We’ve covered wrapped accordions and customized glass coffee tables in the prior parts of this series. Now we look to our third place winners—a tie—of the Digital Output Application of the Year awards to share stories regarding a total design overhaul of a storefront and an expansive wallcovering project for a local house of worship.
Graphic Alliance, Inc.
Located in Arlington Heights, IL, Graphic Alliance is a 14 year old business that specializes in marketing and advertising through graphic design, printing, sign skills, and knowledge. While large format signage plays a big part in the print service provider’s (PSP’s) repertoire, it also offers services that include logo design, business card printing, brochures, catalogs, pocket folders, newspapers, and direct mailers.
According to Eric Grossman, president, Graphic Alliance, the company uses the latest software and updated technology to produce professional products that are always on time with the help of its creative abilities that appeal to targeted audiences. Relying on the newest and greatest printers and media, recent work for repeat client Mo’s Glass Onion in Kalamazoo, MI, helped Graphic Alliance win third place in this year’s contest.
Over the past five years the team of eight has created graphic design, printing, signs, and Web site work for the retailer. For this particular project, which took three months from concept to complete installation, a multitude of applications were designed and instituted.
The design process involved the store owner, Rory, who sat with Grossman to find exactly the right images to represent the store, which sells tobacco accessories, vaporizers, clothing, jewelry, and posters. With the tagline “A Progressive Store for Kind People,” the PSP looked to create a comprehensive design scheme that was “cool” but not did offend any passerby. The goal was to target a college-based market and draw the attention of more than 10,000 people who drive past the store on a daily basis.
Graphics were printed on Graphic Alliance’s Roland DGA Corporation SOLJET Pro III XJ-740 using Roland Eco-Sol MAX UV inks. “The Roland printer/ink combination gives us the highest quality prints on a wide variety of materials. We choose this printer because of its superior results time and time again,” adds Grossman.
Install of every application required special attention. Grossman says they always begin with the easiest product to install, which in this case was a glow in the dark Glass Onion logo crafted for above the entrance with lettering from GloRope. The lettering promotes long-term glow-in-the-dark ability off of a short-term ten minute recharging time. Cutting, weeding, and masking the GloRope was a challenge, admits Grossman, as the material is fragile.
Next onion-shaped graphics were drilled into the building. ORAFOL Americas ORAJET 3651 Intermediate Calendered PVC Digital Media was mounted on 6-mil Sintra panels. The gray opaque adhesive backing of the media aided in the color vibrancy.
Window graphics were then applied. Nazdar SourceOne’s ImageStar 60/40 Illusion Perforated One Way Vision film allows visibility to the outside but privacy from the inside. Grossman notes that a 60/40 perforation pattern was chosen over a 50/50 to allow more color saturation and vibrancy.
A back door was wrapped in 3M Commercial Graphics’ Controltac Graphic Film with Comply v3 Adhesive IJ180Cv3-10. “We picked this very popular product for its superior performance in adhering to metal in less than perfect weather conditions. This conformability while adhering to the metal and the eight year durability also played a part,” explains Grossman.
The next challenge involved adhering a 10x30-foot mesh banner to the roof without falling off of the 45 degree slope.
Lastly, MACtac Graphic Products’ RoughRap was applied to a cement wall surrounding the building. The media is specifically designed for direct application to brick, however the PSP did have to deal with a lot of challenges when it came to this part of the multi-faceted install. The wall is not level or in very good condition, so three heat guns and three employees in four hours got the wall graphic applied.
The entire install took ten hours total. After it was completed, Grossman says sales increased daily, weekly, and continually for the Glass Onion. “Cars honk and people yell out their window, acknowledging the awesome design and graphics installed on the building,” he explains.
As Grossman points out, this storefront overhaul is a great example of the capabilities offered to PSPs throughout the graphic arts. His main goal was to utilize all of the amazing materials available on the market and he certainly succeeded. With the help of his peers at Speedpro Imaging—Tom and Maureen Kmieciak—Grossman offered Rory at the Glass Onion a solution that fully represents his business and draws people into the store.
With a home base of San Antonio, TX, Signs Now offers a range of services for its customers, including signs, storefront graphics, trade show displays, vehicle wraps, banners, and wall graphics. Scott Milgrom, owner, Signs Now, took over the business in 2004. Looking to ramp-up production he was aggressive in his marketing. These efforts created a long-term relationship with customer Rudkin Productions of Boerne, TX. Recent work for the advertising agency and its client, Cornerstone Church, earned Signs Now a third place finish in this year’s Application of the Year awards.
Rudkin and Cornerstone were looking for a wallcovering to complement 12 rooms in a new children’s learning facility. Referred to as The Ark, each room is home to a specific age group, and its imagery harks back to the story of Noah’s ark—with animals and their partners living on the vessel. During initial discussions, Rudkin requested a printed media that was kid-friendly, durable, and environmentally conscious.
Milgrom and his team of eight suggested Hewlett-Packard’s (HP’s) HP PVC-free Wall Paper, which boasts odorless prints and is GREENGUARD Children & Schools Certified when printed with HP Latex Inks. At first, Rudkin was skeptical, then it received a sample of a graphic printed via solvent and it smelled of chemicals. It was an eye opener for Rudkin and they went with the HP PVC-free Wall Paper printed on an HP Designjet L25500 printer. Signs Now runs two HP Designjet L25500s in addition to an HP Scitex FB500 in the shop.
With a turnaround of 40 days from design to install, and a hard deadline to meet—the wall graphics had to be installed prior to The Ark’s grand opening—Milgrom and his staff printed through the night. To ensure consistency, he only printed to one of the HP Designjet L25500s, monitoring it with a camera when he was away from the production space. In total, 7,800 square feet of media was printed on, two walls in each room required wallcovering. 26-inch width panels were crafted, printed two-up to accommodate the 54-inch width material.
Signs Now was pleasantly surprised with the smoothness of the job. “The plan was to stay ahead of the curve. When a panel was finished printing, we brought it over to the site to install. So we were installing while printing. The plan was to install one room a day, but we ended up starting to be able to install two. While this was impressive, it did mean we had to print even faster to keep up,” explains Milgrom.
The Cornerstone project was the first time the PSP utilized HP PVC-free Wall Paper. It commonly works with media from 3M and Ultraflex Systems, Inc. in addition to HP-branded products. Originally, it questioned the ease of removal. However, during the install, it needed to readjust a panel, which easily removed with water just as HP recommends.
The job was not without its challenges. Of note, the images were dark and printing to white paper meant that if the installers weren’t careful when lining up the seams, they would show through. To combat this, prior to install, Milgrom surveyed the room and found that if the blade was angled slightly while cutting the panel, and the seams aimed toward the back of the room away from the natural sunlight coming through the windows, they wouldn’t be overly visible.
Rudkin and Cornerstone were thrilled with the final outcome of the project. Milgrom notes how realistic every graphic looks, as each animal—in pairs—is designed to scale. This makes any person in the room standing near the wall feel as though they are right next to a lifelike lion or a monkey. At the grand opening, The Ark attracted over 20,000 visitors—a sure sign it will be filled with children enjoying the artwork for years to come.
We’re not done yet! Read about our honorable mention winner in the final part of this four-part series that profiles Digital Output’s 2013 Application of the Year winners.
Click here to read part one of this exclusive online series, Play that Song.
Click here to read part two of this exclusive online series, Through the Looking Glass.