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2021 Makers of Tomorrow: Joel Gonzales

A production manager has a gift with sign fabrication and developing unique techniques.




Age: 29
Job: Production manager, FASTSIGNS of South San Antonio (San Antonio)

FASTSIGNS OF SOUTH San Antonio is a pretty straightforward operation. Joel Gonzales operates the back of the shop, and his fiancé and another salesperson run the front. Once a sale is finalized, Gonzales starts his wide-ranging role as production manager.

“I design the stuff. I’ll print and produce it, and sometimes install it,” he said. Gonzales and his fiancé were approached about starting a Fastsigns franchise around two years ago. “We’re still kicking,” he said.

For creative stimulus, Gonzales finds that the “best inspiration is vacation,” he said,” and “not having any expectations for what you’re looking for.” Often, Gonzales will walk around downtown San Antonio and admire the various signage – neon signs, large dimensional letters, channel letters, etc. “It’s interesting to see how other people tackle certain creative problems and the way they get to their solutions,” he said. “So, just observing what other people have done and the environment is a big thing for me.”

The shop counts an Epson printer, a Mimaki plotter, an Epilog laser and a laminator – among other machines – to aid Gonzales with fabrication. The shop deals with a lot of vinyl, so Gonzales has wrapped doors, walls, and plenty of vehicles – including his own, discovering new tricks along the way. “I designed an anime truck wrap for my Tacoma,” he said. “And instead of doing a full wrap, which would take a couple hundred square feet, I was able to isolate all the characters out and basically apply them as individual stickers. We were using dramatically less material to get a really cool effect on a vehicle. I park my truck out front, and everybody has something to say about it.”

Many customers can’t afford to spend a lot on signage. Luckily for those clients, though, Gonzales is able to churn out designs quickly, so the shop charges “a little bit less” for design work, he said. “We get creative with the way we cut things out, square footage, things like that,” Gonzales said. “It’s trying to find our constraints with the customer, and trying to unfurl your wings within those constraints.” In a few years’ time, Gonzales is hoping to unfurl his wings in a larger location with more signmaking equipment, or as he said, “bigger toys to play with.”




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