Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Assembly Line Production vs Creativity

This is an open response to a great post by Gellman at SCU

"You're hired. All great, great ideas. While it is true that it is easier to write about than execute I think that is also a misnomer. I think the companies themselves have gotten lazy because they know we are going to buy whatever they put out to some extent. They know it's an addictive hobby and regularly have chosen to take the easy way out.

Some of the things you suggest aren't hard. They simply aren't cookie cutter which is what the companies seem to prefer. They view trading cards as a production requiring an assembly line mentality rather than creating art which is allowed to have it's own unique characteristics and nuances."

To elaborate further, the blogsphere has routinely shown that they have the creativity to produce highly more desirable cards than are currently being produced by the manufacturers. Do a search on this site for Ball Park Collection and you will see that Upper Deck even utilized one of my ideas regarding a particular Reggie Jackson card this year. Custom cards are becoming a niche in and of themselves and are simply another example of the innovative creativity available to The Industry.

Gellman's ideas are all solid. If they haven't been at least brainstormed and put on the table by the trading card manufacturers own design teams, then shame on them. There is not one single idea he presented that is fiscally out of reach or so mind blowingly out of the box that it shouldn't have been thought of already. It simply seems to me, that the mind set of the entire creative process needs a fundamental shift in the way cards sets are conceptualized and produced.

It really has become a rudimentary assembly line where the design process resembles the following, regardless of sport, brand or manufacturer.

1) Ok it's time to plan Product X again

2) Look at past 5 years, make sure new design isn't too closely replicated (unless your Panini, and that is a subject for a separate post)

3) Choose color scheme and font

4) 1/2 hour brainstorm of some catchy insert set titles

5) Use last year's checklist, add a few rookies, double check your exclusive player licenses

6) Scan stock photo database, select pictures

7) Send out the stickers

8) Cut up the memorabilia

9) Assemble

10) Produce pdf of sell sheet

11) Repeat for Product Y, Product Z, etc

This formula is no longer and never should have been acceptable. Each company should mandate as part of their mission statement bringing something new and creative to the market every year. Take the dual auto/1 picture idea and use it in multiple brands and sports. This isn't rocket science. I do understand it is a business but if the manufacturers don't do something different their businesses will continue to see declining revenues as the product category becomes stale and boring.


PatsCards said...

I read both of your posts and you guys are spot on. It seems that they are screwing the hobby up by either overproducing or underthinking their products.

Play at the Plate said...


Rob- AKA "VOTC" said...

Comments from Facebook

Doug Cataldo All of these and more have been suggested by many for the last several years. The standards used to put a product together come down to how much money can they make.

The formulas are set forth in excel and tabulated and THAT is the bottom line...

Anytime you add something out of the norm in the equation, it bumps up cost and takes away from profit, hence... the same old, same old.

One of the most creative things I've ever seen for collectors was the audiograph. It's a device that the person can sign, but also leave a personalized message to the buyer to make it a specialized moment. To put something like that in a card would be sensational, but it probably will not happen because getting these rich dummies to even actually sign their name is a fucking chore...

Yesterday at 2:43pm ·

Votc Anti-Beckett That was one of the ideas referenced in the post at Sports Cards Uncensored. It would be cool to have a player talking about a particular play or catch depicted on the card
Yesterday at 4:14pm

Jon Waldman "player quotes" are something i've always wondered about too. back in the 90s there were a number of cards in Score sets that had support quotes from coaches of scouts, and I've always liked when an analyst or two has popped up in sets (Gale Sayers, John Davidson for example).

As for the dual autograph with a single picture, doing it on-card ... See Moreis somewhat hard because unless you can hit players at an all-star game where they have a multitude of time to sign, you're doubling up the risk factor of cards coming back damaged, which is a major QC concern. if it was me, i'd definitely do those cards either with stickers or directly on an acetate card that limits the potential wear and tear....
about an hour ago

Jon WaldmanProgression cards have been done by ITG to the tune of four or five shots for players with multiple teams (and with jersey swatches to match!). Because of the new licensing structure, they're actually pretty much the only organization who could do it fully now!

UD's done really nicely with inscriptions. I cant remember if it's in artifacts or trilogy, but those inserts have become some of the most popular in hockey.

As for the personalization redemption... well... there's that word every collector hates. Timing can be a major, major flaw here. It almost seems more appropriate for doing at a trade show, where a company could gather all the redemptions in one shot and record all the names on-site to do the redemption with the athlete later on. Otherwise, you're looking at commissioning to a session every 2-3 months until all have been redeemed Just my 2 cents :)
59 minutes ago ·

Jon Waldman And on the soundbyte cards... I've talked about this one with a few people. I love the idea personally. the logistics is a big step. if the voice is activated by a button or pressing the card then you've got to pack it in such a way that a collector couldn't discern what's inside by pressing strategically on the package (or worse - cards thatcontinually go off during shipping or stacking in stores. Imagine the poor UPS driver who has to hear "Boom goes the dynamite" time after time after time while delivering product!). if it's activated by shaking, same thing.

Votc Anti-Beckett Very good points. But if we can put a man on the moon . . . I think the logistics you mention circle back to Doug's complaint. $$$$

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.

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