pop-Up Village. They are laser cut and etched into wood, like Ponoko.com‘s own Birch Plywood, and come from Thea Starr of 6 By 6 Arts.

After the jump, some cats… (more…)

How To: Laser Cut Wooden Keyboard

Using a Laser Cutter To Customize Your Keys

 

lazerwood macbook keys

With all of the time people spend at their personal computers, there is a growing demand for new ways to give these devices a more natural, human touch. One popular solution to complement the cool sheen of the portable computer is to create custom keys and removable keyboard decals.

The laser cut and etched example pictured above faithfully recreates the features on the buttons, from the classic fonts all the way to proportion and composition. It also pays to experiment; if you get the laser etched details just right, there is even scope to allow for light to pass through from the backlit keys below.

This is an effective way to give your computer added tactile and visual warmth. If you don’t have the means to make your own, you can see if the full Lazerwood example suits your needs. For those who would like to try their own design for keyboard customizations, try this instructable as a starting point. Load in the design files to your Ponoko Personal Factory and you’ll soon be typing away on an individualized upgraded keyboard with some serious creative flair.

How To Create Strength Using Origami and Laser Cutting

New structural options from everyday materials 

In recent years, the boundary between art and engineering has continued to blur with scientists and researchers turning their formidable minds toward traditional craft techniques. The results are starting to get quite exciting, with surprise breakthroughs such as the Japanese origami-inspired ‘zippered tube’ featured above demonstrating that there is still much to learn about how we use familiar materials.

This example highlights a novel process of combining thin flexible sheets of material that have precise cuts and folds in them. The location and combination of these elements enables the material to become rigid when assembled in specific configurations, gaining structural integrity far beyond the original material’s capacity.

The research that developed this construction technique emerged from a collaboration between University of Illinois grad student Evgueni Filipov, Georgia Institute of Technology professor Glaucio Paulino and professor Tomohiro Tachi from the University of Tokyo.

“…we’re starting to see how it has potential for a lot of different fields of engineering” – Evgueni Filipov

Filipov and his colleagues focus on an origami technique known as Miura-ori folding, where a tube is constructed from two precisely folded ziz-zag strips. Individually, the strips are highly flexible but when combined the resulting tube has a remarkable rigidity and controllable degree of compression or folding.

What does this mean for Ponoko users? While much of the focus in the origami research is currently centered around potential uses in architecture and for space exploration; many of the options from the Ponoko Materials Library would be a great fit for this approach to assembly and construction.

via Georgia Tech News Center