apparel logo

Apparel Logo Design Services

While the artist is at your store, your motorclothes manager may want to take advantage of another dynamic that has grown from a personal relationship in this industry. Because the Letterfly design, mural and logo making process that has been in place for over thirty years always starts with an interview, your apparel manager has the ability to seek a concept for a T-shirt design while collaborating with the artist. Watching the creation of a one-of-a-kind design provides clarity and is an entertaining part of what sets Letterfly apart from the rest.

Ron Stratman knows that good design sells. A shirt image that not only captures the heart pumping thrill of motorcycling but places your name at the forefront in the marketplace and on your customer makes good business sense. Recognizing the value of the interview process as an important tool for the sake of creating a new idea, Ron is encouraging Letterfly to provide this design creation procedure at the Harley-Davidson stores he already visits. Letterfly will act as a design collaborative with the retail person in charge of apparel or the staff person that has a vision for an apparel design with the goal to develop a unique new look. Using the one-on-one process efficiently provides an environment for clarity, as numerous sketches are created right before your very eyes. These rough compositions later serve as a foundation prompt for the design team at RKStratman Inc to develop into finished artwork. This service is provided to you for a nominal fee. The idea, compliments of RKStratman Inc, is yet another Letterfly dedication inspired, value-added service that may just be the perfect conduit to heighten identity of your name with a new image and expand your retail offerings.
It all started in 2009, prior to Christmas, during an excursion with Mary that took us past St Louis. We stopped in to visit Ron Stratman. Along with sharing his home with us and providing a tour of the plant where Harley-Davidson shirts are produced, as we sat in his living room Ron introduced me to his idea. He recognized value with Letterfly being at a different Harley-Davidson store every week during the annual tour of the country.  The only personal presence his company has at many of these stores is the sales representative that fills orders. That person doesn’t have the ability to spontaneously visualize and quickly sketch an idea to provide a link between the retail managers of these stores and his design team.  With the production of over two thousand personally created airbrushed murals on motor homes, award winning signwork, wet-blended pictorials of a variety of substrates, traditionally painted interior and exterior murals and countless custom images and designs on motorcycles, Letterfly has become quite sensitive to discovering and interpreting the desires of patrons and customers, creating a variety of pleasing design work. Thank Ron Stratman for having Letterfly as an advocate in the field with the ability to visualize and interpret your desires and create a pencil sketch right before your very eyes. A pencil prompt of your idea for the team at RKStratman can assist with the development of a dynamic logo for your apparel.
Hand Painting
Take advantage of this new, interesting service and make a point to meet with Letterfly to discuss more vision for the future. 
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Apparel Logo design

The Buffalo Bike

Often lost in the graphic creations of today is the artist’s personal relationship with letterform, compromised because of both the pressing dynamic of the deadline and the speed today at which the computer provides the artist a variety of fonts from a digital library. Graphic designers are driven by different collective criteria today and produce output that, like signwork through the ages, is continuing to evolve. Yet the constant remains; a design in the busy marketplace is only given a glance. If the message is not clear, the sign qualifies as one that does not work. Many reasons drive the decisions the designer makes; interpretation of what is primary, desires of the customer, effective editing (of the elements and principle copy,) design formula (or lack of) and now in the cyber age, the temptation to utilize all of the special effects at the designers fingertips to achieve a variety of results. These choices offer a myriad of possibilities but often compromise the timeless formulas for successful display.

Because of my background starting as a sign designer and a lettering man, I see both the beauty in successful composition and flaws in what is being produced today and can often identify why a design does not work

While set up in the parking lot at yet another Harley store, ready for the upcoming customer appreciation party, I went inside to look around.  I was looking at the word “Hoosier,” done in a crude auto emblem style on a shirt.  I not only recognized an inappropriateness of the use of the style, some flaws in its execution, but began to visualize an improvement, a hand drawn creation that would also imply longevity of the establishment with the use of a style that was popular a hundred years ago. You may be wondering why I was looking at the shirt designs in the store instead of remaining immersed in creating yet another way of “duding up” a bike. The owner of the company that produces most of the shirts on sale at Harley-Davidson stores across the country had planted a seed in my mind and encouraged me to design for him.

