Event graphics companies are called on to provide signage to augment a main event. It’s rare, however, that the graphic is the main event. But that happened to be the case when CGS Imaging Corp., based in Maumee, OH was asked to produce the 10,000 square foot centerpiece of Crown Royal’s "Your Name Here" NASCAR contest.
Contestants entered to have a race named after them—in this case the 2008 Sprint Cup at Richmond International Raceway. Crown Royal, the contest sponsor, took the contest’s two finalists on a televised helicopter ride over the desert to view an immense graphic. A Mustang pulled a strip of the graphic away, revealing the name of the winner. The entire stunt was, according to Crown Royal, its first ever press conference in the sky.
Making it come together on the ground, however, took the work of CGS Imaging owner and founder Chuck Stranc.
A self-professed newcomer to printing, Stranc says he joined the digital printing industry by accident. "It’s safe to say that I didn’t know what digital printing was five years ago." He proved a quick study. Through vendor partnerships, key hires, and plenty of on the job training, Stranc built CGS Imaging into a 16 employee printing firm focused on stand out signage for special events, particularly for the country’s largest spectator sport—NASCAR.
"We didn’t start out doing grand format, we didn’t have a mentor, and we learned it on our own," Stranc recalls.
Each job brings with it new challenges and new lessons. The "Your Name Here" contest was no exception. The mesh graphic was displayed on the floor of a dry lake bed in the desert 30 miles south of Las Vegas, NV—the middle of nowhere.
It was important to Weaver Media, the creative team behind the promotion, that the copy was sharp, as it was displayed on TV and viewed from circling helicopters. It was also important that the desert floor not show through the mesh.
The entire graphic was printed and fabricated in CGS Imaging’s 18,000 square foot facility. Twelve, 3.2-meter panels were printed on Hewlett-Packard’s five-meter HP Scitex XL1500 using 3M Mesh Banner Material IJ53 through an ONYX ProductionHouse RIP. The printed mesh was then placed on the shop floor. "We always inspect the entire graphic for imperfections or drop outs" before finishing, Stranc relays. Satisfied with the work, the strips were hand cut for shaping, welding, and stitching. One panel remained loose to conceal the winner’s name.
The shop planned to have one member of Weaver Media and one member from CGS Imaging stake the mesh to the desert floor, but the desert winds—which are particularly fierce in March when the sign was installed—meant they needed webbing throughout. "Usually you’re printing mesh in squares or rectangles, but this was contour cut to shape so we had to sew the webbing around the contours," explains Stranc.
"For this kind of work you need to do finishing in-house," Stranc continues. "It’s not easy to farm out." Having the space helps too. "We found that large, open space is a must to improve your quality control." Only a year ago, CGS was in tighter quarters—3,500 square feet—and Stranc says he noticed a significant improvement in the company’s quality control after upsizing.
Stranc also learned a unique lesson during the shipping process. "A lot of delivery companies become nervous when you ask them to deliver a large package to no address in the middle of the desert." After several phone calls, they finally found a cross dock that Yellow Freight would ship to and a courier brave enough to transport the package to its desert drop off.
Producing event signage takes focus, says Stranc. The company was able to ramp up its business in a short span of time because it found a niche and didn’t try to be a jack of all trades. Successful execution drives new assignments. "The more you do, the more opportunities you get. It works out well for us," concludes Stranc.
New week another large format print provider discusses digitally printing on carpet.
Click here to read Part 1 of this exclusive online series, Grand Format Innovations.