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Magnetic Media: Easy Come, Easy Go

Decal Impressions simplifies signage for Kona Ice mobile vendors.



The combination of PVC and Velcro was not working for shaved ice company Kona Ice as their Florence, Kentucky-based business expanded across the continent. With dozens of rotating flavors, the network of mobile vendors needed a new system of daily signage – one that could stand up to an army of sticky-fingered and sugar-laden customers. Bryan Vielhauer, president of Decal Impressions, a print shop based in Cincinnati that has provided graphics for Kona since its 2007 inception, set out to find a fix that would address a variety of struggles.

The graphics had to be water-resistant and would have to weather multiple daily cleanings – not to mention climates from humid Hawaii to chilly Canada. “We had to make a product that could survive in many different environments,” says Vielhauer. They also had to stick both to magnets and to fiberglass.

After more than six months of field testing to find printable materials that would meet the long list of standards, the Decal Impressions team unveiled a system using MagX48 magnetic sheeting with peel-and-stick adhesive, MagX magnetic receptive sheeting, a permanent adhesive, and BriteLine laminate, for Kona’s line of “Mini” carts.

“We had to dig in the old mental toolbox for this challenge,” says Vielhauer, who purchased the company with his father in 2001. “You have to spend the time gathering up all the tools in the process, and then it comes together, a lot like a symphony.”

Decal Impressions began producing a variety of custom-cut graphics printed on a Vutek QS2 Pro UV hybrid printer for the mini carts. The original line was balloon-shaped; Kona has since simplified its branding to the rounded-end rectangles pictured here. Pieces range from roughly 2 x 4 inches for the dispenser labels to 12 x 12, 18 x 18, and 30 x 8 inches for various menu signs.

A little over a year ago, the two companies decided the partnership was working well enough to begin the transition to Kona’s full-sized “entertainment vehicles.” Demand has since exploded, and Decal Impressions has leaned heavily on its Firespring web-based ecommerce platform. Kona customers can log on, build their own menus, add new flavors, and submit orders – which come in daily, numbering thousands annually.


When a job hits such proportions, it’s no longer a print-and-ship, end-of-story kind of relationship. Color profiles (“a constant battle,” Vielhauer says) have to be checked monthly with the shop’s Onyx and EFI Fiery software packages. Decal Impressions provides repairs for Kona’s vehicle wraps (although they don’t produce the originals); assists local franchises with installation; and participates in the company’s YouTube training videos that provide instructions for installing and maintaining the graphics.

“The key is to prevent them from having to run all over town,” says Vielhauer. “The name of the game is making it easy.”

And why did magnetic material pave the road to an easy-to-use system? “We used to use a lot of pressure-sensitives,” Vielhauer continues, “but getting people to install them without the experience was a huge challenge.”

The print shop provides magnetic work for other retailers, as well, including wireless carrier Cincinnati Bell, where P-O-P displays are updated quarterly.

Decal Impressions is now searching for a way to print higher quality, more environmentally conscious magnetic graphics, a goal they are testing with their HP Latex 360 and 3000 printers. It’s wise, says Vielhauer, “to always look down the line a little bit.”

For more magnetic-receptive inspiration, check out “.” For tips and best practices from Vielhauer and other magnetic media veterans, read “.” 




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