Best of the Best: Top Shops Product Spotlight

Rank 3
Crush Creative

Burbank, CA

Crush Creative recently teamed up with Arts & Exhibitions to produce graphics for the national debut of, "America, I am."

"America, I am" begins its traveling tour throughout the United States with its first stop in Philadelphia, PA. "America, I am" honors 400 years of African American contributions to American culture and also the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

To capture a unique, interactive environment, Crush imaged the graphics on a large assortment of materials for 12 different themed exhibits. Among those included 3,000-4,000 square feet of Artex and AB Vinyl. Some elements of the exhibit featured the words and images of influential African Americans illuminated in a dark corridor.

To light up the corridors, Crush printed the images on 4x8-foot Duraclears, which were then face onto pieces of 1 clear acrylic, each piece weighing 350 pounds.

Crush also conveyed the journey of African American culture by printing the graphics on 2,000 square feet of matte black vinyl and applying it onto milk plex.


Rank 4
Graphic Systems Group

New York, NY

Whatnot Workshop

The Muppet Whatnot Workshop was created by NYC-based Graphic Systems Group. In November 2008, the Walt Disney Company launched the Whatnot Workshop: an online retailer of built-to-order Muppets plush toys. The Whatnot Workshop will enable consumers to design a character that is both distinctively a Muppet and uniquely their own creation, by making selections from a range of body types, features, costumes and accessories.

As part of its marketing efforts for the Whatnot Workshop, Disney entered an exclusive partnership with FAO Schwartz to create a brick-and-mortar Whatnot Workshop in the retailer's flagship location in New York City. Their objectives were to:

  • Create a functional, 600-square-foot workshop that enables consumers to design, purchase and take home a built-to-order Muppet in a single short visit
  • Deliver a rich, immersive consumer experience that brings Disney's trademark magic to the retail environment
  • Develop a friendly and comprehensive design tool that enables customers to easily design a custom Muppet from a wide range of available options
Today Show cast

Disney selected Graphic Systems Group based on its proven ability to deliver successful in-store and event-specific installations, including its successful partnership with Universal Pictures to create an in-store Harry Potter boutique at FAO Schwartz. The Whatnot Workshop opened October 4, 2008. The boutique includes a cash/wrap station, three workbenches where the Muppets are hand built, ample display areas where consumers can browse competed work, accessories and options, as well as a lighting solution for the boutique. The rich and authentic detail of the boutique flows from the Muppet mythology, and will make shoppers feel as if they have been transported into the Muppets own world.

The solution developed by Graphic Systems Group provides Disney with:

  • Creation of architectural blueprints and renderings based on artist's sketches provided by Disney
  • A three-dimensional scale model including displays and décor
  • A design aid kit that enables customers to design and personalize their Muppet plush toy and that serves as a souvenir of the retail experience. This kit was so well received that it has become the basis for the Whatnot Workshop's online customer design and ordering tools.
  • Fabrication of the boutique off-site, and installation of the boutique at FAO Schwartz


Rank 6
Source One Digital

North Shores, MI

Brunswick Zone XL

The graphics for Brunswick Zone XL are part of an identity package that layers across all marketing communications from the in center experience to the website, ads and billboards that create the brand expectation. Color and quality were critical. These were produced as part of a retail grand opening of an important new facility, and they were the first of a new standard to be applied in all Brunswick Zone XL locations around the country. As is typical with new construction, we had a tight window of time to get the graphics manufactured and installed prior to the opening event. Large scale graphics can be very tricky, especially when dealing with non standard installations, curved walls and other unique circumstances.

Source One Digital produced the graphics on one of their Jeti Solvent 3M machines printing on combination of wallpaper and vinyl for different applications. Source One Digital team then traveled to Lakeview, MN for installation of all graphics produced. Printing and Installation was provided by Source One Digital installation team.

CLIENT: Brunswick Bowling
AGENCY: LoSasso Advertising, Chicago


Rank 8
Sharpe Images

Winston-Salem, NC

BB&T ( came to Sharpe Images for a new temporary in-branch display option with a specific price point in mind. Sharpe Images worked with BB&T to help them decide on the best option.

Packing floor

Sharpe Images produced 1,000 33.5x79-inch Retractable Displays for the branches in July 2008. The project took three weeks from start to finish (printing, construction, packaging and delivery).

We screen printed 700 of the graphics but digitally printed 100 each of three designs on our HP Z6100 Plotters. We used our newly purchased 18,000 square foot facility (not yet up fitted for printing) in Charlotte, NC to construct the displays and set them up for quality control checks. After they were carefully checked for defects then we packaged them and delivered them to the BB&T Material Management Facility in Winston Salem.

