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Catalyst Jumps Into Digital

How a One-Man Design Firm Leverages CADLink’s SignLab

by Thomas Franklin

Part 8 of a 8-part Series

You could say that Charles Gotzian’s penchant for design is inherited. The owner of the MN-based Catalyst Graphics started on the road to designing graphics by watching his father hand paint lettering and signs onto semis and other vehicles.

When he started Catalyst Graphics 23 years ago, he too was hand painting. Manual labor gave way to cut vinyl and just a year and a half ago that business was joined by digital printing courtesy of a Roland VersaCAMM VP300. Through his progression, Gotzian has leveraged CADLink’s SignLab software to create graphics for his largely automotive customer base. Once he added digital printing, he migrated to the print and cut edition of the sign-making program.

The introduction of digital has made his job significantly easier, Gotzian says, who estimates that it’s already about 20 percent of the work he does. The ability to produce color fades and photo realistic images on software through a printer rather than by hand has greatly improved his efficiency—which for Gotzian is critical because he’s "a one-man show."

Gotzian says that despite his initial apprehension, the move to digital has been smooth. "I was nervous because it’s a substantial investment, and it’s not just a printer but a laminator and the software to drive it," he states. "It can be overwhelming."

But ultimately, the desire to branch out won.

"I’m always interested in doing different things, I never want to be tied to one thing," he explains. "I’m all for change." As for digital printing, "it’s been a no-brainer," he says.

Gotzian was introduced to SignLab under an OEM branded version that was included with his vinyl cutter. Now, he says, "I don’t know how I could live without it."

Gotzian begins the design process in SignLab itself, working in Photoshop only if the client supplies images. Typically, Gotzian will conceive of several designs based on a conversation with the client and present them with several concepts from which to choose.

The support that accompanies SignLab, both in person and online, is a big reason why Gotzian favors the program. "Any time I call, they take care of it. That’s everything. We’re always on deadline and without support, you’re toast."

The educational materials and free training video have also alleviated most of the questions—and Gotzian is an intense user, who immersed himself in the program with no structured, professionally-delivered training. "I use almost every feature, I honestly don’t know how they can improve upon it," he says. He adds that CADLink executives are also prompt to respond to questions posted to online forums.

He has been able to side step many of the color management woes that can typically afflict end-users because most of the work is his own creation. "I don’t have to match anyone’s unique colors," he concludes.

Click here to read Part 1 of this exclusive online series, How Suite it Is 
Click here to read Part 2 of this exclusive online series, Mimicking the Masters
Click here to read Part 3 of this exclusive online series, Sign Making Gets Productive
Click here to read Part 4 of this exclusive online series, Hop on the QuarkXPress
Click here to read Part 5 of this exclusive online series, Come Fly With Me
Click here to read Part 6 of this exclusive online series, A Digital Artist 
Click here to read Part 7 of this exclusive online series, Off to the Races

Jun2007, Digital Output

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