Oh Yeah... We Can Install It. I took shop class in 8th grade and I often watch that carpentry show on PBS. I don't know what it is that compels graphics people to believe that we're really graphics/FAB people. Maybe it's that sense of power one gets standing on a ladder revving up that cordless drill as curious onlookers gather. Maybe it's just seeing to it that our graphic baby finds a good home. Maybe it's just nice to be any place but the studio for a few hours, or maybe it's the dedication to the greater good of a one-stop shop.

Let me clarify the one-stop shop concept. You see, a customer stops in your shop once. You convince him that you are his "go-to-guy," that you can certainly handle this job from concept to installation. He goes back to his life. Then you run around like a rabid squirrel trying to outsource, manage and figure out a bunch of things you're not good at.

Regardless of why, the decision to accept installation and complex fabrication should be done carefully and with forethought. You see, shear willpower and a desire to be handy without actual knowledge can lead to an interesting finished product. I dated a girl once who happened to be an architect and fancied herself a weekend fabricator.

This girl built the craziest fence I have ever seen. The monstrosity in her back yard looked like a huge centipede, with arms and angled supports all over the thing. Did I say supports?

You could wiggle the thing to life with just one finger. You would think an architect would have an understanding of support and structure - and she probably did - but what she didn't possess was woodworking knowledge and proper tools. The proper tools for the job would have been a post-hole digger, real lumber and some screws. What she had instead was a burning desire to do a project, some

nails, some wood scraps and some chicken wire. I think we have all been there.

But when your business depends on it, you either learn to do it the right way, you hire an installer, or you remove yourself from that part of the job. Some installations you feel compelled to do yourself, so you brave the waters. We were commissioned to create three accordion-style millenium murals made of individual six-inch vertical pyramid images, with slices of two different images on opposite slopes(the image shifted as you walked around it).

After three attempts we created a successful process for making structurally strong, yet fragile image pyramids - which, unfortunately, required a specialized and careful installation. We bid the murals and installation based on an estimated 16 pyramids per mural. The customer got approval and submitted the job with one small change: Instead of 16 tall pyramids we were asked to do a gloriously panoramic set of 40 shorter panels. Note, the square footage barely changed, but my installation time more than tripled - and the client's budget was locked.

This was one of my very best clients and this project was so cool that I really wanted to do it. The installation took eight of us from 9 p.m. on a Friday night until 4:30 a.m. Saturday. After that exhausting experience I was less enthusiastic about doing our own installations - but it gets even better.

A number of modifications were needed to fortify and dress up the original installation. The materials alone cost over $250, and labor kept adding up as well. Actually, the job really turned out to be a huge success. The project got a lot of attention and was even covered on the evening news. We all basked in that glory - until the customer called and asked us to come out and take the murals down. After a silent pause she said, "De-instal

lation is included isn't it?" I was really starting to hate this whole installation nonsense. "Sure," I said, with a big, fake smile, "First, let me run out and buy $100 worth of bubble wrap to protect the pieces."

It wasn't so bad, though. We were paid on a new budget to reinstall them at the museum - their final home - and my customer built some extra into that part of the job. That's why she is one of my favorite clients.

You must know by now that even the mere mention of installation makes me get little face twitches. We all learned a lot, but who's got time to learn the "ins" and "outs" of pricing and installations? Our real business is the making of digital graphics. We still do installation of cut vinyl lettering and some indoor signage, but before you accept an out-of-shop installation, remember: Labor costs begin the minute your employees leave the studio, and continue to mount until they return.

Traveling across town to do a $50 install doesn't make a lot of sense. We always out-source outdoor signage installs. Paying someone else to pull permits and deal with city zoning feels really good once you have done it yourself. It might seem really indulgent, like hiring a maid, or someone to clean your car. But go ahead - pamper yourself with an out-sourced installation. Sit home and relax. Perhaps you can catch that carpentry show on PBS.


Stephen Augustine owns and operates Eye Candy Graphics, a graphic design and digital printing shop in Denver. www.eyecandygraphics.com

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