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Wide-Format Décor: The Creative Matters

As the demand for customization takes off, this design firm and PSP form a fruitful partnership.

When Ana Cunningham came on board at Creative Matters nearly two decades ago, every bit of the high-end floor-covering design firm’s work was hand-painted. The VP’s first order of business was to move the company into the digital space, teaching the artists to design in Illustrator and Photoshop, working with textile mills to nail down a process, learning how to match colors, and more. The transition was gradual, spanning a few years, but as the firm settled in, the improvement in turnaround time at every step of the process was dramatic.

About five years ago, the company added wallcovering design to its service offerings and began working with Detroit-based Digital Print Specialties (DPS). DPS is an offshoot of Banner Sign Company (BSC), launched to provide custom applications for artists, designers, and architects after the Great Recession ate up the budgets of many of BSC’s corporate clients.

“We didn’t have the money to invest in diversification as far as equipment,” says co-owner (and 2016 Big Picture Women in Print Award winner) Nicole Piach. “It was, ‘What can we do with the equipment that we have to keep going?’”

Over the years, DPS and Creative Matters have grown together as the demand for customization has taken off. “Everybody wants to be an individual,” says Piach, “and now they know how easy it can be.”

What isn’t always easy is finding a digital print partner who truly understands the needs of high-end designers like Creative Matters. “It’s not somebody that is going to receive the file and press a button and print,” says Cunningham. “They have to have design flair to understand our digital file and how it’s translated when it gets to their machine.”

A wallcovering for The Westside, a California-inspired luxury clothing store, was the perfect example of how such a relationship can work perfectly. The interior designer, Janson Goldstein, sent Creative Matters an image of a batiked (a technique of wax-resist dyeing applied to whole cloth) piece of fabric for inspiration. The team of artists immediately held an “Art Day,” using twine, rice paper, and acrylics to create their own rendition of the design. The art was then digitized and sent off to DPS.

“We did a sample, and right out the chute, it was more blue than indigo,” says Piach. She anticipated exactly what tweaks Creative Matters would want, and the team said, “You nailed it.”

Samples were then printed on a number of different substrate options for Goldstein’s review. The final version was printed on DreamScape’s Mystical material on an HP Latex 360. Piach says DPS initially bought their first latex printer for their work with Creative Matters.

Piach says DPS’ portfolio of work for design-minded clients like Creative Matters has helped garner clients even on the BSC side of the business, adding, “We probably wouldn’t have had [our last few contracts] if we wouldn’t have shown that we take it one notch above just being a sign company.”

Cunningham says, “The Westside project is a clear indication that people are not afraid to go a little deeper as far as really honing in on the kind of look that they’re after.” With careful precision and an innovative frame of mind, PSPs ready to help clients take that next step further are sure to be poised for success.

Read more from Big Picture's November/December 2017 issue featuring the first-ever Interior Décor & Textiles special edition:

Vertical Printing Meets Hotel Décor

Motiflow: The Intersection of Customization and Wide Format

Fresh Artists: Empowering Youth Through Digital Print

View more from this Big Picture issue