Custom Printed Bags from Rogue Panda Designs
Rogue Panda Designs has been offering custom-printed fabrics for a few years now, opening up endless possibilities for one-of-a-kind bikepacking bags. We just got our hands on a print-to-order bag set for an upcoming bike review and wanted to share more about the process and their partnership with graphic designer Kate George. Learn more here…
The small team at Rogue Panda Designs is perhaps best known for their flag-themed custom frame bags that make it easy for bikepackers to represent their state or country with a personalized touch. Based out of Flagstaff, Arizona, you’ve probably caught a glimpse of their Arizona state flag on a frame bag or two here on the site. We’ve always thought it was a great idea. Initially, the designs were sewn together onto the bag, creating a cool 3D look, but it was quite labour intensive. Rogue Panda now offers a printed version that’s not only cheaper but easier for them to produce and has nearly limitless possibilities in terms of colours and designs. They’ve taken their printed bag technology further by offering a selection of stock, exclusive printed fabrics like Purple Pandamonium and a recent favourite of mine, Bananas. Just as our 2021 Bikepacking Predictions video anticipated, Rogue Panda has also been partnering with designers on some fully custom patterns, which allows for even more personalization while supporting both a small bag manufacturer and graphic designer.
After receiving some custom-printed bags for an upcoming bike review, I shot a few questions over to Nick Smolinske at Rogue Panda Designs to learn more about their bags, and also reached out to the designer, Kate George, to hear more about her process. Find both Q&As below.
An Interview with Kate George (@kategeorgepnw)
First off, tell our readers more about yourself. What do you do for work?
Kate: Hi, I’m Kate! I am a surface pattern designer and illustrator located in Seattle, WA. My work is influenced by the great outdoors with playful illustrations and abstract patterns that make you want to get out there in style. My desire is to take outdoor clothing and gear designs off the beaten path and to change the norm of what an “outdoors person” looks like.
What do you do outside of work?
Kate: In my free time, I’m often riding my bike or sitting inside with a good book. There’s really nothing better right now than the flow I get into while mountain biking! I also love to snack. If you’re adventuring with me you will not be disappointed by the snack options. A current post-ride favorite is a Dairy Queen blizzard and french fries. A lot of my designs are also inspired by snacks :).
How did you end up collaborating with Rogue Panda Designs?
Kate: I stumbled upon Rogue Panda Designs via an Instagram friend and was so excited about the fun patterns they were making for their bags and that the bags were custom, even for mountain bikes. I knew I wanted to work with them. I reached out to Nick about creating a custom bag with some bright pink and bananas and he loved the design! The banana pattern is available now on their site and hopefully we will be collaborating more this year.
What does your process look like when designing patterns and illustrations? Did you reference anything when creating the mushroom design?
Kate: My process can be random at times. If I’m out in nature, walking around town, or sitting in my house, I often think of ideas for things to draw. I keep a running (long long long) list of ideas for designs I want to create and I will pick from there when I feel inspired. For the mushrooms, I referenced some images of mushrooms and put a little of my own flair to them. For the colors, I wanted it to be extra funky, so I looked for inspiration in psychedelic and bright imagery.
Do you have a dream project?
Kate: I have dreams of being covered head to toe in my own patterns, haha. But in all seriousness, I have a few dream projects, including mountain biking and outdoor apparel, hats, and camping quilts like the ones made by Rumpl. I really enjoy working with small businesses and a few on my list are Wild Rye, Skida, and Wild Cycler.
Do you have an all-time favourite bikepacking trip?
Kate: My current favorite in Washington is the Olympic Adventure Trail. But I have big dreams of riding at least part of the Timber Trail this year! If travel permits, maybe the Coconino Loop or the Kokopelli Trail.
An Interview with Nick Smolinske of Rogue Panda Designs (@roguepandadesigns)
What led to you offering custom printed fabrics?
Nick: I think I speak for all of us at Rogue Panda when I say there’s something really special about making a product that combines beauty, functionality, and durability. We take pride in making gear that has a beautiful and unique look but will also stand the test of time out in the real world.
Our path toward custom prints started way back in 2015 when I made myself an Arizona state flag frame bag. That bag was sewn instead of printed, but it started us on the path to turning frame bags into canvases for self-expression. We’ve evolved since then through different processes before arriving on printing, and finally bringing the custom printing in-house this year.
Bringing the printing in-house is a real game-changer because it eliminates extra lead time. Outsourcing our printing caused long delays at times and we weren’t able to provide as good of customer service as we would have liked for printed bags. Now, all bags are in the same production queue, whether they’re a standard fabric or a custom print.
Tell us more about the actual process. Are there limitations on what types of fabrics can be used?
Nick: The process is dye sublimation, and it’s super cool because the ink goes through three states of matter during the printing process! The printer prints liquid ink onto transfer paper, the ink dries into a solid, and then it sublimates into a gas under a heat press before bonding with the nearest molecule of polyester. The color is permanent and will never wash out (it could fade with the sun eventually, like any other fabric, but it’s relatively sun-resistant since it’s polyester). Dye sublimation only works on polyester, so we use V21 RS, a variant of X-Pac with a polyester ripstop face fabric. We may switch to V15 in the future, which is a bit lighter.
How’d you end up working with Kate on designs? Any plans to partner with other designers?
Nick: Kate reached out to us and we were super stoked on her banana design. We just had to get that on some bags! Now we have a few other designs by Kate. We also have a few designs made in-house, such as our panda Camo, topo prints, and the aloha and cactus prints. Robert May worked on the topo patterns and the aloha and cactus started as watercolor drawings by Corbett Wicks, who used to work for us sewing frame bags.
We’ve also worked with designers a couple of times on one-off projects. One that stands out is a custom bag we made for Matt Mason (of Monumental Loop fame), with artwork on one side from Colette Marie (@nightbird). That artwork is called “Food Chain’s a Bitch” and we’re talking about adding it to our list of available prints on the site!
How much more does a custom printed bag cost over a standard option?
Nick: For standard prints, there’s now no extra charge! We’ve reworked our pricing, as printing has become a larger part of our business and our processes have improved. We do charge more for one-off prints and designs that require a little extra layout work on our part. Pricing on that sort of thing depends on how much design work we put in.
Does Rogue Panda have anything exciting planned for 2021?
Nick: We’ve got lots of exciting stuff planned for 2021! We just launched a line of swag items, including shirts, hats, and socks for now. We’re also hiring! That will help reduce our lead time down to a normal level. Now that most of our shop has had their first vaccine dose and we’re expanding our workshop space, we’re ready to scale up our production. We’re also looking to get seat bags back into production, and I’m always thinking about handlebar bag designs. I’ve got a pretty interesting design that I’ve been using for my commute… time will tell if it becomes a product.
It’s great to see bag makers and graphic designers partnering on projects like this. With regular supply chains disrupted or majorly delayed this year, it’s heartening to see small business owners working together to keep things moving along.
Make sure to check out Cass’ shop visit from 2018, which includes more background on Rogue Panda Designs, lots of great photos, and a Sesame Chilli Ramen recipe from Nick!
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