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Wrapping to the Third Dimension

A New Spin on an Old Favorite

by Melissa Tetreault

Vehicle wraps are still a huge craze, despite their introduction a few years ago. Advertising on wheels is one of the most profitable ways to spread a message in a small amount of time to a large amount of people. As effective as these 2D mobile messages are, a WI-based sign shop discovered that there is always room for improvement.

Working Backwards
Interstate Graphics originally opened under the name Colorgraphics Installation Services and specializes in vehicle wraps, transit and bus graphics, fleet graphics, interior and exterior wall graphics, window graphics, POP displays, floor graphics, custom digital wallpaper, building wraps, and banners.

Founded in 1988, the company recently relocated an 8,000-square-foot space that houses all of their services. With their 12 employees, Interstate Graphics focuses mainly on WI and the upper Midwest area. However, they are fully equipped to not only create digital applications, but install as well nationwide.

Installation is the name of the game for Interstate Graphics. "We sort of did it the opposite way many printers in the industry did. Rather than buy a bigger plotter, then a bigger printer, then a flatbed, we began by becoming expert installers," shares Paul Olson, president, Interstate Graphics. Interstate Graphics began as an installation only company prior to becoming a full service graphics shop. With this background in mind, their focus has been and always will be on a quality installation job, explains Olson.

How Do You Improve on Success?
Olson participated in the evolution of the vehicle wrap, and with a 3D graphic, is now making an important contribution to it. In the early days, Olson lettered semis and trailers, then moved to full coverage fleet graphics, and eventually to vehicle wraps on vans, cars, and trucks. Being so involved with the vastly progressing market, the shop had the opportunity to test products for companies like 3M. Now, more than 80 percent of their business is vehicle wraps.

Thanks to the development of digital printing, Interstate Graphics is almost 100 percent digital. One of the perks of digital advancements, according to Olson, is allowing production to move faster. Perhaps this is what gave the shop the extra time to invent the 3D vehicle wrap.

With so many new products on the market today, it is becoming easier to create a vehicle wrap, which means more shops and more competition. Interstate Graphics wanted to find a way to stand out from that competition. Instead of looking for the fastest printer, the brightest inks, and the longest lasting media, Interstate Graphics developed a whole new application.

"We spend a great deal of time developing new products and asking questions. These questions yield new products, and then we figure out if there is a market and run with it. This not only is a way to stay ahead of the curve, itís a great way to stay excited about our business," says Olson.

3D vehicle graphics would be the thing to beat the curve. He continues, "We looked at the marketplace and saw a logical step, we wanted to design something even more eye catching than a traditional 2D wrap." Beginning with a pilot project in early 2007, the shop took the time to redesign and improve their 3D graphic until it was ready for the real world. What resulted is an application that is cleanly removable and capable of illumination.

Using a special adhesive developed by 3M, these 3D graphics can be placed directly on the automotive paint or onto 3M vinyl with overlaminate. Interstate Graphics offers a variety of illumination techniques, allowing your advertising to continue well past sunset. This is something unheard of in the earlier days of vehicle wraps. Many of the light products are still in advanced product development stages. Some include being powered on and off by the carís electrical system. Others use rechargeable power packs.

Depending on how much driving is done, a 3D graphics by Interstate Graphics can last as long as the actual vehicle wrap. The shop designed them to be heat resistant, UV resistant, and wind and waterproof.

A Breath of Fresh Air
Because their 3D graphics are so new, at press time there were many projects in the works. A recent completed project is a fleet of seven cars created for Innova Marketing, brand manager of Mentos, a trademark of Perfetti van Melle.

The goal of the project was to create a marketing experience that portrayed Mentos as a fun brand. Printed on their Mutoh ValueJet printer, this specific 3D graphic is unique because it physically represents the Mentos product. The cars were driven around the country to fairs and other events to promote Mentos. Obviously, the idea of a carefree, fun car, with giant, 3D Mentos is one eye-catching way to garner a client base.

Vehicle wraps like the Mentos project make people turn their heads. Not only will it make the public want Mentos, they might also start to wonder who created the 3D wrap. This creates more business for Interstate Graphics. The shop relies heavily on the Internet to promote their services. They also receive referrals from past customers, create professional affiliationsólike Mentos, and use an outside sales force.

Quality Plus Ingenuity
With the increased competition in the marketplace, Olson believes that quality printing is one way to stay ahead of the competition. "We can all enjoy quality prints at competitive prices, but at the same time, there are also many people who will sacrifice quality and integrity to make a buck. If printers are forced to compete solely on price, many times they will sacrifice quality to get jobs. The design, the knowledge of printing, quality inks, and quality materials are all factors that determine the end product".

For Interstate Graphics it isnít just the above factors that determine the end result. It is about trying something new. Their 3D vehicle wraps are a guaranteed success, changing the way the public sees advertising on wheels for good.

Dec2007, Digital Output

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