While acting as a detective on the retail floor at Hoosier Harley-Davidson, I was approached by Gina who was elated with the news of this service. I began to investigate her vision for a new design. She was not at all happy with the chunky and slightly illegible letter style that I had been looking at. She had another image in mind for a better shirt design. Drawing from my background as a sign painter and combining her desire for a nostalgic look, I began to sketch the graceful interactions of a dynamic script style that does not show up in any font file. The only source for such an inspired soda-script masthead design is the mind and hand of the artist. As my pencil established the collaboration of our minds, a smile grew on her face.

Apparel Logo design
Apparel Logo design
Apparel Logo design

My memory starts to whirl through the myriad events that preceded this wonderful smile and the picture in my mind goes back through the past to the observation of something bizarre that started it all. I recall the exact moment in the crowded parking lot, surrounded by motorcycles where one sight stopped me in my tracks.

As I looked out over the sea of bikes, one machine stood out with no shine, no sparkle and nothing in common with the rest and I did a double take. The motorcycle that piqued my interest was completely covered with brown shaggy fur and the stuffed head of a buffalo was mounted to the front. I was thrilled and drawn in to look closer. I asked the owner if I could sit on his bike and get my picture taken and he was most cordial, although apparently on a mission because he disappeared. I recruited someone to take my camera and then straddled and posed for a picture. Later, when the film was developed, I had an eight by ten printed and sent to my friends in Indiana that have a buffalo ranch. Over the years I have painted many scenes and designs on buffalo skulls and hides for them and many of these works are on display in the showroom at their ranch. Murals depicting buffalo are also painted on their stock trailer, motor home and concession trailer. Knowing they would enjoy this, I wrote a note that accompanied the photo of me on the buffalo bike that exclaimed “you’ll never believe who I saw the other day; Buffalo Dave!”

Apparel Logo design
Apparel Logo design

I saw the buffalo bike again over the years at subsequent bike rallies across the country, and became familiar with the owner who also inquired about my creating some artwork designs. At first I wondered how I could decorate the shaggy fur on his bike and then I learned that his company makes the licensed T-shirts that are sold in H-D dealerships across the country.

            Ron and I see each other at bike events throughout the year where we pause in the midst of the hub-bub of activity to enjoy one another’s company. He enjoys reading “Tales of a Traveling Airbrush” and commends my writing style. Years ago at the York , Pennsylvania “Factory Open House,” one facet of our conversation became an invitation to visit him in St Louis and get a tour of the T-shirt plant.

            Later that year, the opportunity occurred. Prior to Christmas I flew to Cleveland to rendezvous with Mary, whose thirteen week contract in Vermont was complete. On the trip to see my mother, St Louis was on the way. Crossing the same fertile Midwest that I serve during the summer, I saw frozen farms and the remnants of a recent blizzard that gradually softened as we drove south and west. The expressway across Indiana and Illinois later funneled us across the bridge over the Mississippi River . As dusk arrived the expressway yielded to a state road boulevard lined with illuminated retail stores. The next turn took us north on a two lane road that led into relative suburban darkness sprinkled with Christmas lights. We found the housing development cluster and the long driveway that lead to a home isolated from the rest. We arrived at Ron’s abode at dusk thirty. He was flanked by dogs that silently greeted us, wagged their tails and accepted our presence. In the living room Ron announced that Buffalo Bike #3 is under construction. Throughout the remainder of the evening we heard many anecdotes that accompanied his interesting career, all a by product of love.

            Starting as a way to finance his passion; flat track racing, Ron started making T-shirts under the grandstand at racetracks and rodeos across Illinois and all the way out to the Black Hills . His young daughter wielded the screen printing squeegee and handled the details of selling the shirts to free Ron up to race. This relationship is intact today, although now, even more of his family fills the ranks of staff now that the enterprise has grown. Our animated conversation lasted well into the evening and when we finally retired, we slept like logs.

            The next morning Ron was out the door at dawn. We helped ourselves to the breakfast goodies that waited in the kitchen, then, packed up again, we headed for the plant to get our tour.

            The RKStratman plant is comprised of two large buildings only a mile away from his home. The main structure houses management, a fleet of artists sitting at computers in cubicles finishing new custom designs, and the girls on phones stay in touch with the salesmen in the field and the purchasing managers in the various Harley-Davidson stores across the country.