All of the displays were distributed throughout the bank branches without one defective display reported (our proudest accomplishment). BB&T was so pleased with the results that Sharpe Images is currently producing the next order of 1,600 displays.


Pictura Graphics logo

Rank 9
Pictura Graphics

Minneapolis, MN

The Minnesota State High School Boy's Hockey Championship is one of the largest and most unique sporting events in North America. It attracts over 120,000 fans each year, statewide broadcast coverage and substantial corporate sponsorship. Fans, players, coaches, scouts and product manufacturers converge on St. Paul for four days each year, creating the largest and most focused product marketing event in the hockey world.

Bauer exhibit at hockey tournament

The tournament attracts significant sponsorship investment and crowds fill the Xcel Energy Center, home to an NHL franchise, to capacity for several games. In fact, the 19,559 that showed up for the 2008 semi-final games set a record for the largest crowd to ever attend a hockey game in the state of Minnesota. The trade show held at an adjacent convention center is jammed with hockey consumers in search of the latest and greatest in skates, sticks, protective equipment and every hockey widget imaginable. The unique combination of a sold-out sporting event paired with a consumer product show open to the buying public equals a one-of-a-kind opportunity for product marketers.

As one of the leading brands in the sport, Bauer Hockey considers the Tournament and trade show an important battleground for winning market share in the ultra-competitive hockey market of Minnesota, regarded by locals as "The State of Hockey." In recent years, Bauer Hockey raised the bar at the tournament and the trade show, securing category exclusive marketing rights in the arena for the hockey games and building out a huge 100x100-foot trade show space, complete with the latest audio/visual technology and product displays, to accommodate the throngs at the trade show.

For 2009, Bauer Hockey was looking for unique and effective vehicles for branding a new product launch. They came up with the concept to wrap the giant support columns spaced throughout the main concourse of the Xcel Energy Center with large, adhesive graphics. Unfortunately, the operations staff at the Xcel denied their request, citing surface damage done to the columns by adhesive graphics applied by an inexperienced vendor during the 2008 Republican National Convention.

With just a few days before the tournament's opening face-off and facing cancellation of the project, Bauer Hockey turned to Minneapolis-based Pictura Graphics Inc. to find a solution. Pictura met with representatives from the Xcel Energy Center to propose an alternative, more sustainable solution to adhesive graphics. A dye-sublimated, fabric solution was quickly sewn and brought down to the building and within minutes the project was approved ... much to the satisfaction of Bauer Hockey. The fabric graphics proposed by Pictura Graphics were more sustainable for a number of reasons. First, they were printed on one of the eco-friendly fabrics in their ecoIMAGES line of green graphics. Secondly, the fabric panels were easily set-up and re-used for the girls and boys tournaments, eliminating the need for disposal and re-printing. Finally, Pictura Graphics proposed that after the hockey tournament, the fabric panels be re-finished with grommets so that Bauer Hockey could provide them to the top dealers in the state for unique and recognizable in-store graphics.

"Pictura went far beyond producing high quality graphics for us," said Bauer Hockey product manager Ed Saunders. "They partnered with Bauer Hockey to find a sensible solution for the event while creating an extended opportunity for us to share with our retail partners. Our executive leadership and the local sales reps were absolutely thrilled with the results."

As an encore to the column project, Pictura Graphics was called upon to help their client out of a jam. With less than 24 hours remaining before thousands of hockey consumers spilled onto the trade show floor, Bauer Hockey discovered that the illuminated graphic solution they had selected for the front wall of their exhibit was not going to work properly. Their distress call to Pictura was answered and within hours a 25x25-foot fabric panel was printed, finished, and installed for the Bauer Hockey exhibit. The problem was solved and the client was saved. "They went above and beyond the call of duty," said Saunders.

"There was never any panic, just a focused resolve to get the job done right."


Image King Visual Solutions logo

Rank 11
Image King Visual Solutions

New York, NY


Hi-rise with graphic

One of our most challenging project was wrapping a glass building in NYC with One Way Vision material. The image was 80x50 feet and covered rights floors of a 40 storey building in midtown Manhattan. It took 2 weeks to install due to windy conditions. It requires riggers to repel 200 feet down to begin the project with a 45-foot-wide scaffold.




Rank 12
Inkjet International

Dallas, TX

billboards by Injet Int'l

The demands for faster turnaround seem ahead of the fastest printers in the market. We recognized last year more than ever before that bigger the project, faster the turnaround needs to be. We had three larger than usual jobs last year, each of them needing precision both in production and logistics of delivery requests. In June the demand from one client was in excess of 617,000 sqft of print in just over two weeks. In November, a client's need was over 88,000 sqft in a few days. In December, between Christmas and end of the year, another demand was for 130,000 sqft.

