Have Printers, Will Travel

Adgraphix does it all, from photo shoot to stucco installs.

Adgraphix ( co-owner Jeff Burns takes pride in his company’s self-sufficiency. The St. Louis-based print shop completes all of its projects in-house, from step A to Z, including photo shoots to nationwide installations. “We’re not your typical sign shop,” he says.

Primarily an installer and designer of vehicle wraps in the ‘90s, Adgraphix started doing retail work when local restaurant chain Chevys Fresh Mex asked if they could wrap some of the doors at eateries around the city. New opportunities mushroomed after that and the shop started working all over the city and then throughout the Midwest, eventually breaking into the world of liquor distributors. E.&J. Gallo, owner of New Amsterdam Vodka, discovered Adgraphix’s work in Chicago in 2009 and has relied on the shop for retail graphics across the country ever since.

Their latest project for New Amsterdam involved 10 locations around Kansas City, Missouri, including convenience and retail liquor stores. They started off by sending their own team of surveyors to evaluate each location and measure the space for each custom graphic.

“It’s not the easiest work when it’s customized. It’s not printing a stack of 2 x 3-foot posters that you can pull off the shelf,” says Burns. “It’s custom-fitted to each location and that has its drawbacks, but being willing to go through all of the headache has worked out to be a good thing for us. It’s where we’re different.”

The team then returned home and created photographic mock-ups for each graphic. After receiving approval from both New Amsterdam and the individual locale owners, they began the design process with their own images of the Kansas City skyline to match the vodka brand’s “It’s Your Town” tagline.

The graphics were then printed on Adgraphix’s two Roland Soljet Pro4 XR-640 large-format printer/cutters, an upgrade from the Arizona 180 solvent printer they used in the ‘90s. The shop also houses a Seiko ColorPainter and, for specialty printing on wood, aluminum, and glass, an HP Scitex FB500 UV printer.

The company requires its installers to complete a weeklong training course at 3M’s facility in St. Paul, Minnesota. Counter and window graphics were printed on 3M Controltac Graphic Film IJ180; the counter graphics were also covered in 3M’s heavy floor laminate to protect from a year or two’s worth of wear and tear. Outdoor textured wall graphics – “the hot new thing,” according to Burns – were printed on 3M Envision Print Wrap Film SV480Cv3.

Planting the seed before customers even walk in the door seems to be a new strategy for P-O-P. “There are so many brands fighting one another for the best spots,” says Burns. “The idea is that someone pulls into the parking lot and they’re staring right at this graphic and it gets them thinking, ‘Maybe I’ll try something new.’”

Seeds don’t plant themselves, however, and installing on brick, stucco, and concrete can be time consuming. An 8 x 8-foot graphic can take a pair of installers three or four hours to install, and that’s just Adgraphix’s standard process of passing over the graphic in 2- to 3-inch strips with a heat gun attached to a roller tool. Heated to 1200 degrees F, the roller melts the material into the crevices of the wall for an authentic, painted look, says Burns.

The space for one 8 x 24-foot graphic proved even more resistant, with boarded-up windows embedded in the brick. The team had to drill 4 x 8-foot sheets of 3A Composites Dibond to the wall and then attach the graphic to the boards.

In the end, though, Burns says it’s those tricky moments that set his shop apart. “If all you want to do is print, that’s the gravy, the easy part. The rest is the finesse part, and frankly, it’s the part that matters because it determines whether it’s going to be a quality end product or not.”

See other great P-O-P projects from our April/May issue:

Pop-Up Lady Project Summit
Two Images Are Better than One
Planning Paramount in Multifaceted Campaign
Deck the Walls, and Floors, and Elevators

View more from this Screen Printing issue