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Preparation Makes Perfect for Insignia Graphics

Careful planning conserves material and delivers superwide success.




When the client who accounts for a quarter of your annual sales asks you to jump, you can’t hesitate. So when Adrian College asked Rick Calvin, owner of Insignia Graphics (Adrian, Michigan), to provide graphics for the new addition to their indoor athletic training facility, he steeled himself for any number of challenges.

The first obstacle was to assure the university president that his money would be well spent. Calvin worked with the project’s construction management company to create sample graphics for a 6-foot-wide glass wall – a miniature version of the 14.5 x 66-foot divider that separates the Merillat Center’s cardio and weightlifting rooms. Then the phones went silent for several months as the project endured delay after delay.

Finally the call came; it was the president’s assistant, and they were ready for Calvin to come in and take measurements. “I said ‘What are you looking for?’” he recounts. “She said, ‘We have no ideas. We don’t want to tie your hands at all … Just go nuts. Swing for the fences.’”

So, Calvin and his team began to consider the project. Their first challenge was to find a way to conserve material; the shop’s stock of 3M Scotchcal IJ8624 graphic film for textured surfaces was only available in 54-inch widths, but the header that winds its way around the facility is only 31.5 inches tall. So, they took the print file and rotated it, printing more than a dozen 50-inch panels that would line up one after another. They used a Roland VersaCamm VP-540i printer/cutter.

“We spent more time prepping and thinking about the project than we did actually working,” he says of the logistical challenge this created. The team numbered every print, taking care to keep them in order across days of printing, laminating, trimming, stacking, and labeling. They also brought screenshots from the shop’s Roland VersaWorks RIP software, which they taped along the scaffold railing and marked off as they completed the installation of each panel.


To add to the installation puzzle was a hodge-podge of 1000-pound treadmills and weight machines. Calvin says it took him and a partner four days to complete the installation, but they had to enlist the help of Adrian College coaches and athletes to move machines out of the way while they worked on a three-story scaffolding above. “We were literally standing on top of treadmills and weaving ladders in and out of weight equipment.”

Output for the entire project totaled roughly 3150 square feet, including wall graphics printed on 3M Scotchal IJ8624 film with 8520 matte laminate and window graphics printed on Avery Dennison MPI 1005 with DOL 1380 matte laminate. Insignia also provided solid color elements cut from Avery Dennison 700 high-performance calendared opaque film, Avery Dennison 900 super cast film, and General Formulations light fine Etch Glass film.

The shop regularly works with Adrian College and their construction management company; the university alone accounted for 23 percent of their 2015 sales – about 10,000 square feet of graphics in all. In addition to wall graphics on everything from vinyl to brick, last year Insignia produced a 157 x 4-foot banner for Adrian’s Arrington Ice Arena, printed on 13-ounce Alpha Premium Frontlit Banner material from Wensco.

And the small-town shop is expanding at such a rapid pace – growing 37 percent just last year – that one would never guess where its owner got his start. “I played drums in a band,” Calvin laughs, “with a friend who used to own a sign company. We used to have our band practice in his sign shop, so it was, ‘Hurry up and help him finish a truck or trailer to get his stuff out of the way so we can set up our band equipment.’” He attributes his success to a variety of factors, including social media. “Our customers and viewers are always on the move, so [social media] is such an easy way to keep the public updated on our current projects.”

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