The Big Picture - January/February 2013 - (Page 13)
Solving Our Identity Crisis
By Craig Miller
no longer know how to refer to our company. I’m not comfortable with people calling us a “sign shop.” I’m not even
sure I’m okay with the tag of “digital print operation.” Yes,
we print, but printing has become just one of the services
Neither term – “sign shop” nor “print shop” – seems
to be inclusive enough any longer. For us, being perceived
solely based on the end product – sign, poster, banner, or
even vehicle wrap – has become way too limiting. As many
of you have done, we have broadened our horizons in recent
years to include visual merchandising, interior decorating,
architectural products (environmental graphics), garments,
events, ﬁne art, vehicle color-change wraps, and more.
Broadening the product mix
We have, for instance, added the following to our company’s product mix in recent years:
• We’ve added cutting to our ﬁnishing services. Before
digital printing companies got into it, CNC ﬁrms with
industrial-strength routing capabilities were mostly standalone cutting businesses. We bought our ﬁrst large-format
router table in 1997 because we wanted to contour-cut rigid
boards with digital prints. Of course, this was before UV
printing, so we had to ﬁrst mount the prints to the boards.
This was also before i-cut, and it took some ingenuity to
accurately contour-cut the digital prints, but we ﬁgured
it out and did well with it. In 2002, when we adopted UV
printing, we added a big multi-tool router table with i-cut.
Now, the pure CNC companies can’t compete with us for
this print-and-cut business because they can’t image the
boards. Our next step is to acquire a big, powerful laser
table; we’re looking to add a 6 x 10-foot unit with a 450-watt
laser that can cut plastic, glass, stone, metal, wood, etc.
• We moved into plastic fabrication, and can now do
everything a plastic-fabrication company can – like bend
and glue acrylic. And, with our expertise in Adobe CS6 and
our design horsepower, we have an advantage over other
company types when it comes to laser engraving images on
acrylic. Plus, with our state-of-the-art UV printing equipment, we have imaging capabilities that other plastic fabri-
cators do not. And, the fact that we’re executing fabrication
in-house provides us with a price advantage when we sell
plastic products to our regular client base.
• We now provide tradeshow and retail customers with
fabric and coated acrylic panels that are used for videoprojection displays. Since we cut and use acrylic and have
the laminating capability to apply video-receptive ﬁ lm,
we can fabricate freestanding, ﬂat, high-deﬁnition video
panels. Because we stock the fabrics that work well as front
or rear video screens and we fabricate fabric panels, this is
a natural addition for us.
• And we have inadvertently expanded to funerals. We
did this at ﬁrst by printing pictures for friends and family
who had experienced a death. Then we began creating
visual-remembrance presentations for fallen local soldiers,
pro bono. Now, people come to us as paying customers for
the task of scanning photos and making beautiful visuals to display at the services. Last week, by natural extension, we began producing images to decorate the room of
a woman in hospice so she can enjoy the remembrances
provided by her family before her death. I think that is a
ﬁne visual service to provide.
But we’re not a sofa manufacturer
So what does that make us? What do those of us who
have pushed the envelope beyond “sign shop” now call
ourselves? I posed this question on the International Sign
Association’s LinkedIn page, and received quite a few interesting responses.
Esko’s Melody Vennum responded, “It sounds like you
have made the leap from PSP (print service provider) >42
CRAIG MILLER is a principal shareholder in
Las Vegas-based Pictographics, (pictographics.net) where he is also director of military
and law-enforcement projects, the company’s defense-contracting division.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Big Picture - January/February 2013
The Big Picture - January/February 2013
Vehicle Graphics – Making It Your Fault
Special Section: FOCUS
New Technology: SGIA and Graph Expo Highlights
The Big Picture - January/February 2013