Bruce Fox Blog

2D Or Not 2D: That is a Questionable Award Design

Posted by Dave Miller on May 23, 2017 1:00:00 PM

 Read Time - 7 minutes

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Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous graphic design, or to take arms against a sea of troubled product concepts, and by opposing end them: to be erased, to be deleted.

Okay, it’s not quite that dramatic, but as a manufacturer of custom awards, our company is faced with a growing challenge:  customer-submitted award designs.  The internet has granted everyone access to all the world’s ideas—good and bad.  And technology has put graphic design within reach of everyone over the age of 4.

Unfortunately, a vast majority of the designs we see are cringe-worthy-concepts that look good on a two-dimensional screen, but defy physics in three-dimensional, tangible space.  Check out the figures above for examples of where cool-looking graphics can lead us astray.

A Familiar Dialogue

To illustrate the resulting…um…awkward dialogue, I’ve written a decidedly un-Shakespearean script. While this was written for the promotional products industry, I think you'll find that it's a common narrative that is much more far-reaching. To demonstrate, I cast the characters in the setting of a different industry to illustrate the challenges we (in the promotional products industry) face.

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Real Estate Developer
:  I need you to build some houses.

Home Builder:  Terrific.  Tell me about the kind of properties you’re needing.

Developer:  I can do better than that!  I can show you a picture!  See?

Builder:  Okay.  Hmmm.  Well, it’s a nice looking picture, but I see some challenges in the design.  Where did you get this picture?

Developer:  A customer gave it to me.  They have a graphic designer in the family.  So how much will they cost?

Builder:  Well, as I said, there are a number of issues we’ll need to resolve before we can build houses.  I can see we’ll need to modify some of the elements so it will function as a proper house.  A two-dimensional picture doesn’t necessarily take into account the properties of three-dimensional space.  As an example, this part right here…it’s kind of, uh, floating in space with nothing holding it up…

Developer:  It looks cool, right?  They like this picture and all I need you to do is build it, so give me prices with and without that.

Builder:  …And, frankly, we’re not at the point where we can discuss how the houses are made.  We’ll need to have some idea of quantity, budget objectives, and timing, for instance.

Developer:  Well, see, I don’t really know.  I just need your best price, and if you can give me costs at different quantities, that would be great.  And the timing is I need an answer today.

Builder:  By timing, I meant project completion date.  As far as an immediate price quote goes, I can look at a stock design.  We can tweak some of the finishes and features to make it unique, but quoting an entirely custom job requires a proper design and a few days to do our research and run the numbers.

Developer:  Well, they really want what’s in this picture.  And they found some ideas they like online they’d like to incorporate.  I’ll send you the links so you can take a look, but I have to get back to them tomorrow, so I need costs today.

Builder:  If you can give me three or four days to design something to your budget, I’d be happy to give you a full proposal, including costs and timelines. Why do you need a price so quickly?  Is the delivery rush?

Developer:  Well, I guess the people who want to buy my houses forgot they need a place to live.  They’ve been pretty busy.  And they asked me to come back to them with prices by tomorrow.  It’s not really a rush, but they need to know how quickly they can move in.  They move every year, but it always comes down to this.

Builder:  Well, I can give you a stock design right away, and we can start working on ideas for next year so you can give them the best possible solution.

Developer:  Okay.  I’ve talked to other builders, so if your numbers are good, I’ll sign a contract right away.


...Sounds pretty preposterous, right? 

Now, consider the above dialogue, in the industry many of our readers will better relate. Simply replace words like "builder" with "award supplier", "developer" with "promotional products distributor" and "house" with "award".

Maybe that sounds a little more familiar.

Yes, I'm Picking on You

But in your defense, we also understand that it isn't your business to know how to run ours. You're also undoubtedly pressured by the needs, budget, timeline, and expectations of your own client. It's difficult to align all of these opposing forces to deliver and delight your customers.

The truth of the matter is that this scenario as well as the problems you're facing spans all industries. Whether you're in the promotional products industry or not, switch up the wording a little and this is probably a conversation about expectations you've had with your client or boss which you've then directed to your supplier/contractor/sales team/employees (etc.) We're in a microwave popcorn era of people wanting it right now without realizing what they could potentially be leaving on the table.

What might that be?

We all know the difference between an award that's been mass-produced overseas and one that demonstrates company values, branding, and messaging. And you can be the vehicle for it. All distributors work from the same run-of-the-mill database for these types of awards. Custom awards offer something you can't get out of a magazine: originality. Created for your client, and your client only.

Make your customer take a breath and take a moment to explain the necessity of careful planning and the value of trusting this kind of work to a professional who can custom-craft an award design (that won't defy physics). Change the narrative.

How to Flip the Script

The above dialogue is not quite as ominous as Hamlet’s soliloquy, as there is (usually) no blood spilled or contemplation of death involved with creating custom awards.  But you can help us re-write the script as a promotional products distributor, and guide your customer to a successful, less-tragic solution.


If you're interested in learning more about how you can change the narrative or would like additional information about how to offer custom award designs that won't defy physics, please click below:

Get Started


DaveBlogImage2.jpgDave Miller is VP of Sales & Marketing at Bruce Fox, Inc. and a professional writer by virtue of the fact his company is paying him to write this blog.  He has been with Bruce Fox since 1990, which somehow sounds more palatable than 26 years.  To find out what Shakespeare character you are, try this quiz:

Tags: Challenges faced by distributors