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Graphic artist embraces disruptive AI technology with Charleston shop

Jenny Peterson //November 15, 2023//

Graphic artist embraces disruptive AI technology with Charleston shop

Jenny Peterson //November 15, 2023//

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Rather than be threatened by technology that makes designing easier, graphic artist Clifford Thompson has welcomed A.I. as an entrepreneurial opportunity. (Photo/Jenny Peterson)A Charleston print shop is putting artificial intelligence-powered graphic design into customers’ hands, allowing them to create company logos, branding material and more in just minutes with same-day printing on popular marketing items.

Clifford Thompson, owner of Dream It Print It in the Citadel Mall, hopes to disrupt an industry that has traditionally relied on wholesale, minimum-quantity orders and generic templates for branding and logos.

By and large, if a company wanted to get its logo branded on T-shirts, banners, posters, canvases, koozies, hats, pens or any other item, they had to go through a wholesale printer, pick from a template and place a minimum order number to make it a low-cost option.

Thompson’s model allows small-batch and no-minimum orders with an added bonus: the ability to create designs and logos using computer-generated A.I. software.

Customers pay $11 for 15 minutes for in-store use of iPads — called “Dream Stations” — to create a design in seconds, ready to print onto a number of products.

Customers can create a design from scratch or enhance a current design or logo with free public-use A.I. images that can be created in seconds. Thompson is there to help guide customers throughout the process, explaining how the software constantly scrapes images online with thousands to choose from.

A rainbow over the Ravenel Bridge? A leprechaun on Folly beach? There are A.I. images for that.

Thompson, who moved to Charleston from Nashville following a career in graphic design and golf flag embroidery, came up with the idea when he saw how effectively artificial intelligence designs images.

“To get a logo made, it's at least $50 to $200 for a graphic designer. When the A.I. stuff came out, it clicked in my head that now people can create their own designs. I thought, ‘This would be good in a kiosk to be able to print people's (design) on the spot. Ninety percent of (what I print) is A.I. art,” he said.

Thompson invested in a state-of-the-art UV printer that uses light to cure the images on products. The company prints designs on many items, both common and not-so-common, which can be printed while customers shop at the Citadel Mall.

“I'm the first person doing it like this in the area,” Thompson said. “People aren't used to being able to go in someplace and design something right then and there.”

Customers can create logos or any design from scratch, or bring in existing photos and logos that can be highly stylized; an image can be manipulated into a style of a famous artist, or turned into a pixelated version or a cartoon.

“I can search for the Ravenel Bridge in the style of Salvador Dali,” Thompson said. “A.I. can take a photo and turn it into an oil-painting.”

Logos can be surrounded by additional images or additional text.

These variations work for company parties and picnics, anniversaries, other company milestones and teambuilding. The cost is about $30 to print a custom design on an adult T-shirt and $20 to print a custom child’s shirt and includes the purchase of a T-shirt; bringing in your own garment lowers the printing price and bulk orders get an additional discount. 

Thompson has a variety of products stocked in the store including high-quality T-shirts, mugs, cups, canvases and posters, whiskey rocks, skateboards, poker chips, socks and more.

Dream It Print It held a ribbon cutting in October, although it has been open for several months as Thompson builds a client list and comes up with ways to get more people excited about A.I. graphic design and the ability to design and create anything they can imagine.

Dream It, Print It is located at the Citadel Mall, where customers can shop while their products cure. (Photo/Jenny Peterson)“I can personalize anything. I can print on golf balls, baseballs … on my website I've got over a hundred products,” Thompson said, adding that T-shirts and canvases have been the most popular product.

“I'm trying to keep it at an affordable price, and I also handle big orders. With two different printers, I can print one thing, or I can print a thousand things. That's why I can keep it affordable,” Thomspon said.

He's aiming to make the shop available for kids’ parties, where each guest can create their very own T-shirt and image using the A.I. technology on iPads. He likens it to a Build-a-Bear.
“Kids can create their own character and get it printed on a white shirt and use fabric markers to color on their shirt,” he said.

Thompson said the possibilities are endless; a current client who is a graphic artist has been printing his designs on T-shirts and hats to sell immediately.

Thompson is also planning on adding a subscription service, where groups and organizations can put their logo on the Dream It Print It website to allow customers to purchase official “merch” directly, suitable for church groups, social leagues and even musical artists. Both Thompson and the client would split proceeds when a product is ordered.

“My goal is to have everything ready by the next morning after someone orders it,” he said.

Thompson adds that the only other company doing on-demand printing in the area is a franchise called Big Frog that prints custom T-shirts, but they don’t offer the A.I. technology for quick and easy design, which Thompson says is a game-changer.

“My goal is within the next year to prove that it works and then start opening other locations,” he said.