Stan's is excited to announce a partnership with Slik Graphics. Slik will offer customizable decals for all Stan's wheel and rim products. We're thrilled to offer our customers a wider range of options to better suit their tastes and styles. Customize your decals here.
Since 2007, the crew behind Slik Graphics has been working hard to produce the highest quality decals for the largest range of bicycle frames and components. Owen Taylor launched Slik from his mom's garage and nearly 15 years later has delivered over 400,000 decal kits to over 69 countries. Through direct brand partnerships and licensing agreements, Slik is paving the way for consumers to customize their bikes like the pros. We caught up with Owen to talk shop and take a closer look at Slik's production facility.
Stan's NoTubes: Riders today are looking to customize their bikes more than ever before. Back in 2007, ordering anything on the internet still made some people uncomfortable. What made you confident that an online consumer direct company offering custom decals would be a success?
Owen Taylor: When Slik began in 2007 I was working in a bike shop in the UK (shout out to the guys at rideon.co.uk). We did lots of custom builds and the finished bikes often looked mismatched or unfinished to my eyes. The designer in me wanted to add that finishing touch, so I turned to the internet to find decals but there was nothing out there. The only solution was to design the decals myself and have them printed. To be honest I wasn’t looking so far ahead in those early days. I just knew that the decals I put on bikes seemed to catch everybody’s attention, and they wanted to know where they could get theirs.
SNT: What did the early days of Slik look like? We read on your website that the first setup was in your mom's garage with a single printer. Can you walk us through the growth of the company?
OT: That’s right! After selling my car to fund a printer and laminator, the first year of Slik was in the garage. You have to start somewhere!
It is eye-opening to think that almost 15 years has passed since we began, so I guess you could say that growth has been steady and organic. The story has been one of gradually improving our products and services, investing when we could afford to do so, when the timing was right.
Our aim has always been to provide the highest quality decals out there, and we are constantly looking to be better. Printing technology has evolved a lot over the last decade, and we stay up to date with the latest developments. Over the years we have invested in new equipment when it could bring real benefits to our customers. Right now, we operate 4 printers, 2 laminators and 3 stand-alone cutters to offer a broad selection of product types with quick turnaround.
Growing steadily has allowed us to establish ourselves and cement our reputation, which has given the major brands in the industry the confidence to work with us. We are now a licensed manufacturer for many companies including FOX Factory, RockShox, Mavic, RaceFace, ENVE, Manitou, Marzocchi and more. Having used Stan’s NoTubes' products for years, we are stoked to welcome you onboard as a licensor. Being a licensed manufacturer for so many companies has given us the security we needed to hire more staff and move to a new facility. It is also great for our customers, as their decals are printed from original artwork, with a guarantee of accuracy and quality.
The last two years have been breakthrough years for us. Our latest site launched in 2020 and has been a real success. We really wanted to involve our customers in the process of designing their own decals, so we developed a unique customizer to make choosing colors and patterns a simple, fun, and interactive process. I’m sure that Stan’s customers will enjoy going wild with their own designs, so please check it out!
SNT: Slik's current facility is 100% powered by energy generated from renewable resources, its staff's climate impact is offset via GoClimateNeutral, and your team recycles everything from the cardboard to the coffee grounds. Why is reducing your company's footprint such a high priority to you?
OT: You could say that recycling is part of the culture here in Sweden. Add that to our love for the outdoors, riding bikes and enjoying nature and we just want to do our bit to protect it for future generations. Being organized comes more naturally in a work environment so we sort plastic, cardboard, packaging, compost, waste inks etc. It’s easy to recycle, so why not? One thing we are conscious of is the environmental impact of shipping worldwide, so we ship with DHL’s climate neutral Go Green program.
SNT: On the subject of worldwide shipping, how has the Covid-19 Pandemic affected your service?
OT: I think like most e-commerce businesses, the Covid pandemic has been good for sales, but not so good for logistics and day to day operations. Shipping times with standard post have increased to pretty much every location, but the DHL Express service we offer is still a next day service to Europe and 2-3 days to the US and Canada. We are only a few km away from the main DHL Distribution Airport in Sweden, so we can ship items at 7pm and have them arrive with our customers the very next day. It's impressive.
SNT: What does a typical day at Slik look like?
OT: In production, a typical day begins with laminating, cutting, and finishing the prints that have been drying overnight from the day before. We have a temperature and humidity-controlled environment to ensure the best possible results. Then the decals are individually checked and any decals that we aren’t satisfied with are rejected and reprinted. With hundreds of decal kits going out each day, it can look chaotic, but a sense of order comes later when the decals are sorted by type, make and model to help us find them quickly as the orders are packed and shipped. Meanwhile, our design team is busy working on new orders, taking customers’ requests, applying patterns, matching Pantones, and setting up the production ready files. At lunchtime we encourage each other to get out and do some exercise, or challenge the current in-house table tennis champion to a rematch (the winters are very cold and dark here). The rest of the day is spent replying to emails, setting up new decal files we receive from licensors, updating the website and social media, ordering supplies, maintaining the printers, and generally keeping the wheels turning.
SNT: How do you decide what companies you'd like to work with?
OT: Every day we receive requests for decals that aren’t on the site. The best solution for our customers would be to offer the widest range of officially licensed products. We welcome all companies, both large and small who want to offer a custom decal service to their customers, without the complexities of setting up their own print shop, sourcing suppliers, or buying in thousands of decals that might never get sold. Every company should have a decal partner.
SNT: Non-fungible tokens, or "NFTs" are becoming a regular topic in the news cycle. Considering you offer custom decals, has any consideration been given to a partnership with an artist or design company to offer a registered one-of-a-kind NFT to accompany a custom decal set?
OT: Of course, the idea of collaborating with artists and designers has always been there and is something we are eager to explore. Incorporating NFTs is something that I hadn’t really considered until now, so you heard it here first! I think it would be awesome to own the artwork featured on your decals and to build up a collection that might even be worth something one day, however the environmental footprint of cryptocurrencies is something that needs to be considered.
SNT: Color schemes and print styles come and go. What do you predict will be the next hot trend in the graphics and decals found in the bicycle industry?
OT: In general, the bicycle industry tends to follow current graphic design trends. Recently we have seen simplification and colourful minimalism, with frames being painted in solid, block colours featuring a large manufacturers logo in a contrasting colour. I don’t see this changing soon due to the limited real estate on bike frames, but I would love to see more experimentation with quirky patterns and bold colours (think 1990s), along with 3D typography and illustration. Looking several years ahead and I can imagine decals that contain electroluminescent panels that can change colour remotely or display patterns and moving images.