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Creative by Design

Creative by Design

Modern print technology and media presents a rich palette for creative sign production companies. Signwright Chobham is making the most of it. Mark Godden reports

The creative options available to today’s well-equipped signmakers are practically without limit. For once, the old adage about imagination being the confining factor might actually be true.  The current crop of wide format inkjet printers, and the substrates they use, can form the basis of countless novel alliances and when a dash of creative flair is added the end result can be sensational.

One such company that exemplifies the creative approach is Chobham-based Signwright, which is run by Mike Tropia and Ed Pearse.  Signwright has built itself a reputation both locally, and in the wider market, for delivering signing and other graphic solutions distinguished by strong design foundations and a mastery of media and technology.

The company, which has been in business since 2009, was founded on the deceptively simple business principle that it would strive to deliver signs that embody a powerful identity. As seen through the eyes of Mike, a trained illustrator, this means paying proper attention to detail, quality and creativity and happily, this ethos meshes perfectly with a powerfully configured Mac-based design system built and managed in-house by Ed, and through a recently acquired Roland SP540i printer, which yields exceptional results for the company’s customers.

Mike takes the sensible view that signs are about getting noticed.  Thus, a bad or indifferently made sign will get noticed for the wrong reasons or worse, won’t get noticed at all. Do the job well though and a sign acts as a beacon for the business it promotes. Something that radiates quality and that provides a solid identity that firmly cements business’s foundations.

Signwright works with many customers who have a prescribed design or identity but thanks to its reputation and skills, it is often given free licence to create something from scratch. It’s at such times that Mike and Ed both agree that Signwright is at its creative and technical best, something borne out by an attractive job it recently produced for a newly opened local fish and chip shop.

‘Gary’s Fish and Chips’ was nothing more than a name and premises before Signwright created its identity. Now, head-turning window graphics announce the business in style. Combining patriotic overtones, expert use of type and layout and some cartoon styled characters, the sign is effective and undeniably attractive. Colour, swept in density and tone gives the sign’s elements an impression of depth accentuated by diffused holding shadows. The effects are perfectly resolved by printer and Metamark media.

Signwright used a novel construction technique to produce the sign and turned to Metamark MD-Class print media, continuing a long-standing supply relationship originally entered on the recommendation of the engineer who installed its printer.

The sign is applied inside the shop’s glazing and was produced by printing the detail on the print-receptive surface of clear, Metamark MD-3. A second layer of MD-3, white this time, was then laminated to the printed face of the clear MD-3, using the white material’s adhesive. This technique yields a sign with sub-surface printed detail, visible through a clear adhesive face. Once applied to the inside of the window, the optical connection with the glass causes the printed graphic to ‘pop’ showing the deeply saturated colour for which Metamark media is known, to its best advantage.

Gary’s Fish and Chip shop sign has produced numerous referrals for Signwright and appears to confirm that Mike and Ed’s strong design ethos is ultimately a profitable one too, as is their determination to extract the best possible performance from hardware and materials, while also providing the customer with a sign that will endure, in addition to an identity statement its delighted with.

Give an illustrator a palette as rich as that represented by modern materials and media and interesting things may result. For instance, Mike, who is a keen marksman, was approached by a fellow member of his shooting club, who asked if he could wrap a gunstock. A metre or so of Metamark CF4 and some application skills later, one carbon fibre gun stock was produced and delivered, representing a departure from the usual sign-related project, but a good example of how skills travel.

The lifespan of a sign is such that a customer may not return for perhaps five years or more after a successful installation. However, one of Signwright’s regulars operates on a more frequent basis, coming to Signwright annually for a change of window manifestation. Baines Simmons is a world leader in Aviation Safety and Signwright provides it with aviation-themed window décor.

Metamark MD-3 clear material was used to produce a design resembling a tree with leaves formed from aircraft silhouettes. EcoSolvent inks render the subtle colouring with transparency and clarity and the MD-3’s adhesive doesn’t betray its presence. As a manifestation exercise, the design once again shows its worth. It provides the coverage the application demands, admits the passage of light, and is well connected with the overall theme of Baines Simmon’s business.

Drawing on creative reserves involves taking applications to places beyond solutions arrived at by intuition alone. The very basis of sound design is supposedly rooted in contrasts, but seeing things from the polar opposite end of the telescope recently helped Signwright create an undeniably attractive vehicle livery for its client NDC Garage Doors.

Signwright used the panel colour of NDC’s vehicles as the basis for creating elements within its livery design. Visualised as a large reflection of NDC’s logo, on the vehicle’s flanks, the livery’s dominant design element only contrasts minimally with the vehicle paint surrounding it. The effect though, is eye-catching and novel.

Signwright chose Metamark MD7 to produce this element of the livery. The process involved using the Metamark ‘Brick’ colour swatch to locate a close match for the base paint, and then in turn matching it with digital print produced on the Roland printer. The colour isn’t an exact match and that’s the point. Minutely ‘tweaked’ by Ed, it creates a convincing illusion of a structure reflected in the vehicle’s paint. The whole effect, taken with the crisp typography and layout elements is one that’s tightly ‘on grid’ in terms of NDC’s corporate ID, but that radiates innovation though design.

In interpreting and presenting it, Signwright may style itself as a signmaker, but it’s using media, materials and print technology that elevates its value as a company to the customers it serves. It takes the brief a yard or more further than invited and, in doing so, it creates signs that carry with them a sense of real character and enduring identity. To Mike and Ed, the materials they have access to and the creative potential of the production system they’ve built provide endless combinations of o ideas and solutions that ultimately distil into highly individual signs and graphics. The results are clearly producing happy customers and their number is growing.

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