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I was recently just wondering why LEGO™ would use stickers in some cases and printed decoration in others. I understand it wouldn't be reasonable to put stickers on say, a 1-by-3 brick, but sometimes it appears to be just random. For example, on one of the smooth bricks in set 17101, there is a printed decoration of a code block but I recall seeing in other sets that such pieces related to it have you put stickers instead of printed decoration, such as in this image (with a sticker typo):

StickerOnSmoothBrick_WhateverItsCalled

Also in set 31313, there are stickers you use on the white technic pieces, which I find quite reasonable unless I don't consider how in the world a factory machine is supposed to print on those curved parts. But now that I've thought about factory machines printing on curved bricks, I'm starting to wonder how they managed to print the decoration on that piece in set 17101.

Long story short, what circumstances cause LEGO™ to print decoration and what circumstances cause them to make stickers instead?? 🤔

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I think it depends on series, if set is licensed as well as targeting audience. Sometime printed parts are used in a place where sticker would be hard to apply.

Architecture series, is a good example where stickers are not used since series are advertised as premium product. Duplo and Juniors use printed parts too as these are targeted for young kids.

Licensed sets usually have stickers though. This may be related to the fact that LEGO treats licensed set a little different, where you cannot buy extra item in B'n'P or get a replacement of specific license related item. So it is better having it unprinted and have an option to replace/acquire a part.

Printed elements also limit their practical use (re-use). Stickers give you choice of applying them or not, while printed parts are there forever1. Good example is 42096 Porsche 911 RSR. It has white wheel arches/fenders with unique print for each of 4 included pieces. Non-printed counter part doesn't exist in this color yet, so these may not fit your MOC. The rest of the Technic Panels have stickers. This leaves a lot of room for using them in other creations (if sticker are not applied). Otherwise panels would be rendered useless if all of them would be printed.

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  1. Not really
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    thanks for making me spend more money on the car – mindstormsboi Apr 22 at 13:18

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