Since all three jobs were centered around our core business—billboards—we were able to complete each one of these projects on time without an error.



Mathison Co. logo

Rank 14
Mathison Co.

Fargo, ND

Starting Line: Fit for Life! exhibit

Mathison's is proud of our continued partnership with the Kirby Science Discovery Center at the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In this exhibit called, "Starting Line: Fit for Life!", Mathison's utilized the leading edge of wide-format technology, including flatbed printing and digital cutting. We also leveraged our experience and capabilities with some tried and true techniques.

Wallpaper and window clings were printed using our Eco-sol technology. We even incorporated cut-vinyl for various shapes and lettering, then applied them to painted backdrops.

All of the graphics had to be durable and kid-friendly—as the Kirby Science Discovery Center encourages hands-on learning. This required us to apply washable laminates to many of the graphics.

Most geometric shapes were printed on photo paper and then mounted between a clear polycarbonate on the front and half-inch black sintra on the back. The cutout human figures on the wall were printed directly to white sintra using the Zund flatbed printer and cut using the Zund precision digital cutter. We used all of our inkjet, solvent, and UV curable machines in this project.

Jeff Kennedy Associates Inc. in Somerville, MA designed the graphics for this exhibit. The end result was a colorful and multi-dimensional exhibit, featuring many of Mathison's wide-format printing, cutting, finishing, and installation capabilities.

Precision Color Digital Imaging logo

Rank 16
Precision Color Digital Imaging

Las Vegas, NV

The Luxor Hotel Casino located in Las Vegas, NV, asked Precision Color to create a graphic wall. As the hotel is constantly renovating its interior, they needed this urgently needed this wall installed since management does not want customers looking at a bare construction wall detracting from the ambiance of the hotel.

The wall itself is 304 feet long and 12 feet high consisting of 76 separate panels which had to be lined up perfectly. The time constraints put on our company were enormous and it took tremendous effort and team work to provide and install this enormous wall.

Luxor was so thrilled with the project that once the construction was completed, the graphic was moved into the actual theater hosting the Criss Angel show and placed under one-inch frosted glass and is now a permanent display.

Rank 18
Big Ink Display Graphics

Eagan, MN

BIG INK Display Graphics produced a 192 foot by 18.5 foot banner for BBDO and Twin Cities Dodge dealers that hung on the wall of the right field at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, MN. The size of the banner is impressive, but the most challenging part of producing it was the fact that the banner had to fit perfectly into an existing mounting system. If the mounting didn't match up, the banner would be useless. In order to assure that the finishing was placed in the exact same positions, the old banner was shipped in and BIG INK produced the new banner on top of the old. Also, the banner had to be durable, since it is removed and replaced in between Twins games. Over 2000 feet of Velcro was sewn to the banner so it could be mounted and remounted.

CLIENT: BBDO and Twin Cities Dodge dealers
DIMENSIONS OF THE PRINT: 192x18.5 feet of 13 ounce banner vinyl
SPECIFICS: Printed on a Vutek 3360 solvent printer with Vutek ink.

Twins game

Additionally, BIG INK Display Graphics wrapped a 42 foot biodiesel bus for the Clean Air Green Tour, a mobile marketing initiative that is visiting more than 120 cities across the United States to educate consumers on the latest advances in sustainability. The Tour gives visitors hands-on experience with well-known brands that support environmental awareness including Salada Green Tea, Bosch Tools, Indy Racing League, Americans for Balanced Energy and Bosch Home Appliances.

CLIENT: A Clean Air, Green Tour
DIMENSIONS OF THE PRINT: We used a combination of 3M Control tac 180-C, 3M luster overlay and 3M clear perforated window film on a 53 foot trailer for a total of approximately 1300 square feet.
SPECIFICS: Printed on a Vutek 3360 solvent printer with Vutek ink.

MegaPrint logo

Rank 19
MegaPrint Inc.

Plymouth, NH

We produced three 53x104-inch pieces of backlit film for the Des Moines County Heritage Center in Burlington, Iowa. They were converting an old public library building into their museum, and wanted to do something dramatic in the reading room of the 1898 building, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The room has 23 foot ceilings, wonderful old woodwork and fireplaces, and enormous windows.

The customer built light boxes to fit into several of the windows, and natural light is used to illuminate the backlit graphics. One graphic has an historic photo of the town taken from the building in 1899, and it is displayed next to an identical window from which people can see the same view of the town as it is today. The other two windows have historical photos of Native Americans and a steamboat on the nearby Mississippi.

The display was conceived and executed by Will Thompson of Armadillo Arts, and the backlit boxes were built by Paragon Cabinet of Iowa City with oak to match the wonderful period wordwork that makes the building worthy of the Historic Register.

