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The desire to create machines to replace human labor has been around since the invention of the wheel. After all, it’s human nature to try to create time- and money-saving efficiencies when and wherever possible. However, the excitement over novel technology often overshadows new downsides, including job losses. 

I love it when two seemingly unrelated subjects suddenly converge into a whole new idea. Especially when that new idea becomes a product I can sell. 

Before I begin, I need to share a bit of backstory. 

Have you ever experienced a problem that took a good night’s sleep to figure out? Sometimes our brains need to roll the problem around in our unconscious for an answer. Sometimes it takes longer than one night’s sleep.

I remember working on the school newspaper as a senior in high school thinking, “There must be an easier way to do this.” To produce the paper, we were employing X-acto knives, technical pens, dictionaries, drafting tables and rubber cement. Cut and paste literally meant cutting and pasting articles and photos to produce a page layout that would become “camera ready.” All the training that I received over a two-year period about page layout and design came from my instructor and little else. Further research on a career in graphic design would have required a trip to the public library to check out a book on the subject.

When I was young, birthday and Christmas gifts almost always came in the form of a creative construction set: Tinkertoys, Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, Legos, you name it. It’s as if I was preparing for my career in design and fabrication from the get-go. Today, the toys are bigger and more expensive but no less fun.

A few years back, when I decided to start my own business, I had few choices for setting up my office and workshop. The less expensive option, an option that has proved to be a workable solution, was to utilize a small bedroom on the second floor of our old Victorian house. By small I mean that the space, with its dimensions at 8.5 by 12.5 feet, is probably smaller than a closet in some modern homes. Figure A represents my situation in my workshop with equipment and furniture.

In all my 20-plus years as a graphic designer, I had never made or printed a bar code.

I’ve often wondered how it happens. How does a person or business become known for specializing in a particular product or service? Does the idea come from within, or the consumer? Is it random, or does it occur by a more organic nature? And the most important question: Can a decent living be made through a niche profession? As always, I think the answers are many and the road to a niche is a winding one.

I’d rather show my client a photo of what I can do than explain it. It saves time and does a much better job of revealing what I’m able to accomplish—which is why photos have become such a valuable tool for marketing my business. Every time I create a new or unique item for a client, I make sure to stage and photograph the finished product for social media or post it to my website for potential clients to see.

Almost every project has a portion of time dedicated to the layout phase. The decision to place which design elements where may include some precision, such as centering objects, aligning text, or spacing different design elements equally. If you are relying on just your eyes for alignment, there will no doubt be a redo in your future. 

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