Always compare eggs with eggs

I often find that people can’t understand why their local printer’s prices for a few business cards are more expensive than Vistaprint. The answer is simple (and one that is timely given we’ve just had Easter!) – they are not ‘comparing eggs with eggs’. Vistaprint is a billion Dollar company whose entire model is based on volume – they minimise their overheads by standardising paper stocks, inks and finishes, and by printing lots of separate jobs together in a way that smaller printers cannot. I recently read an old (2013) interview with the founder and CEO of Vistaprint, Robert Keane where he explained how they automated to such an enormous degree in order to reduce the ‘human intervention’ per job to the bare minimum. This intervention by their staff averages less than 12 seconds, yes, that’s right – your artwork when uploaded goes to print with no more than few seconds of anyone actually looking at it. This is an incredible achievement, but it highlights why comparing them to a local print service is simply not a fair comparison. A smaller printer cannot hope to get your job transferred from initial booking onto the press with less than 12 seconds interaction by their staff and nor would they want to. Even putting aside any preliminary conversations you may have had with them whilst enquiring about your job and before the printing actually starts they have to: import your artwork; run it through their pre-press system; check it and then finally output to film, plate or digital. All of which takes time – and human intervention.

Value rather than price

However, given the model they operate Vistaprint cannot offer a significant personal touch to every client’s job in the same way as a local printer. Although they have a customer service department for queries, they can’t possibly hope to provide expert advice and guidance proactively and I doubt that they would stop the press if they noticed a spelling error on your cards – they surely can’t afford to. Comparing your local printer to a global giant like Vistaprint isn’t a fair comparison, anymore than comparing your local bookshop to Amazon would be. Your printer may be more expensive (although not necessarily when you compare the non-standard Vistaprint options), but they offer far more value.

In Pixooma’s own field of Graphic Design, a similar mantra is equally true. You can’t compare free, automated ‘Logo-Design’ websites or cheap templating systems with briefing a graphic designer in person and asking them to design you a bespoke logo. Neither is it fair to compare websites offering a range of ready-made templates, to a tailored website design produced by a skilled graphic designer. Also there is one key fact that is overlooked: Frequently you are the free resource, your time is what is being taken up, because with these sites you are the one doing all the artwork, making all the decisions over font-size, colours, placement, orientation, proportions etc., or sifting through the masses of options the automated system provides.

When it comes to print and graphic design there are plenty of online options available, all offering clever automated software that helps you cut costs. However if you think that your project deserves more than a few seconds of a personal attention then you need to consider talking to an actual human being – the cost may be higher, but the value is priceless.

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