Sign & Digital Graphics

December '19

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This month's interview is with Craig Mertens, General Manager of Digital Art Solutions. What path brought you to where you currently are in your career? I grew up in the industry. My parents had one of the largest screen printing and embroidery companies in the southwest. I worked as a manufacturers' rep in the apparel decoration industry. My father started our company as a spinoff from our apparel company. I jumped on board in 1995. My sister and I purchased the company in 1999 when my father passed and we joined the InkSoft team in June 2019. DAS has been making design software since 1992. What do clients tell you is the most popular feature of your software? Our most popular feature is our interactive design templates, which we call Smart Templates. Our Smart Designer software can swap text in complex text effects, easily recolor a design plus swap clipart interactively using a keyword search capability. It saves a ton of time. What do you think is the most underused feature your software offers? Our color correction feature. One of the best ways to color correct a vector image is to recolor the design from a known color palette. Our color correction feature will dynamically recolor a design without selecting any of the graphical elements. It's a life saver for anyone that is printing vector graphics digitally. Is computing power as much of a concern for running design software as it was in the past? Anyone with a computer built in the last five years will be successful with most design software. We always recommend a minimum of 8 GB of RAM and an I5 or higher processor on a Windows 10 computer. When a trade show attendee visits your booth, what are some of the most important questions they should be asking to make sure your product is a fit for their shop? Attendees don't know what questions to ask, so we interview them. We want to know their production processes. What is their equipment lineup, are they using analog or digital printing processes? What is their business focus, are they selling to anyone that will pay them or are they focused on small business or the team market? We then want to ask them a budget. We will work with them to tailor a custom graphics system that fits their unique needs and budget. What have been the biggest changes your company has had to make to adjust to the changing print and apparel markets? The influence of people entering the business through the craft and hobby channel. Anyone with a vinyl cutter and a heat press is now competing with traditional businesses. This drives prices down and clouds the market. We have had to train our clients to compete with these folks strategically by producing graphics that separate them. Also, many of these craft-oriented people migrate from hobby businesses. These folks aren't going anywhere, and there is an army of them. Where do you see the future of design software going? I think we will see a convergence of desktop-based design and production software and cloud-based solutions. We have already started on this path with our parent company InkSoft. A synthesis between designing online and finishing the design and production process on a client-based system. Chat Matt Chat WITH Matt Craig Mertens Matt Dixon is the editor of Sign & Digital Graphics magazine. He can be reached at mdixon@nbm.com. Matt Dixon Editor " We train our clients to compete with the craft and hobby folks strategically by producing graphics that separate them." 64 • December 2019 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S

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