Producing quality artwork is not as difficult as you might think. Our industry values quality graphic and design skills just as highly as any ‘artistic’ media. The difference is; our graphics are relatively simple in comparison. Speak to a “classically trained Graphic Designer” (with the student loans to prove it), about our industry. Watch their eyes roll when we talk about “basic vector art with limited nodes and colors”. Yep, that means they spent years, and tens of thousands of dollars, learning how to do much more. In their three-thousand-dollar software program, on their four-thousand-dollar computer, a “Graphic Designer” can tackle the high-end, high-def, high-complication graphics issues we, frankly don’t see as Imprinters. Many “Artists” and “Graphic Artists” are either too high-browed to be bothered with our industry’s simplicity, or they simply were not trained to produce the practical art needed for the Imprint Industry.
Artists are too often sold a dream, much like any college-bound bright-eyed youngster. “You’ll be at the very top of your field.” Creating web-art for Apple inc. Creating a new professional sports team mascot and logos. Designing skyscrapers, editing super-model photos, and creating the newest Star Wars villain sounds awesome and sells college-degrees. It’s not their fault, they just need to adjust their expectations for a career in graphic design, much like any other industry. Not every carpenter builds mansions. Not every doctor does brain-surgery. But every builder does build, and every doctor is “A Doctor”! Most designers work in production shops like ours. Most of the artwork they create is relatively simple, efficient and easy when compared to high-end glamour.
Now, producing quality art for our industry, in production-ready formats takes a bit more real-world knowledge and understanding than most artists learn in fancy graphic-design school. Mention the terms “Pantone colors for separations” or “Letter Kerning for tie-off stitch” or “Weeding vinyl with a dentist tool” and you’ll both laugh out loud, but for different reasons.
The good news is: it’s quite easy for an ‘artist’ to learn the few skills necessary and adapt their natural ability to what we do every day. The better news is: YOU can learn those skills pretty darn easily YOURSELF! Think of it this way: Instead of first going to bartender school, then getting out and learning how to pour a beer with perfect head, you can start with what 80% of people want; “just give me a beer”, and work your way up to “make me an Italian Chandelier” later. Make sense?
I hope I don’t offend any Graphic Artists, web-designers, architects, or neurosurgeons. I’m just trying to use a bit of humor to explain that the Imprint Industry, which carries a bulk of the Design Industry is the grass-roots / nuts & bolts of graphics. I have massive respect for those who work through a degree, I’ve done it a couple of times myself. Plus, a design degree is a valuable commodity. Our industry, however, gives a dose of practicality: What is the most efficient and effective way that I can create this new design/graphic/logo, in the production format I need… so that I can move to the most efficient and effective production steps… so that I can then start thinking about the most efficient and effective way I can transition between jobs… You get it.
Technology has changed our industry and you absolutely must get comfortable working with art on a computer. The days of “Clip-Art”- yes people used to physically clip-out shapes and designs from books, are gone. Think about a modern-day architect or photographer. Not too long ago their industries were completely different. Imagine huge draft tables with hundreds of different pencils, protractors, rulers, and stencils. Infinite options for film, exposure, chemicals, paper, lighting… All of which have turned into tools, functions, and drop-down menus on computer screens.
So seriously. After learning a little perspective on the world of graphic design, and how it relates to the Imprint Industry, don’t you think that you, yes you yourself, as a Screen-printer or Embroiderer, or Vinyl Cutter or even a Sublimator/DTG printer could probably learn a bit of design yourself? I’m here to tell you that you can. Pick up a four-hundred-dollar design program, get yourself a six-hundred-dollar computer and spend the weekend learning to be an Imprint Industry Designer.
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