Psychology-Driven Brand Design. Creating and Refining Remarkable Brand Identities.

“D” is for: Die Cutting

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What is Die Cutting?

Die cutting is a part of the finishing process of a print piece, which allows printers to create unique shapes, edges, and cutouts.

There are some printers that offer generic dies such as standard shapes (circles, squares, stars) and edges (rounded corners and scalloped edges). While this can help to make your piece stand out more, you can also have a custom die made into just about any shape imaginable.

Think about the process much like baking cookies at Christmas. You have a cookie cutter in the shape of a gingerbread man, and you can use this cookie cutter to create as many cookies as you want in that shape. Same idea with your print piece.

In the case of a custom shape, the die (cookie cutter) will first need to be manufactured out of a steel blade into your desired shape. Then the metal die is used to shape your print pieces during production.

There is also a process called laser die cutting, in which there is no “cookie cutter” but instead a laser etches the cut into your piece using a purely digital process.

When would you use die cutting?

Die cutting is an option to consider when you want to give your marketing piece a unique touch. Remember that it is not for everyone and not for every marketing piece. There is a considerable cost involved if you are having a custom die cut. However, once your steel “cookie cutter” is made, you won’t need to pay that upfront cost again.

Use die cutting when it makes sense for your project.

  • There may be logistical considerations that would prohibit die cutting, such as sizes and shapes that aren’t feasible (or economical) with a metal die; or a cutout that would leave the finished piece too flimsy.
  • For very intricate designs, laser cutting may be better suited than the traditional metal-cast die.

Use die cutting for practicality, aesthetics, or both!

  • Die cutting can be purely functional at times. For example, notches cut out of a multi-layered piece can help to identify sections or allow for easier handling.
  • Sometimes die cutting is simply decorative or for design purposes, such as business cards with rounded corners.
  • Die cutting really becomes fun when you can use it to enhance your particular brand positioning or reflect your industry, such as a florist’s brochure panels cut in the shape of leaves or petals.

Die cutting for double duty — design and function.

When it is utilized at the right moment and with the correct marketing piece, die cutting can be a clever way to enhance your brand. It can provide both function and design to help businesses make a lasting impression. The example below shows a business card designed and die cut to help consumers determine when it’s time to replace their tires.

The business card of doubles as a tread depth indicator (Source).

Die cutting creates form and function for your marketing pieces.

Remember, that there is a time and place for everything. Although there is an increased cost to utilize die cutting, if used in the right way it can pay for itself over and over again. The design should make a statement and help your customer to connect the dots between what it is that you do and how you can meet their needs. The cut can be created for aesthetic purposes, which in itself is valuable as a reflection of your brand, but think about how you can even use this procedure functionally to truly step up your business’ print marketing!

Picture of Nyla Smith

Nyla Smith

Nyla is a Graphic Designer, Web Designer, Front-End Web Developer and Consultant with over 15 years of experience. She is the owner of n-Vision Designs, LLC in Hampton Roads, Virginia, which exists to provide marketing support and brand consulting to small- and medium-sized businesses needing creative solutions. Contact Nyla if you'd like to discuss your next creative project. She can usually be bribed to a meeting with a cup of green tea and an oatmeal cookie.

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