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Making POP Sing

Virtuoso Graphics Is Not Your Average Sign Shop

Part 4 of 4

By Gretchen A. Peck

Thomas Wink and his partner, Jamie Novak, founded Virtuoso Graphics in 2004. The Houston, TX-based company quickly became known for both its offset operations and creative solutions for large format applications—particularly those intended for point of purchase (POP) advertising.

"We pride ourselves on offering more than the average sign shop," Wink explains. "We really try to find a niche that separates us from the other sign companies." He estimates that there are seven print competitors within a three-mile radius of the company’s shop.

One of the increasingly popular types of POP work Virtuoso produces are plexiglass walls intended to offer practical architectural structure, beautify a retail space, and promote a product or brand.

"We also sell a lot of acrylic, plastic signs that either hang from the ceiling or are mounted on the wall to give that one-inch-away-from-the-wall effect," Wink notes.

Virtuoso Graphics is equipped with two print-and-cut solutions from Roland DGA Corporation. The company first purchased a 30-inch Roland VersaCAMM VP-300.

"I saw a Roland ad and ordered a print sample," Wink recalls. "The sample’s resolution and the die cut were phenomenal!" A short while later, Virtuoso Graphics installed a Roland VersaCAMM VP-540, a 50-inch wide printer/cutter. Both VersaCAMM models enable up to 1,440 dpi output and the ability to print on both coated and uncoated media.

Roland’s print-to-cut solutions are driven by the company’s VersaWorks RIP software and use Roland’s ECO-SOL MAX inks.

Wink asserts that the print-and-cut route was a fit for his business. Though he says that digital print-only technologies certainly produce faster print speeds, the quality of the finished print makes it worth the small sacrifice.

"One customer requested a print sample for a banner after using another big printer based in TX. They came to us requiring a higher dpi, a generally better product," Wink recalls. "We printed out a sample from our Roland, and they loved it. They couldn’t believe that we could get the machine to print that clear—at that high of a dpi—on a banner substrate. This is why we chose the Rolands. We needed that level of detail, that level of quality. Sure, we could have put speed before quality, but that’s not what we’re aiming for. We’ll take quality over the ability to knock out a job fast, any day," he stresses.

The ability to precisely print and cut in one seamless operation recently came in handy when a long-time customer wanted to promote NovaLash, an eyelash extension product.

"My client had a new shop space that she wanted to divide, but didn’t want to use a wall. She asked me to come up with something creative," Wink recalls.

In-house graphic designer, Novak, suggested printing a close-up of the NovaLash girl’s face on a translucent, acrylic panel that could be suspended from the ceiling. To accomplish the desired semi-opaque effect, Virtuoso recommended using Avery Dennison Graphics’ Sparkle Crystal—a frosted vinyl—on three panels—each 32 inches wide and ten feet long. These panels were applied to a 3/16-inch thick acrylic.

On the reverse side, unprinted frosted vinyl was adhered, and the finished product was hung from the ceiling using a Mustang Systems suspended display cable system, which features a floor track to keep the display properly aligned and secure. The dual-sided application allowed the room to retain its light, airy feel, according to Wink, while fulfilling the client’s need to physically divide the space.

"My client was thrilled," Wink confides. "They ordered two other panels."

One way large format print differs from the traditional offset market, Wink notes, is that it’s a different type of sell. It’s more of a consultative process, a good example of how advertiser and print supplier can creatively collaborate.

"I find that customers don’t want to come into the shop and talk to a sign guy. There is a misconception that the sign guy is going to push them toward whatever type of product the shop wants, rather than what best suits the brand. We take a totally different approach when working with our customers. We give them plenty of suggestions and options. We’ll work with them to design something that they’re going to be happy with and works within the budget. When customers walk out of here, they’re happy, and after they’ve used us one time, they always come back," Wink states.

Retail signage is such a successful endeavor for Virtuoso Graphics, the company is now branching out in new directions by growing its banner, label, and sign—interior and exterior—businesses.

Read more about Virtuoso Graphics and the POP market in the January 2009 print issue of Digital Output magazine.

Click here to read Part 1 of this exclusive online series, The Power of POP.
Click here to read Part 2 of this exclusive online series, POP Workhorses.
Click here to read Part 3 of this exclusive online series, Putting the POP in Displays.

Dec2008, Digital Output

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