This time, it’s serious.

OK, OK. I’ve not done one of these yet but I think I should.

I’ve recently tried to get a supplier of Oyster Card Holders in Australia. We have a client who doesn’t want to put up the money for shipping 38,000 wallets all the way over there so I searched for a while and found some company who could, apparently the only one in the whole continent!

I sent some designs so he could do some samples and then we agreed he’d send them over. We received them this morning and the quality of print wasn’t great (although apparently this is an error on the design, not the production) and the holders were flimsy.

So let me just go through something, Oyster card holders are NOT easy to get right. They might be simple little pieces of PVC but there is a lot which goes into making them and getting that right, is a fine art!

First of all, the substrate. PVC, of course, but it has to be a specific grade to allow for the best reproduction on the surface for the design. It also needs to allow the welding when printed on and stay welded even during the tough time it will endure in the pockets and purses of London commuters.

Next the printing process – we chose digital for many reasons. Firstly it allows for multiple designs to be run together, something litho can’t do economically. The quality of print is better and the colour reproduction is far superior. Eco-wise the impact is far less than litho too.

So when it’s printed, what then? Well, a lot! Firstly the laminate is adhered. We use an 80 micron gloss or matte covering which protects the design from scratches. It also adds rigidity to the holder, something this Australia chap hasn’t done.

Following this is the welding. There are 4 layers to our holders which again separates us from the rest, they tend to have 2. Our is the laminate, a 350micron PVC for the print, a 150 micron pinseal layer to add even more rigidity and ensure the cards inserted inside don’t ‘stick’ to the PVC and finally the 80 micron pockets.

These need to be welded by radio frequency to ensure they all stay together and don’t peel away after a few months. Cheaper alternatives to our Oyster card holders will have less layers, less precise welding and the final product will suffer as a consequence.

Next up is the actual cut. Toolings have been made which sit on the press and press down to cut the shape of the holder. Pretty standard across all manufacturers but you need to ensure the tools are sharp and maintained, otherwise the edges will appear frayed and of low quality.

When they are cut, it is down to the machinist to check the quality of the print and the cuts. Painstakingly going over the holders to ensure nothing has gone wrong and if so rectifying this before they get boxed up.

Before all of this is of course the design stage. We are a bunch of designers in some degree or another so we all can and do get involved. Everyone here is proficient at Photoshop and Illustrator but we have 2 dedicated designers who know the ropes in various other programs too.

Combine all this together and you get a nice process from start to finish which results in amazingly creative and beautifully designed travel card wallets for use in promotion activity across London. Most of the clients who use us are marketing agencies or at least the marketing department in the company but sometimes it’s just the business owner, recognising a useful medium. One thing we try to show them though is that the products we manufacture are MUCH better made than you can get elsewhere. Regardless of if it’s China or Melbourne, the results are often the same, inferior.

Add onto this that most other companies only show the 1 colour printing option, which is useless for anything worthwhile, design-wise, and you can see why we are a little more expensive than others. Take a look at our portfolio though and you’ll see that companies such as FIFA, Topman, Skype and Lacoste, can’t be wrong – they know quality when they see it and they understand the notion of you get what you pay for.

If at any point the process is confusing, or, as some of our clients like to do, you’d prefer to come and visit, just let me know.

There’s always a brew on the go here and we’d love to show you how much care goes into producing Oyster card holders for your business, product or event.


Until tomorrow….