Thursday, July 14, 2005


Volunteers assigned the task of buying a custom patch often find themselves between a rock and a hard place through no fault of their own. Here are some of the more common "traps". Read, heed, and beware.

• The Patch Contest Trap
The patch contest, having girls design your patch, has become almost a tradition. The result, however, is invariably that the patch buyer is stuck with a design which is bad art not suited to embroidery.

The rationale for the patch contest is that it supports girl involvement in the event. The reason, however, this concept took root was because it provided a convenient way around the big creative bugaboo for both the patch company and the volunteer. The result is all too often a trap.

The patch buyer armed with a girl design will have to make decisions regarding how much a design can be changed. Change it too much and it's an affront to the young artist. Don't change it enough and the result is a poor quality patch for everyone. There is no ideal outcome for this predicament. Either the design will have to be compromised or the patch will. That's the trap. The way to avoid this trap is simply don't have patch contests and follow the creative procedure described previously in this blog.

• The Creative Committee Trap
Committees, service teams, and other planning groups are great for making decisions regarding objective selection, budgets, timelines, etc. However, patch art is subjective and one person's opinion may be just as valid as that of another person with a completely different opinion. So, when a committee is given the opportunity to make decisions regarding patch art the result is often too many cooks spoiling the broth. In trying to please everyone, the patch buyer, acting as a liason between committee and patch company, may get stuck with mutually exclusive design criteria and a host of other issues all of which work to the detriment of the patch.

The way around this trap is to make sure you have complete decision making authority for the committee in regard to the patch design. Fight for this right. It's important. And, once out of the committee's sphere of influence you can get a plethora of opinions from others if you need support. However, those opinions will not come with a mandate and you'll still be in control of the outcome.

• The Nondelegating Delegator (NDD) Trap
Delegating responsibilities is a necessary and effective way to make sure a wide range of tasks are competed on time by people with the proper skill sets with optimal results. Delegating the custom patch procurement, however, requires special consideration as patches are art and art is subjective. The NDD is the person who delegates someone to make the patch procurement and then tries to control the patch design from behind the scenes. This makes the patch buyer a mere middleperson between the NDD and the patch company and the result is a long back-and-forth process of communication usually to the detriment of the patch product. If you find yourself in this trap, tell the NDD to talk to the patch company directly, not through you, and then step aside until the design is established.

The way to avoid this trap is to secure total control over the design before accepting the patch buying responsibility. Then, if you must provide the "boss" with a last look, make sure she understands that changes will be made only if you both agree they are absolutely necessary.

• The Premature Commitment Trap
This trap is simply making commitments regarding the patch before you have all of the information required to make such commitments. For example, you may budget $1.25 per patch for an event expecting a need for 200 patches based on the numbers for the same event from prior years. Then when your registration is such that you'll only need 100 patches you find out the patch will now cost $2.00 each and you only have $1.25 budgeted. The result may be you have to settle for a stock patch with no date and a very generic design to the disappointment of everyone who was expecting a beautiful patch like they received last year. Another example may be that you commit to a patch design with a big trefoil in the middle only to find out that the trefoil is a GSUSA trademark and they will not allow it to be used in your patch. Or you may commit to providing patches for adults only to find out that because of low registration numbers you can only afford patches for girls. Etc. Etc.

This way to avoid this trap is simple. Don't make commitments until you have all of the required information. Keep your options open for as long as possible and always have a plan-B.