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Celebrating Choppers-Softly

Commerce Color uses its HP Scitex XL 1500 to create graphics that do double-duty as museum walls



Steve Smith has a collection of rare and vintage motorcycles from around the globe-some dating back to the beginning of motoring, circa 1900. For years, he imagined displaying his motorcycles, and in the spring of this year, his Moto Museum became a reality in St. Louis. Its inaugural exhibition, titled “The History of the Motorcycle,” chronicles the evolution and design of motorcycles spanning 100 years and includes 100 motorcycles (most from Smith’s personal collection ) manufactured in more than 20 different countries.

When Smith began, however, the space his museum would inhabit was simply a huge empty commercial building-with no walls. Designing, building, and decorating the interior within a tight timeframe and budget called for a solution that was not only innovative and inexpensive but also fast.

Luckily, however, there was a solution at hand: Smith, an architect, is also the owner of The Lawrence Group, an architectural and interior-design firm based in downtown St. Louis. He called on “the troops” to take on the task of coming up with a creative but inexpensive way of dividing the cavernous space while providing interior signage for the museum.

The solution: make the graphics do double-duty-as walls as well as decorative/informative images. The soft walls would act as the divisions between the museum’s six galleries, each representing a different region in the world-with the collection stretching from England and Switzerland to the Soviet Union and Japan. The graphics also would cordon off a work area in the back.

“We wanted graphics that were on a larger-than-life scale,” notes Christa McCall of The Lawrence Group. “This is the first time we have done something this large using this material [vinyl banners] for an interior application.”


A soft-wall solution
With a plan and graphic files in-hand, The Lawrence Group tapped grand-format printing company Commerce Color in St. Louis to produce the super-big vinyl “graphics/walls.” The two companies had some history together, having previously worked together on many large-format jobs.

This project’s wall-sized graphics would be viewed very closely by museum attendees, with some placed directly behind the displayed motorcycles. Hence, Commerce Color chose to use its 5-m HP Scitex XL Jet Premium printer (now badged as the HP Scitex XL 1500) for output because, “The Scitex provided the best resolution for this interior application,” says Tom Croghan, Commerce Color sales/marketing director.

The company imaged the supplied Adobe Illustrator files onto Verseidag Seemee Frontlit Standard 13-oz vinyl using the XL Jet with HP/Scitex inks. The final graphics ranged from 12 x 53-foot double-sided banners/walls to partial-wall 4 x 12-foot banners. The 6500 total square feet of graphics took 7 hours to print.

After output, the only finishing necessary was sewing pole pockets at the top and bottom, which Commerce Color outsourced. The printed and sewn images were then handed over to the contractor to install onto the superstructure, adding dowels at the bottom to hold the soft walls in place. The time frame from design concept through printing and installation for these permanent graphics was about a month.

The challenge for this job was similar to many others Commerce Color has dealt with throughout its history: “As with many jobs, the interior is the last piece of the puzzle that has to come together before the opening of the building-and generally you’re in a time crunch,” says Croghan. “Constructing hard walls would have been difficult. The interiors group at The Lawrence Group came up with the soft-wall concept, which made finishing the interior really simple and efficient.” At the same time, he says, the graphics make for a striking interior: “The enormous graphics look great.” Additionally, the soft walls allowed for a quick turnaround at a competitive price.


Specializing in wallscapes
In business for more than 50 years, Commerce Color began by providing film and platemaking services. The company adopted new technologies, and currently owns the 5-meter HP Scitex XLjet Premium, HP Designjets (5000 and 5500), and two 16-foot Nur Blueboards. Plus, it recently took delivery on a 98-inch Agfa Anapurna XL flatbed press and is using it to pursue signage projects that are printed on wide variety of rigid and soft substrates.

Today, the company specializes in wallscapes and building wraps as well as billboards, construction and event signage, stadium graphics, custom wall coverings, window graphics, street pole banners, custom vinyl banners, digital wallpaper, and wall coverings. Commerce Color occupies 18,000 square feet and has 22 employees. Its typical customers are ad agencies, construction and development companies, event planners, corporate marketing department, architects, and interior designers.






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