Brown External Print Vendor Program

The Brown External Print Vendor Program is a fully outsourced model for printing that requires academic and administrative units and recognized student organizations at Brown to produce “essential” print projects through a pool of approved external vendors that have entered into Participation Agreements with the University.

As a result of a strong move away from printed products for marketing and business uses by offices across campus, Brown closed its in-house Print Services facilities located at 10 Park Lane and 164 Angell Street in December 2021. Brown has transitioned to this fully outsourced print vendor model to meet the remaining decreased capacity for print.

Through the Brown External Print Vendor program, the University is committed to the following:

  • Ensuring that quantity-based pricing structures for specific categories of print jobs are competitive within the marketplace;
  • Ensuring that approved external print vendors provide high-quality print products within reasonable timeframes;
  • Ensuring that approved external print vendors are knowledgeable about laws governing areas such as privacy rights and permissions, copyright, trademark and licensing; and
  • Ensuring that the University upholds its commitment to sustainability through partnerships with approved external print vendors that are committed to sustainable best practices in printing.

What is considered an “essential” print project according to University policy?

University policy regarding “essential” printing reflects Brown’s digital-first approach to marketing and communications, aligned with user trends, communications best practices, and sustainability goals. Before you print, it is important to consider whether or not there is a digital solution that can meet your marketing or communications needs. Digital solutions are generally more cost effective, easier to measure, and better for the environment.

“Essential” print projects as defined by University policy are communications that meet one or more of the following criteria and cost more than $3,000 to produce: 1) a print format is necessary to meet compliance requirements, accessibility standards, health and safety protocols, and/or any other regulatory requirement that, if not met, would put the University at legal risk; 2) a digital-only approach would result in a diminished user experience; and/or 3) a digital-only approach would result in the inability to reach certain audience segments and may adversely affect participation rates, fundraising goals, and/or general awareness of University programs.

If a print project costs $3,000 or more to produce and doesn’t meet one of the “essential” criteria, it should not be printed and digital solutions should be considered instead.

What types of print projects must be printed by an approved external vendor? 

Examples of typical print projects that cost $3,000 or more to produce, and therefore are subject to the University’s External Print Vendor Policy (if they are deemed essential), are as follows:

  • Brochures
  • Booklets
  • Catalogs
  • Envelopes
  • Folders
  • Kitting and Fulfillment/First-class mailings/direct mail
  • Maps
  • Postcards
  • Reports that require binding services

What are the new scheduling/planning considerations for working with an external print vendor?

External printers use specialized equipment as needed, and typically require turnaround times that can range from days to weeks depending on the complexity of the project. It is strongly recommended that you receive multiple quotes from the pool of approved vendors to ensure the best price and plan ahead. 

Are there any print projects that must continue to be routed through Brown’s Office of University Communications for printing?

Yes. Brown University faculty and staff in need of business cards should order directly from approved external print vendor Allegra Print & Imaging through the password-protected website. Stationery, as well as University diplomas and other official academic certificates of completion, are provided by the Office of University Communications at no additional cost to you. To order, submit your request online.

What types of print projects do not have to go through an approved external print vendor?

“Quick-print” projects that cost less than $3,000 do not have to be routed through an approved print vendor, though you may still choose to do so depending on the nature of the job. These types of projects tend to be smaller in quantity — e.g., flyers, posters, labels, note cards, table tents, name tags, class handouts, syllabi, etc. — and can be produced through a local or online retail copy shop. Please note that some quick-print jobs may meet the “essential” print criteria noted above (e.g., a small run of posters could be printed to meet a compliance requirement), but do not have to route through an approved vendor if the cost is less than $3,000. Find a local business to meet your quick-print needs.

There are also a few types of specialized print projects that require a separate contract process due to the volume and cost of the project and do not have to be produced by an approved external print vendor. Magazines, direct mail, and database-driven mailings requiring variable data are managed directly by the Brown department, office or unit in collaboration with Strategic Purchasing, Contracts & Insurance (SPCI).


Questions? Contact the Office of University Communications: [email protected]