Museums rely on high-impact, high-quality graphics to accentuate exhibits and artifacts. To achieve a professional look, these organizations often reach out to print service professionals well adept at creating large-scale graphics.
Digital Imaging Resources, Inc. (DIR), a digital print provider based in Chicago, IL, started out working with architectural, engineering, and construction clients. Today, they produce a variety of print-related services, which are broken into three primary categories, color operations, architectural, and facilities management. Within its color operations division, DIR provides digitally printed, wide format museum and exhibit print services.
To produce wide format work, including museum applications, the shop utilizes a combination of UV flatbed and traditional inkjet technologies. For UV flatbed, the company employs a Durst Image Technology US LLC Rho with white ink capabilities. They also rely on a Hewlett-Packard Designjet Z6100 and an Epson Stylus Pro 9800 series inkjet printer. An industrial MGE industrial router is used to cut thicker substrates, which are common for museum work.
DIR recently produced a total graphics package for a new exhibition at the Cambodian American Heritage Museum in Chicago, IL. The 1,800 square foot project, designed by Amy Reichert Architecture and Design, was the first exhibit outside of Cambodia to explore the subject of the Killing Fields. The goal of the project was to create an emotional and educational setting.
“The designer gets a lot of credit for how the museum came together,” says Jerry Manikowski, president, DIR. “They had stock imagery, but a lot of it was scanned and re-sampled,” he comments. Manikowski notes that typically with this type of project it is hard to get great artwork, especially for a smaller organization like the Cambodian American Heritage Museum.
“We relied on DIR to create superior quality graphics from less than perfect original artwork, says Amy Reichert, owner, Amy Reichert Architecture and Design. “This project, with its sensitive subject matter, community involvement, and extremely tight deadlines required a high degree of coordination between my studio and DIR. An additional challenge was posed by the client’s requirement that all text be dual language, Khmer and English. We are thrilled that the client and community are so pleased with the final results.”
A number of different elements were used throughout the museum redesign. Manikowski says a lot of the panels were printed onto Sintra or UltraBoard. Additionally, the shop utilized Jet Tex, a vinyl material from Dickson Coatings, for one graphic that was adhered to a wall.
Once graphics were finished, DIR outsourced some of the installation, while the museum put up the simpler pieces themselves.
Most of the graphics are semi-permanent. Therefore, careful attention was placed on what type of substrate and where protective coatings should be used. “We used a UV flatbed process so that the inks would be far less likely to fade,” he states. Manikowski adds that they provided the museum with input on substrates and protection used, some of which were not utilized due to budget restraints.
Up Close and Personal
Large format graphics are an essential tool for museum design. However, it is important to realize these applications differ from the commercial work many print providers are used to creating. DIR ran the graphics for the Cambodian American Heritage Museum on a high quality setting to deliver a product that could be viewed up close with crisp text and clean gradients that aren’t generally necessary for a sign that will be viewed from 75 to 100 feet away. “You have to think about how it is going to be viewed,” suggests Manikowski. “One thing that stands out with museum work is you have to assume the people looking at the graphics are going to be right on top of them,” he concludes.