Embroidery is as much art as it is a production technique, packed with elements that are all interlinked, each impacting the other. Knowing how it all works is often the difference between an awesome finished product and one that is just not.
Embroidery as a branding technique has been around forever and has become a go-to decoration style for many soft-goods items. For our purposes, I have focused on the basic key elements that impact any embroidery project. Those are:
1. Type of piece to be embroidered.
2. Overall message we are wanting to communicate with it.
3. The creative assets we are using to decorate the piece, ie. artwork and branding.
4. Who will be receiving the finished products.
5. And lastly, budget.
Of course, this is a simplified list, and maybe even overly so. But I promise that if we have a solid handle on these 5 key elements, we are going to hear "Oh, thank you! Those are super awesome!!" more often than not from the recipients of our branding efforts. Let's dig a little deeper to get a better grasp on the why this holds true.
Yes, it might be terribly obvious. And yes, this might be repeat of the first day of Branded Merchandise 101, but the type of product our embroidery is going on will have a giant impact on the final awesomeness factor of our project. Variables such as fabric density, woven vs. knit fabrics, thread counts, and material elasticity can really dictate what we can, and cannot, do well with thread. For instance, fleece fabrics can be difficult to replicate fine details via direct embroidery because the low fabric density allows the thread to "suck in," while performance materials may be able to take fine details well, however are prone to "puckering" from the thread tension required to do so. But that's not all! Pocket placements, quilting patterns, seam placements, and overall product size can also play a hand in what and where embroidery will work best for the brand messaging we want to convey.
No doubt before we got this far in thinking about embroidery for the immediate project, we already had a pretty clear vision of what brand messaging we want to communicate to the merchandise recipients is. But now that we have a few product options in mind, it's a great practice to get some real clarity on what kind of impression we want to make in order to land on just the right piece for our project. Is the message/branding meant to be something easily seen at a distance, or should it have a more subtle and intimate connection with the recipient? Should it project a feeling of fast-acting performance, or of classic durability and security? Here is where thread color, stitch styles, and decoration placement can really come into play, but only if the artwork is tuned to work in harmony with the piece and messaging desired.
Embroidery artwork has come a long way in the last couple of years. Advancements in machinery and techniques have greatly improved what is possible with thread decorations. However, there are still several things to keep in mind. Minimum text size is one of the most important of these elements, with the general rule of thumb being nothing smaller than 1/4" high (with a few slight exceptions). In addition, gradient colors and halftones can be difficult to accurately replicate, depending on the size of the artwork desired. We may also want to take into consideration the light refractive quality of the thread we are using depending on whether a matte look, or a gloss look, or both is desired. In addition, it might make sense to take the boldest aspects of our artwork and add a dimensional stitch to it, or maybe hit a retro vibe by opting for a patch-look, or possibly even take things way back with a vintage chain stitch. The way we fine tune our artwork, then apply it to the piece, should have everything to do with who our ideal recipient is.
The Who in all of this is somebody we like to call the Ideal Recipient. This person is the perfect embodiment of who we are trying to appeal most to. Are they a young programmer directly out of school, who is largely wireless, and holds functionality among their highest values? Or are they a C-Level executive, who travels often, is extremely discerning, and for whom tangible material quality might be the connection point that resonates loudest? By having a clear vision of this Who, and communicating this Who to our merchandise consultant, we can make sure to get the most ROI out of our branding efforts.
Which brings us to budget, and we left this until last for a reason. It's not that the bottom line isn't important, because of course it is. Very much so, actually. But, what is more important is what we aim to do with that budget. What kind of product do we think will work best for our messaging, With those goals clearly in mind, we are better able to see what options might be best for hitting our Key Performance Indicators, then lay out a path to best get there, while keeping within the confines of available resources.
Keeping these 5 Key Elements in focus will insure that each embroidery project approached will end in the same way. On time, on budget, and full of happy faces all loving their new branded merchandise.