April 5, 2019
By Ginny Mumm
Time flies when you are having fun—and it has been flying for Cameron Hackl ever since he opened The Sign Cellar in Kamloops, B.C., in 1990. Back then, the sign industry was primarily an analog world; today, technology has advanced to the point where the graphics Hackl designs for his clients are almost entirely digital and can be applied to a range of products, from business cards, to T-shirts, to boat wraps.
“Every day we’re making signs, but it’s always a new challenge because the technology keeps changing and, of course, every client is different,” he says.
Hackl’s first exposure to graphic design was while attending the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), but it was not until he got a job cutting steel in the back of a Vancouver-based sign shop that he recognized his passion for the sign industry. When the opportunity presented itself, Hackl transferred into the company’s sign production department. A few years later, he moved back to his hometown of Kamloops where he opened The Sign Cellar.
For the first 10 years, Hackl worked on his own, renting a location while building his business. In 2000, he invested in a Roland ColorCAMM PC-60 printer/cutter to expand his services and streamline production.
“It was time to bring in new, digital technology,” says Hackl. “I appreciate Roland’s print/cut solution. Especially when space is at a premium, having one machine that performs the jobs of two is really ideal.”
Today, 29 years after its inception, The Sign Cellar is a full-service provider with four full-time employees, operating out of a standalone building, comprised of an office/production area and a deep garage bay. Anchoring The Sign Cellar’s production is Roland’s most recent technology: a TrueVIS VG-540 1372-mm (54-in.) printer/cutter.
“Our VG-540 is a real workhorse,” says Hackl. “It runs every day we’re open, all day long.”
Kamloops is a growing metropolitan area, which means there are a lot of new businesses looking for signage. Hackl has gradually expanded the offerings of his shop into new products so he could provide all of the custom-printing his clients require to sufficiently brand and market their businesses.
“We offer a one-stop solution,” he explains. “Even copy shops are branching out. We really depend on the versatility of our printing and cutting equipment.”
These days, in addition to interior and exterior signage, posters, banners, wall and window graphics, and fleet and individual vehicle graphics, The Sign Cellar produces business cards, decals, brochures—even garments, such as logoed T-shirts.
Hackl’s clients range from small businesses and start-ups with owners who are searching for cost-effective branding strategies, all the way to established restaurants, service providers, and retail outlets. The shop provides signs and graphics for a university and fire department in the area, as well as signage solutions for large corporations, including Coca-Cola, Domtar, and New Gold Mines.
“It’s literally the full range—just one more thing that makes this business so enjoyable,” says Hackl.
The Sign Cellar also finds ways to contribute to the local community. Hackl encourages non-profits to get in touch so he can help them with publicizing events or marketing their services.
“It’s nice having the ability to give something back,” he says. “These opportunities seem to come to us organically through our connections in the community.”
While Hackl has always been the sole designer at The Sign Cellar, he is now training one of his employees to assist in this department.
“The design work is really the face of the client’s business,” he says. “The quality of this work is what defines us and keeps us from being just another sign shop.”
Hackl also notes the ways in which clients’ expectations of graphic design have grown since his shop opened, and how this evolution has changed his business.
“Customers see a photo and want it blown up to the size of a bus,” he says. “It’s challenging, but is also driving graphics to a better place with more impactful and dynamic designs.”
He cites a recent job, which involved wrapping a boat to make it resemble an old, wooden Chris-Craft vessel.
“The project serves as a great example of design that holds up when enlarged,” says Hackl. “The colours and grain details came out really well. It’s a really convincing effect.”
As far as smaller-scale jobs are concerned, Hackl enjoys designing wraps for goalie helmets for teams in the local junior hockey league.
“I used to do airbrushing for helmets, but we can offer a wrap at about a tenth of the cost,” he says. “It really makes the junior league players look like major league athletes.”
After nearly 30 years in the industry, Hackl is grateful for his success.
“It’s a great profession,” he says. “We work with everyone, from wide-eyed entrepreneurs all the way to seasoned executives—and, with the right equipment, we can help all of them.”
Ginny Mumm is a freelance consultant for digital inkjet printer/cutter provider Roland DGA. For more information, visit www.rolanddga.com and www.signcellar.com.
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