Deforest, WI-based Imagination Trends, LLC began as a mapping business in the late 1990s to provide the owner’s autistic daughter with a place to work that allowed her the opportunity to focus on her abilities. The company originally created mass market maps—road atlases and city directories—as well as custom maps for utility and public safety markets.
When map demographics changed, they were forced to adapt to market demands. Under the name Whooping Big Prints and Images display posters were first offered, with a progression to vehicle graphics and large format wall murals. The murals caught the attention of the ABC television network’s reality show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Imagination Trends designed and created a world map wallcovering with passport stamps, making it a signature product for a travel themed room.
Recognizing the need for wallcovering media that stuck and yet was easily removable, and riding on the success and notoriety from the ABC television show, the company created and patented an interactive wall graphic and manufactured it under a national license in 2009—with which they have plans to expand to other brands as it gains popularity. Lisa Pertzborn-Whiting, founder/CEO, Imagination Trends, predicts that because of this one product line, the company’s sales volume should increase by 400 percent year end.
In 2010, the business added another patented product line for the commercial market, which includes eco-friendly materials and inks that offer durability and special effect components.
Imagination Trends tries to use environmentally friendly wallcovering products when possible, but Pertzborn-Whiting explains that sometimes it comes down to cost and not everyone opts for the higher priced item. “We test volatile organic compound gasses on a regular basis to address the concern for our employees as well as for the environment. Whether it is for indoor or outdoor use, we have identified certain materials that work well in the most extreme conditions,” she adds.
Pertzborn-Whiting’s team thoroughly tests all wall graphic materials before promoting them for purchase. She admits many graphics fail, falling off the wall within 24 hours. Through many trials and tribulations, they have recognized many of the main reasons why certain media cannot withstand long-term application. One of which is wall paint that incorporates small amounts of Teflon; which is included to allow cleaning if something stains the paint.
“We continually test and abuse materials so we know their potential and limitations while challenging our people to find new ways to improve the products that we use,” shares Pertzborn-Whiting.
Most projects call for microsphere-based adhesive wall graphic materials, usually designed for UV printing. These include 6- or 4-mil PVC or 3- and 5-mil fabric based materials. Pertzborn-Whiting says the PVC-based products are slightly less expensive, yield a higher contrast print due to a brighter white base, but do not perform well in situations where the wall paint has grit on the surface. In those cases, fabric-based wall graphic media is ideal.
The 4-mil PVC product is sold retail for seven to nine dollars depending on overall square footage, including adhesive, ink, and finishing. Fabric retails at eight to $14 and is dependent on the same factors. The company works with media from various manufacturers—from 3M Graphics Market Center, Big Systems, LLC, to MACtac Graphic Products, but they also use a proprietary product, SmartArt. “SmartArt outperforms regardless of environment, ink coverage, laser cutting, or texture. While it is not as cost effective, having the confidence, predictability, and proven track record often outweighs the cost of the project,” explains Pertzborn-Whiting.
To see some of Imagination Trends recent work, view the June edition of Digital Output magazine.