            After the personal tour of the main building, Ron took us to the production building and the foreman there gave us a tour. The other building houses 100,000 plus square feet of production, packaging, receiving and shipping space.  Various rooms house different specific activities; racks and racks of screens stand waiting in one, are prepared to receive an artwork positive (from the dark room) in another, exposed and washed out in still others, with various solvent and color stock rooms and a huge area that receives the shirt blanks in every size and color, although mostly black. Workers sort the sizes and styles into piles of shirts for the production runs that await. After the production is compete, another large room prepares the finished shirts for shipping and on a regular basis throughout the day, the fed-ex and other delivery trucks stop by, pick up and deliver lots of boxes.

            In the middle of this cavernous building is the production floor. The name carousel aptly describes the ride that each shirt will take at any one of these numerous machines that stand like large horizontal snowflakes in the middle of a mixture of carts filled with supplies, stations with computers, pallets on forklifts and other support devices. Each multi color screen printing turn table has one operator that pulls the completed shirt off the shirt platen affixed to one arm of the carousel and puts a fresh shirt on the same platen to begin the orbit through the various processes again. As the new shirt moves to the first station, a screen lowers into perfect alignment on the shirt automatically and a mechanical process moves the squeegee pushing a lateral puddle of thick ink across the screen, imprinting the shirt with the first color – this one being an opaque white to cover the black background for the next colors to appear vivid on.

            The shirt rides on to the next station, and the next, and at each one, another facet of the multi-step process takes place. Some stops have drying devices to accelerate the flashing off of the solvents in the ink. Some carousels have a half-dozen stations and produce several color designs. Other carousels are large with up to twenty stations and subtle color inclusions are possible for spectacular imprinted effects.

            Production runs are limited by the lifespan of the screens that begin to show wear after printing several hundred shirts, so in essence, all the art produced on shirts are RKStratman “Limited Edition” pieces.

As the completely printed shirts come off the turntable, they are laid on a conveyer belt that takes them through a drying oven. At the other side the shirts are folded, counted and stacked for shipment. With over six hundred Harley-Davidson stores across the country there is a production run at some stage of development or completion for each of them at any time.

            After the tour, back in Ron’s office, the real reason for the invitation was disclosed. He recognizes the value of my experience, having interviewed and created compositional ideas for the countless clients I have served in the capacity of mural, sign and design artist. The only personnel that interact with each Harley-Davidson store in the field are his salesmen, who do not have the ability to visualize an idea and create a pencil sketch of that idea.

Ron’s vision includes Letterfly as an artist in the field as an important link in the service he offers, creating pencil compositions from the prompt coming on location with the customer for his art staff to develop into finished artwork for a new design for that particular Harley-Davidson store.

Because the Letterfly design making process that has been in place for over thirty years always starts with an interview, I have become quite good at finding out what a person wants.  With the production of over two thousand personally created airbrushed murals on motor homes, award winning signwork, wet-blended pictorials on a variety of substrates, traditionally painted interior and exterior murals and countless custom images and designs on motorcycles, I have become quite sensitive to discovering and interpreting the desires of my customers and creating pleasing design work. Some have a limited ability to communicate a concept that they are not visualizing clearly and others are an enthusiastic visionary with a precise request that simply needs me to translate their desire and create the finished work of art.

When I arrived at Mike’s Famous H-D in Wilmington a year ago, Debbie Schwartz, the motor clothes manager, was also delighted to hear the news of this service. She was not happy with the dark image of the towering base of a bridge structure that was a frontispiece of one of the RKStratman designs and had a vision of a much more pleasant one.  She knew the salesmen she dealt with don’t think in pictures and if they could understand her description they still couldn’t clarify the concept right before her eyes with a pencil and a sketch book. She described to me her idea complete with the desired color palette for the sky and the particular model and color of motorcycle to feature in the foreground. After finding a reference picture of the famous bridge that is a local landmark, an example of the chevron shape “Mike’s Famous” icon and a image of the bike she likes, I made a pencil sketch from her prompt with notations of the specific elements and colors that she required to be included. Once the rough pencil composition was approved by her, I cleaned it up with pen and ink and sent it to Ron and company. Elated to be a link, creating not only a commissioned piece of art to benefit Mike’s Famous Harley-Davidson and RKStratman, easily my favorite outcome from this endeavor was promoting and receiving the smile I came to enjoy on her face.

Being of service to industry professionals is yet another way I radiate the passion for creation that fills my heart. This gift I have been given seems to multiply as I share it with the people I meet. Just like the person accumulating wealth monitors every dime, paying attention to the little opportunities to be a blessing to others each day compounds my gratitude.
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