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Business + Management: Marty Mcghie

Harlan: Beyond Digital

More on the company that created the signage for Chi-nnati's, inside and out.



Harlan goes beyond digital print work, and that expertise was called upon for the Chi-nnati’s project (click here  for more on the project). From faux concrete to creative bathroom signage, Harlan had the place covered inside and out. In the end, it made the elements all the more cohesive.

Hit the pavement: These signs—one over the entrance and one high enough to be visible from an adjacent street—are meant to illustrate the blending of the two cities, and to reference the industrial grit associated with both. “The intent was to look like city blocks,” Wendt says. Harlan custom form-welded 1/8-inch aluminum lightboxes and covered them with latex for the faux concrete finish. One-inch clear acrylic was routed for 1/2-inch protruding backlit 3D logo lettering. Low-voltage LEDs were used for illumination. “It’s new and slick meets old and gritty,” says Wizinsky, adding that the signs were designed for some light to leak, creating an unfinished look.

C it?: This supersized “C,” hand-painted with exterior latex paint, has a diameter of 15 feet (there’s another one 13 feet in diameter beneath the main sign at the entrance). The concept for it came from those old, faded signs that used to be painted directly on brick buildings throughout the country.

Cut heads: Harlan picked up the same wood stain used by the interior designers throughout the restaurant so the wood on the bathroom signs coordinated with other architectural elements. These 3/4-inch hardwood maple signs were routed on a MultiCam-M Series router. The head is a standard stainless-steel pizza cutter wheel.

Metal message: FRCH created this font specifically for the project, which is used on metal signage both inside and outside the restaurant. Here, the focus was again on having an industrial look: “We wanted something that looked like it had been stamped into the side of an I-beam,” says Wizinsky. These letters were forged from 1/2-inch Type-1 PVC with Chemetal-333 laminate on their face.

Harlan’s Evolution
Harlan Graphic Arts Services  has been serving the graphic-design community since 1980, but it’s come a long way from its early days. Originally a purveyor of typesetting and films, it now provides signage and environmental graphics for clients across the nation. Films and typesetting have given way to large-format prints, routed signs, and LEDs.


“Anymore, the unusual is the norm for us,” says Dan Ehrman, Harlan’s vice president of purchasing. It was his brother Larry who started the company. Ehrman, who has been with Harlan for 15 years, recalls the day when the company began its switch to bigger and better things.

“A salesman came in one day with a 36-inch inkjet and said, ‘Sell one print a day and you’ll pay for it.’ That was the beginning,” he says. Ehrman can’t recall the brand of that inkjet, bought nearly 10 years ago, but, “As we continued to grow, we kept buying inkjets.” Now, years later, Harlan has an array of printers at its nearly 40,000-square-foot facility. In addition to the printers referenced in the text, the shop has in-house a DuPont Artistri 2020, Roland SolJet Pro III, an HP Designjet 5000ps, and a Mimaki CJV 30-160.

The company’s growth has largely been customer-driven, with clients suddenly demanding a variety of services. Harlan entered the cut-vinyl business, Ehrman says, and then customers began asking for more signage projects. “From there we received requests for large-scale vinyl and wall murals,” he says.

Harlan added fabric-printing capabilities six years ago. Its display division has grown over the last few years into a full metalworking and woodworking shop. Just last year, it shut its typesetting equipment down; it needed replacing, but no one was even asking for the service. The entire film department is gone as well.

But these new resources have landed Harlan some major clients, including Hilton Hotels. The company prints banners for the hotel chain’s food stations, consisting of the company’s namesake, Doubletree Hotels, Hampton Hotels, and Homewood Suites. When Harlan printed the laminated signs that sit on the buffets, Hilton needed to be sure they would be durable. “I took one of [the signs] home and washed it six times in the dishwasher,” says Ehrman, just to reassure them that the ink wouldn’t run.

Which is another thing Harlan has come to pride itself on: personal touches. The 35-person company often invites potential clients to tour its facility. “If we can get the customers to come in here—because we are so diversified—they see the different processes we have and it gets the creative juices flowing,” Ehrman says. Whenever a client brings him a quirky project—like creating a graphic backing for an industrial baking pan, or 3-foot long CNC-routed flying spoons, complete with wings—he checks with the fabrication team about the capabilities, but they almost always say “yes.”





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