The modern ambience of a beautifully restored 19th-century factory building enclosed within redbrick walls, historical steel structures and meter-high windows: Here in Leipzig’s boomtown of Plagwitz, behind facades exuding old industrial charm, resides one of the world’s most successful Internet platforms for customized T-shirts, other kinds of apparel, and accessories: Spreadshirt.
Founded by a pair of students 2002 as a tiny start-up, the hip enterprise now employs a workforce of almost 600 in six different countries, operates on 19 markets extending from the United States to Europe and Australia, and generates annual revenue north of €80 million. And the numbers have risen consistently for years.
But the success of this print-on-demand giant would be inconceivable without the minutely detailed precision work that the busy team in the chic production shop offices provide day in, day out. A dozen creative minds provide the artwork in the Asset Management Department alone. Their job: Teasing the ideas and worlds of images out of the minds of their customers, and using programs like Adobe’s Creative Cloud to fashion professional templates suitable for use in a variety of different printing procedures. And we went along for the ride.
Vanessa Gundermann, a 30-year-old graphic artist from the prestigious Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design in Halle, peers across at two monitors through the dark frames of her wide-rimmed glasses. Her right hand glides across the black surface of a graphics tablet, and between her slender fingers she clasps an electronic stylus. The next order for a new T-shirt announces itself with a satisfying plop in the in-house backend.
Vanessa drags the sketched artwork into Adobe Illustrator CC for processing. The motif immediately appears blown up on the screen: a sneaker resplendent with dancing flames and ‘COMPARUNNERS’ lettering, the chosen logo of the running group at COMPAREX.
Now she will use her digital stylus to trace by hand all of the lines shown in the sketch, converting the image into a vector diagram for the so-called "flock print". She moves centimeter for centimeter along the stylized seams of the shoe. "This is the only way to draw sharp outlines and to make sure the motif really stands out on the clothes – without white fringing", explains Vanessa.