cost of labor excluded

I’m always wary of HGTV’s bargain design shows, the ones where big changes are crafted on a small budget. Design on a Dime and Trading Spaces (the TLC show that rippled across the fabric of Creation to completely remake HGTV and give Ty Pennington a network show) are perfect examples. On these programs, one thousand dollars goes farther than you ever thought possible. Of course, that doesn’t include the cost of labor. The great trick is that on each of these shows, you have a team of highly talented designers and carpenters laboring essentially free of charge; it’s quite clear that the budgets support only the cost of materials. It should come as no surprise that huge changes to your decor can happen for “cheap” when the most expensive elements of the process are covered pro bono.

Which brings me to the unsung glory that is Fedex Kinkos. Yes, Fedex Kinkos, which will print anything you want, in full color, on card stock, for next to nothing. If I have an important event coming up—the birthday of a close friend, for example—wouldn’t it be nice to skip the Hallmark aisle, create a custom-made card, and have Fedex print it up for me? The only catch is that I’d need someone who knows his way around Photoshop to create the card.

Oh. Right.

Before I show you the card, let me explain that my circle of friends have been playing a hell of a lot of Starcraft over the last few months. It is a wonderful obsession, one that allows us to be fourteen again, bond as friends, and drool in anticipation of the long-awaited sequel. Elton, the birthday boy in this equation, always plays as the Zerg, a race of intergalactic insects bent on conquering the universe. Good times.

Card Front
Card Inside
Card Back

The striking art on the front and the Zerg insignia both come from Blizzard’s stellar promotional materials, bless their hearts. The text on the inside is the first thing that the terrible and magnificent Overmind says to the player at the start of the single-player Zerg campaign. The present was a gift card with enough cash on it to purchase Starcraft II when it is eventually released (if ever). Thus, the empty space on the right for a gift card that, it turns out, has no physical form. More room for signatures!

The photos of the card were taken by Elton Matthew Hartney James (hey, nice website, wink), the birthday boy himself. He is an aspiring cinematographer and all-around Great Human Being. It was a real pleasure to put this together for him.

So there you have it, a professional-quality, custom made birthday card, courtesy of Fedex Kinkos and my mad Photoshop skills. Total cost? Sixty-three cents. Cost of labor, indeed.

PS – Pro Tip. If you’re printing on a piece of standard 8.5×11 card stock, Fedex won’t be able to print “full bleed” (all the way to the edge). My local establishment happened to have a free self-service studio cutter, which made it easy to shear off the margins.


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