Hints & Tips from our Veteran Pin Artists
The design is the most important aspect of the trading pin creative process. A great design can stand up against larger trading pins or pins with more options and still be the most desirable of the bunch!
When designing your pin, we advise remembering the following tips:
- Details, details, details! Providing our art team with your team name, logo and colors, as well as any other information like city/state location, age group and sport is the most vital part of designing a custom pin that will best reflect your team or organization. The more details you give our graphics department, the more accurately they can capture your design within the first couple proofs, saving you time and helping to avoid delaying the start of production.
- Too many cooks! Many trading pin veterans will recommend limiting the number of people on the team who have input in the designing process to 2-3. If each of the players, coaches and parents vote for pin designs or revisions, not only can it lead to infighting, but many teams become so bogged down in arguing over designs that they run out of time to actually receive their pins by their event date!
- Good art is a must! Obtain the highest quality versions of any team logos or artwork prior to starting the design process.
- Watch your size! Create a circle the size your pins will be, and make sure any text or details in the pin will be visible at arms length at actual size.
- Watch your colors! Try to keep your design to 7 colors or less. Additional colors can add cost and time to your custom trading pin order!
- Less is most often more! The most striking designs generally contain large mascot or logo images as the main focal point of the pin, with team name and location coming in a close second. Keeping a "minimalist" approach and only including the most relevant images or information will allow the design to appear much more colorful and clean-lined when the finished trading pins are die struck and color filled.
- When in doubt, leave it out! As with the above point, trying to shoehorn too much info into too small a space will result in unreadable text or fine lines not translating clearly during the die striking process. We advise a 1.75" or larger size to include the team's uniform numbers, and at least a 2" size if using player names due to the amount of space these require.
- Know your colors! Our pins are colorized using the Pantone Matching System, which is a print industry standard color guide. Viewing digital proofs over a computer monitor will give you a good representation of the pin's colors, however the only way to truly ensure the colors match your team's uniforms is to refer to a Pantone Coated color guide. These can be found at many art supply stores or generally within the reference section at public libraries.
- Many colors are subjective! The interpretation of "burgundy", "teal", "purple" and many other colors can vary widely from one person to the next. Check your art proof closely to make sure the Pantone colors used match your team's version of that color! Again, the absolute best way to verify this is to match your team's uniform against a physical copy of the Pantone Coated guide.
- Consider the metal color! The base metal style used on your pins plays a huge role in how the finished design will look. A good rule of thumb is to stick with the most common dyed-black metal if your pin contains a mascot or sports player, as facial details do not translate well due to the high-polished look of a silver or gold metal pin. Alternatively, if your team colors are dark (navy, red, black, etc.), a silver pin will keep the raised metal in detail lines and text from disappearing into the background.
- Know how size is measured! The easiest way to determine a pin's measurement is to create a circle with the same diameter as the desired pin size. The pin is then expanded until two points opposite each other touch the edge of the circle. Contrary to most assumptions, pins are NOT MEASURED TOP TO BOTTOM LEFT TO RIGHT! We include a measurement ruler on each digital proof, however this is still the most often overlooked aspect of many customers' designs.
- Make your pin size work for you! If you are using player names and/or numbers, a larger pin will be needed than a pin containing a simple mascot, team name and location. While using a 1.25" size will be the most economical, this size will limit the amount of information and detail which can be included.
- More detail equals more work! After the die-striking process, 95% of the enamel pin coloring is applied by hand. As you can imagine, lots of small nooks and crannies with multiple colors will take longer to fill if a small pin size is used. A realistic bird mascot with detailed feathers is a good example of a pin that will benefit from a larger size, compared to a cartoon bulldog mascot which contains larger open areas with much cleaner lines and less fine detail.
- Metal is as metal does! Each of our custom trading pins is created from a metal base. As in any metal-working process, the ability to capture detail in a die-struck design is considerably less than in a logo or clip art image created on a computer. If your logo has extremely small detail or text that is not easy to view when enlarged on your computer monitor, you can expect that a metal pin at actual size will not contain the same level of detail.
- Too many options! Pin options are exciting, and add a definite flash to most pin designs. That said, if too many options are used, the core elements of a great pin design can be overwhelmed. Bear in mind that a slider option must have a path cut out across the body of the main pin. A 1/2" spinner or slider on a 1.5" pin would conceivably cover 1/3 of the surface area of the pin. A blinker light requires a battery pack which will be visible around the outer edge of a pin smaller than a roughly square shaped 1.75" pin.
- Know your budget! When deciding how to design their pin, many teams will select multiple options such as danglers, blinkers and glitter, which prices many of the parents on the team out of participating in the pin trading activities. Not only does this prevent some lower income families from being able to pin trade, but lowering the number of pins ordered raises the per-piece rate for the rest of the group!
- Glitter can be great! The most popular option is, not surprisingly, the one which provides the most bang for the buck. Glitter is only $.12 per-pin for each color used. The ideal use for glitter is on a darker color in the background area of the pin. This will allow a wider area for the glitter to catch light and shimmer, while causing the solid-colored mascot or team name to be pushed to the front and really pop off the pin.
- The early bird gets the worm! Every year, teams across the country miss out on pin trading because they wait until the last possible moment to place their orders. During June, July and early August, every pin factory in the world is backlogged due to the incredible amount of pins being ordered in such a small period of time. If you know your team is attending a tournament, it is really in your best interest to order your pins at least a month in advance. Better to have the pins underfoot for several weeks than hoping they arrive in time for pin trading day while surrounded by unhappy players!
- Make sure everything checks out! Before finalizing your order, it is always advisable to take one last look over the size, quantity and final artwork proof. Once an order is underway, we cannot make any changes to the pins, so it is very important to check the spelling of names and cities, the colors selected for the pin, and the number of pins you are ordering.
- We are here to help! Each year, as Little League and softball tournaments begin, our staff turns away tens of thousands of dollars from teams who do not have a chance of delivery by their event date. We work very hard to be as up front concerning the projected turnaround times we receive from our various production facilities, and will gladly advise any ways to help increase the odds of meeting your event date on late orders. Please understand that we are human however, and while we strive to be as accurate as possible on time frames and recommendations, custom-created items and third party shipments contain so many variables, that we simply cannot offer a delivery date guarantee during the lead up to the June through August tournament season.
- Play it safe and check it out! Our parent company, TJM Promotions, Inc. is one of the largest promo
product suppliers, and Trading Pins Direct is one of the largest custom sports pin suppliers in the industry,
and we pride ourselves on dealing honestly with each and every customer, and not sacrificing potential
long-term relationships over the ability to make a quick sale today. Unfortunately, many of our fellow pin
suppliers do not feel this way. Around May every year, small company sites will crop up across the web
offering whatever cut-rate deal or turnaround guarantees they need to make in order to get your business.
The majority of these companies have either no intention of keeping their word or lack the necessary
resources to cope with the amount of business they receive from these unattainable advertisements.
Taking 10 minutes to check the Better Business Bureau or do a little research into a deal that sounds too good to be true can save you and your team weeks of frustration and lots of your hard-earned money!
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