Simpler Is Better

March 05, 2018

Simpler Is Better

When I first thought about making medal frames I wanted layouts that were unique, order to delivery time to be short, and offer a broader selection of molding choices than my competitors. Another was simplicity. Before I opened a framing shop, I was an athlete, and I ordered a frame where the only thing I had to do was add my race photos. When I finally received the frame, three months after my race, it took me around 20 minutes just to add the three race photos. The frame was difficult to take apart, the insides were a collage of mixed matting cut and taped together, and the design made it challenging to put everything back in the frame. I wanted to offer athletes an option that was less complicated and fun to assemble.

When I think simpler, three things come to mind:
  1. Simpler for the customer and producer
  2. Simpler for the customer
  3. Simpler for the producer

I've listed these in order of what I consider the most important to "only if I don't have any other choice". If I can make a frame easier to produce and simpler for a customer to add memorabilia then it is a win for both teams. However, if I have to choose between what's simpler for the customer or me, I'm always going to go with making a customer happy unless I have no other choice. What makes putting together a frame easier for the customer isn't always easier for the builder and vice versa.

A great example of the first goal is my EZ-Medal™ layout. The design takes all the guesswork and micro adjustments out of centering the ribbon within the medal window. At first, I wrapped the ribbon over the top of the back matting and taped it to the reverse side. The problem was, customers would have to tape the ribbon, see if it was centered on the front, move the ribbon, retape it and continue this until the ribbon was evenly spaced in the medal window. Now, customers feed the medal through a hidden slot, pull the ribbon to each side and tape it to the back. It reduced assembly for the customer by minutes and at the same time, it is very simple to produce. I've since expanded my EZ-Medal™ design to include EZ-Swim-Cap™ and EZ-Headband™ layouts that make adding swim caps and headbands just as easy.

Double Medal Desktop Frame

Medals with top mat removed

Ribbons taped to back

Another good example of a win-win was how to attach the medal to the back matting. I solved the medal adhesive problem when I came across 3M® picture hanging strips. They were double sided, could be trimmed, strong enough to hold the medal and they removed without leaving residue on the back of the medal. 3M® uses a compression sensitive adhesive so pressure must be applied to the medal for it to form a strong bond between the medal and mat. Customers simply trim and attach the 3M® strip to the back of the medal, center the medal in the medal window, and apply pressure for 30 seconds. Not only is it easy for the customer, 3M® poster hanging strips are easy to put in a small plastic bag and include it with the frame. Now, each display kit comes with a 3M® poster hanging adhesive strip that is perfect for holding the medal in place.

Turnbuttons are an example of the second bullet point. I use them to hold the contents of the frame inside the molding. A much faster and cheaper way is to use flexible framing points. It takes seconds to go around the back with a framing point gun and I can decrease my materials by not having to backfill the frame with foam core and matting. The problem is that flexible framing points make removing the contents and putting them back difficult and time consuming for the customer. Turnbuttons are significantly easier to use, all you need is a screwdriver. They are however, more expensive and take minutes versus seconds to add to the back of the frame. By using turnbuttons instead of flexible framing point, I've drastically saved my customers time and frustration at my expense.

Flexible framing points example

Turnbuttons example

Along the way, I came across an idea that I thought could save my customers a significant amount of money while including a bib in the frame. Race bibs vary in size, and many are very large, so adding them to the frame can easily double the price. In my efforts to find a way to decrease the size and price of frames with bibs, I created layouts with 4" x 6" photos of the bib. I tried it with several of my bibs using a flatbed scanner, and I thought they turned out great. The problem came when customers would send me scans and pictures of the bib and what I received was nothing like what I was getting with my bibs. Many of them were taken with a camera in uneven light or poorly scanned. I scrapped the 4" x 6" scanned bib layouts after I was spending hours working on cropping and editing pictures and numerous emails back and forth between customers to get a good image. Although I don't have 4" x 6" bib layouts, I do make it simple to adjust the size of the bib window, simply email me the dimensions of the bib, and within seconds I can have my computer cut that perfect opening.

Scanned 4" x 6" Race Bib Photo

Today, I have the largest selection of layouts and frame molding choices on the market and each incorporates the very simple to assemble EZ-Medal™ and/or EZ-Swim-Cap™ and EZ-Headband™ design. Each kit also comes complete with the following items:

  1. All-wood molding (available in a variety of colors)
  2. Acrylite® framing grade acrylic
  3. A 1/4" spacer between the acrylic and mat (on traditional frames) so the medal doesn't brush against the window
  4. Conservation grade Crescentboard® top double matting
  5. A 3M® adhesive strip for the medal (one for each if it is a multi-medal frame)
  6. Easy to open turnbuttons on the back.

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