Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Making Stickers

Like a copy of this sticker?
 I think my love of stickers goes back to my skateboarding days. Back in the late 80s, the stickers being offered in the display case my local skate-shop outnumbered the different brands, colors, and types of wheels in the same case. The art just seemed to call to me, and I knew that was something I wanted to do with my work.

 An appeal (no pun intended) of stickers is the affordability. For a few dollars, anyone can get long-lasting and functional copy of art. A sticker is more than a print that someone might frame and hang on their wall. A sticker can become a means for the buyer to express themselves to the world, allowing them to make whatever they place the sticker on more uniquely theirs. It is more than just cool art, it is a statement of expression that the buyer is encouraged to share.

 Producing your work as stickers has been made easy thanks to the Internet. Designers can now upload their creations to sites like Cafepress, Zazzle, and Society6 and place their work on not just stickers but also t-shirts, skateboard decks, coffee mugs… Even thongs if one is so inclined. The best of these sites for stickers, in my opinion, is Redbubble. While most of the other sites limit the size and shape of your sticker, Redbubble offers die-cut stickers and lets the buyer select from a range of sizes. This flexibility for both the designer and the buyer extends to their other products as well.

Get this sticker at my Etsy shop!
 While the price to the buyer is on par with retail outlets for these kinds of products (uploading your designs and creating a shop is usually free to the designers), the profit earned by the designer is a mere fraction of the total amount. This is because the fabricator is providing the means of fabrication, the materials, the ecommerce platform, and the marketplace. They print per order, which can be a costly process. They rely on the designers to drive traffic to their site (and often market their own designs to those patrons), but the bulk of the production cost is help by the fabricator. For a $6.00 sticker, the designer might get $0.20.

 There are means around this. Again, thanks to the Internet, bulk fabricators have become more accessible. Bulk fabricators fabricate in bulk. Instead of setting up to print one sticker at a time, they reduce the set-up cost by printing a minimum number, like 50. The larger the number in the order, the less expensive it is to print. Generally, they are not involved in marketing the product, leaving that to the designer. The result is that a designer that can afford to pay $100 for their product in advance can potentially see a return of 300% while often undercutting the price of similar products offered by retailers. It also means a higher-quality product for the buyer.

Copies of this sticker are still available!
 Normally, owning the means of production is always the most profitable way to go, but the expense is often outside the means of most independent designers. There are products on the market that suggest that you can print vinyl stickers from your ink-jet computer. While this may seem like a marvelous solution, the product is inferior to the print-per-order fabricators or the bulk-printers. Often, one can rub the ink right off a print-at-home sticker. Your designs and your reputation deserve better.

 Stickers can be an easy an inexpensive way to generate awareness of your work and make that work accessible to more people. One produced correctly, a vinyl sticker will often outlast high-quality prints. Stickers are also potentially seen by more people, as it is a product that buyers use to express themselves to the public. If selling your art at a variety of price-points is part of your marketing strategy, stickers can provide a base tier without seeming like a discount-option.

 And, it is very cool to see one of your sticker designs on someone’s skateboard, laptop, or car.