February '16

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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30 || P R I N T W E A R F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 6 Erich Campbell is an award-winning commercial embroidery digitizer with more than 15 years of experience as well as a long-time e-commerce manager, currently digitizing and cre- ating online properties for Albuquerque, New Mexico-based Black Duck. A constant contributor to the industry's content landscape through webinars, podcasts, social media, and more, Erich is an evangelist for the craft, a stitch-obsessed embroidery believer, and firmly holds to constant, lifelong learning and the free ex- change of technique and experience through conversations with his fellow stitch-work- ers. As a current industry and fiber-arts blogger and once medievalist-in-training turned tech-obsessed embroidery designer, Campbell brings his varied experience and interests to bear as an editorial author for numerous industry publications, a member of editorial boards, and a consultant for product support groups. EMBELLISHMENT CORNER B Y E R I C H C A M P B E L L I n my perfect world, every client's embroidery would be a one- off original. As a digitizer and designer, I love to create, but even staunch supporters of custom work know that well-made stock art is a great ally when facing budgetary shortfalls or demand- ing schedules. Even so, I'm intimately aware of the concerns on the production floor in regard to time-consuming technical problems that operators face with poorly-digitized stock designs. In commercial embroidery, every inefficiency becomes com- pounded as a job scales; what may be a tolerable number of stitches, color changes, or special processes for a single piece can become onerous when multiplied to tens or hundreds. This is why efficiency is the watchword of the best commercial digitizers, and why only properly-executed stock designs belong on any large-scale run. One must have a holistic view of efficiency, considering time spent (and potentially lost) in every stage of a given job, from customer contact, through design and digitizing, to production and finishing. Stock designs are only successful when they increase overall efficien- cy; simply trading art/design time and cost for increased delays in another part of your process is ineffectual at best, even if the finished design has the right appearance and measures up to the quality you expect your shop to deliver. When high-quality stock designs are selected and used correctly, they can be a time- and money-saving tool that allows you to ser- vice customers you might otherwise be forced to refuse. Chosen poorly, stock designs can hinder production and result in decoration that doesn't meet your standards or the customer's needs. Using stock to its best effect requires us to know when it's appropriate to choose stock over custom digitizing, and what to look for—and look out for—when choosing our designs. WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME TO USE STOCK DESIGNS? When schedules are too tight for design. When you absolutely must have a job finished on a 24 hour turnaround and are starting from a blank canvas, choosing from stock will be much faster than generating raw concept sketches that must be re- fined, approved, and digitized before production. Shops that run one-off gift orders from storefronts and kiosks know this well, as do those road-warriors that hit the travel trailers for event embroidery. If you are going to be creating garments on the fly, well-digitized stock is a must. When a client has a concept, but lacks specific artwork or vision. If a client wants a semi, but not a specific year/model truck, you may be in luck. If a customer wants an elk, but not an elk in a specific sea- son with the antlers held at just the right jaunty angle, you are likely to find something suitable. If a customer wants a floral border, but not a rare, hybrid flower that's been incorporated into a border design, you can likely oblige. Stock designs are strongest when customers are flexible. When a customer can't afford to draw/rework/ digitize their art. Perhaps they have poor art, no art, or want something complex that won't fit their bud- get. Maybe they have no budget beyond apparel and decoration. Maybe their order is so small in size that custom design work would double its cost. No mat- ter why the customer is financially constrained, stock is sometimes the only way to deliver value and main- tain budget. Personalizing a stock design with a similar look to their custom piece can be almost as satisfying as a dedicated design, especially when it solves a bud- getary shortfall. Again, this is largely dependent on a customer's tolerance for compromise. WHAT SHOULD WE LOOK FOR WHEN CHOOSING STOCK DESIGNS? Sadly, many collections are highly varied in both ar- tistic and technical quality execution—some contain Selecting Stock Designs When, Why, and, How Stock makes Sense Many stock design sites will offer free designs explicitly so that you can test their execution. Make good use of these "freebies" to find the kind of digitizing that suits your needs, as the importance of these designs has much less to do with the subject matter, but rather that they allow us to see the way in which the stock house's designs are likely to run. (Accessed at ● Beginner

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