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Which Way?

Directional Graphics for the 2010 Olympic Games

By Melissa Donovan

Without signage, we would be lost. Wayfinding graphics are an indispensable tool for guiding people to where they need to go. They are especially helpful for events that draw massive crowds, such as sporting venues that host a multitude of spectators from around the world.

For the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics clear and effective wide format signage directs crowds of every nationality to sporting events around the city. The international event takes place February 12 to 28, 2010. Tasked with the creation of this signage is SignBoom Industries Ltd., of Langley, British Columbia (BC), Canada, the primary supplier of large format wayfinding signs for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

Training Day
Founded in 2001, SignBoom began with a vision to provide high-end, quality products in quick turnarounds at a competitive price. At the company’s inception, the shop added a JV3-130 SP printer from Mimaki USA, Inc. to meet customer demand. With the addition of several newer Mimaki devices, business boomed. In response, SignBoom relocated to a 13,000 square foot facility to accommodate the rapidly growing shop and keep up with increasing work orders.

Today the company offers services including rigid signs; fabrics; finishing displays—retractable banner stands, flying flag banner stands, and sandwich boards; and vehicle, floor, and window graphics. Building on previous investments in groundbreaking digital print technology, SignBoom purchased two EFI wide format printers, a VUTEk QS3200 and VUTEk GS3200. To complement their printing devices, they also added a MultiCam, Inc. CNC router to its finishing department.

Trial Run
Vancouver won the bid to host the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in July 2003. The Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) was established in September 2003 to support and promote the development of sport in Canada through planning, organizing, financing, and staging the 2010 Olympics and Paralympics. The panel consists of 20 directors who play an instrumental part in decision making and logistical planning for the international event.

In Spring 2009 VANOC began its search for qualified print service providers (PSPs) to supply graphics that would be in place for over two weeks for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. The process included several print facility visits where equipment and workflow capabilities were evaluated. SignBoom won the contract based on VANOC’s eco-friendly requirements.

“The committee had a vision, to make the Vancouver games the ‘greenest’ games held to date and ratchet the quality of the printed materials to a level superior to anything done in the past. Sign graphics were to be colorful, with elaborate design detail,” explains Leonard Moore, president, SignBoom.

The shop is committed to eliminating solvent-based inks. SignBoom uses environmentally friendly UV and/or water-based inks from EFI, Fujifilm Sericol U.S.A., Inc., and Sawgrass Technologies, Inc.

During the trial sessions with VANOC, SignBoom demonstrated the many environmental benefits and cost savings of using the EFI VUTEk GS3200 printer and running Coroplast through the machine, as opposed to printing on adhesive vinyl and laminating the vinyl to a rigid backing material. “We are able to achieve high-quality output with the VUTEk GS32000 using a cost-effective white plus eight-color UV ink process. In addition, 100 percent of the post-usage waste generated was recyclable at no cost to VANOC. If adhesive vinyl was used, all of the waste would go into a landfill,” shares Moore.

SignBoom also emphasized the advantages of recycling inks and the use of the facility’s air recycling system, which filters air several times a day and then recycles it back into the shop.

Printing directly onto the Coroplast meant lower costs for VANOC, which spurred them to consider SignBoom and its green print philosophy, and ultimately hire them to create the wayfinding signage for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

Suiting Up for the Games
After VANOC chose SignBoom, the PSP began printing in Summer 2009. VANOC provided the designs and then uploaded them to the shop’s Job Order System. This program, recently created by SignBoom, lowers customer costs by offering an easily accessible ordering Web site, which generates a quick turnaround with a PDF-based workflow.

Moore credits the addition of this Web-based system to furthering SignBoom’s reach into greater North America. “We were founded to meet the needs of the greater Vancouver market, but now the company is a major supplier for special events—like the 2010 Vancouver Olympics,” he says.

Once VANOC uploaded the designs, graphics were proofed and produced on a same-day schedule. In addition to Coroplast, SignBoom created wayfinding signage on vinyl decals and banners using media from 3M Graphics Market Center. This signage was also printed on the VUTEk GS3200.

Beginning in mid-November the signs were placed throughout the Metropolitan Vancouver area and Whistler, BC, Canada. Sign removal is planned after the completion of the Paralympic games on March 21, 2010. The total timeline, from planning to final installation, was seven months.

Utilizing the VUTEk GS3200 and Coroplast material, SignBoom was able to meet two of VANOC’s primary goals—eco-friendly prints and superior print quality.

Another need of VANOC’s was that all of the graphics for the games be able to withstand the temperamental environment they would be placed in.

SignBoom considered durability when deciding on Coroplast for the wayfinding signage. “The products are currently exposed to a variety of climatic conditions from the heavy rains of Vancouver to the sub-zero winds of snowy Whistler. Between the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, the signs will remain in place for four months, making the choice of the right substrate critical,” explains Moore.

Gold Medal Finish
“Often projects of this kind of magnitude encounter difficulties. Excellent planning on the part of VANOC and SignBoom resulted in a virtually flawless process. Communications with VANOC exceeded all expectations. Support from vendors—press manufacturers, substrate and ink suppliers—was exceptional,” adds Moore.

Many considerations were taken into account. Based on VANOC’s requirements, an eco-friendly workflow process—from the hardware and inks, to the material used—was key. Also, durability was important. The signage had to stand up to the cruel beatings of the wintry North, for a prolonged period of time. Not only must installation yield signage that stays in place, but the graphics themselves cannot fade or wash off from weathering.

SignBoom created an abundance of weather-resistant signage to guide visitors to the 2010 Olympics and Paralympics, without it, people would certainly be lost.

Jan2010, Digital Output

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