At night, the backlighting works in reverse, and the large pictures create interest in the building with passersby.

Meskwaki Window
The Steamboat Window
The Town Window image
The gallery view
© Photo by Astrid Bennett      
Will Thomson, Armadillo Arts, Graphic Art and Exhibit Design, Iowa City. The original photo was scanned at 2400 dpi from a plate in the archives of The State Historical Society of Iowa in Iowa City, taken at Tama, Iowa in 1905, on the Meskwaki Settlement. Click to view larger image.
The Steamboat Window comes from an original in the archives of the Des Moines County Historical Society, showing a Mississippi River steamboat in port at Burlington, Iowa at around 1900. Click to view larger image. The Town Window image comes from the same source, and is downtown Burlington at the turn of the 20th century. Click to view larger image. The gallery view shows a portion of the Grand Gallery of the Des Moines County Heritage Center, Burlington, Iowa, on the evening before the opening, February 21, 2009. Click to view larger image.


Rank 24
Solar Imaging
Gahanna, OH

One of the best projects that we were contracted to do this year was the environmental graphics for Eclipse Studios' new building. This project allowed us to really create some wonderful images and turn their stark walls into colorful works of art. On this project we were we given the chance to create displays in three major areas of the building: the lobby, the lounge area, and the long hallways leading to their photography studios.

The biggest challenge was the 28-foot tall walls throughout the studios and getting big enough graphics that fi­t into their budget and also fi­lled the walls. To overcome this, we used a plethora of their photographs for large stand-off wall graphics and murals. For the main mural in the entrance to the studio, we used the Macbeth color chart and dropped in images using the same colors in the chart to create a more interesting mural that integrated not only the tools of the photography trade, but images they have captured.

Along with the large mural, the stand-off graphics down the long, white hallways we produced accomplished three major issues. The fi­rst to add color and power to the walls, the second to showcase the studio's work and the third to allow for the versatility to update the images on a regular basis and keep the look fresh during the year and years to come.

In the third area, their lobby, we used high quality prints mounted to quarter-inch sintra and french cleates to give a dimensional affect to the wall. Mimicking the look of their marketing materials, we were able to create a dimensional wall mural that still gave the versatility to be changed when needed and still have the modern look that the studio was looking for.

All in all, it was a fantastic project to be involved with. We were given wonderful images to work with and the freedom to really create a unique environment. The project exceeded everyone's expectations, and in the end, we came in under their budget!

Road Rage Designs logo

Rank 25
Road Rage Designs
Spring Grove, IL

Old Style early design stages

Our best and probably most challenging project over the past twelve months was wrapping the World's Largest Beer Can. It is owned by a private individual who collects the world's largest things. He actually found the can on e-Bay, and before it became the World's Largest Beer Can it was actually the largest "Full Throttle" can in the world, and was used by Coca-Cola to advertise the product during Superbowl XL (2006). (The commercial featuring the Full Throttle can is available to be seen on YouTube under "Full Throttle Superbowl XL Commercial").

We met with the owner of the can 18 months before we actually brought it into the shop for the wrap, and met with him to figure out how to prepare the can. At the time, he and his buddies were wondering what to do with it, and wondering if we could wrap it.

After a lot of hard work to clean it up and remove the paint from the Full Throttle logos, he brought it to us for the wrap. He wanted it wrapped like his father's favorite beer—Old Style.

We were in contact with Pabst (who now owns Old Style) and we received the original artwork for the can, including the PMS colors, the bar code, the fluid ounces...everything.

The wrap was printed on our Mimaki JV-3 130 SP2, using SS2 inks on Avery 1007 EZ RS, and laminated with Avery DOL1000 on our GBC Artic Titan laminator.

The hardest part of the wrap was deciding where to start, but once we got the first panel down the wrap actually went very quick. The wrap even includes a "born on date" on the bottom of the can. The owner left it with us for two weeks, and folks came from everywhere to have their picture taken with it. We were also contacted by CBS 58 (a Milwaukee TV station) and FOX 6 (another Milwaukee TV station) for interviews.

Since everyone in our shop is so proud of the work we do, we closed the shop so everyone could go up to the TV station for the interview. The first station that met us was FOX 6, and they reserved a place for us at Wisconsin State Fair Park (during the NASCAR race) for the interview, then we were off to CBS 58 where they actually spent a couple of hours with us and we toured the station.

Can at State Fair Park

Our marketing company told us that we ended up on nine TV stations in Wisconsin, and on WGN in Chicago because of the project. All in all, a very cool event and a great way for the employees to be "celebrities" for a day. It was really a great project!