The Hang of It: A Century of Stories

Visual Communications and Archetype sign help a community college celebrate its centennial.
November 10 VisCom banner 1.jpg

From medieval times, when warring clans used animal blood and vegetable dyes to decorate flags before heading into battle, banners have served as a visual-communication staple. They’ve perpetually loomed as a cornerstone for signshops that emphasize vinyl fabrication. According to the 2009 Commercial State of the Industry Report (see ST, August 2010, page 62), 92.8% of shops that produce non-electric signs fabricate banners, and banners represent 19.9% of all commercial sign sales (among high-volume shops that gross more than $500,000 of sales annually, that percentage grows to 23.8%). Ever-improving materials, inks, RIPs and color profiles have enabled providers to deliver more vivid, crisp prints that can be installed in more varied environments.

Sure, there will always be a market for 4 x 8-ft. “Sale Today” or “Grand Opening” banners designed with black, Helvetica letters. Such a job’s price point is simply what fits some customers’ modest bottom lines. However, some customers thankfully take the maxim, “A business with no sign is a sign of no business,” to a higher level with dynamic, soft-sided signage – often well integrated with broader environmental-graphic programs that feature signage, wayfinding and other signage elements.
 
Visual Communications (St. Paul, MN) created a banner and signage campaign for St. Paul Community College – which was named the “Best Community College in America” by Washington Monthly – to honor the institution’s 100th anniversary. The campaign includes 28 pairs of pole-hung banners, which feature the school name and centennial logo, and depictions of current and former St. Paul students, as well as two, 54-in. x 60-ft., exterior-wall banners and a 6- x 54-ft. interior-wall 3-D banners – made from 3A Composites’ Dibond® composite material – that commemorates the school’s centennial.

The program complements a series of wayfinding and building-ID markers that help familiarize visitors with the campus, which Visual Communications also fabricated. Richard Lang, Visual Communications’ art director, said the shop earned the job based on referrals from work it performed for other local colleges.
Visual Communications composed the banners’ design, using Adobe®’s Illustrator®, Photoshop® and InDesign® software, and the school furnished images, which it culled from student publications. Lang said the project’s designer, Jesse Yungner, primarily relied on Illustrator for such applications because of its type and vector-scale tools, as well as its CAD Tools plug-in that enables accurate building-elevation scaling to ensure banners are fabricated to proper proportions.

He said the shop’s initial site survey revealed several challenges the campus posed: “First, the college is located high on Cathedral Hill, above Interstate 94 and set back from neighboring streets by green space that surrounds campus buildings. We had to create banners that would be large enough to gain attention while still engaging enough to reflect the college’s student ‘personality.’ Prior to this installation, the school had no on-campus, graphic identity, so it was important to make a splash with the campaign.”

Visual Communications subcontracted the banners’ fabrication to Archetype Sign (Eagan, MN), which used US Banner Corp.’s (Greenville, SC) 13-oz. Power-Banner material. To print the materials, the shop used its EFI-VUTEk QS 2000 UV-ink printer. Lang said the printer’s roll-to-roll/rigid-media versatility and rapid production speed make it a strong choice for such digital-printing applications, as well as UV inks’ ability to retain color longer.
 
Archetype Sign (Eagan, MN) also handled the pole banners’ installation (the school made its own arrangements for the wall-mounted banners). Archetype used Liberty Flag & Specialty’s 9554-PM Multi-Chore double-banner-arm kit. Lang said the fast-track turnaround time and obtaining a variance for approval to install the banners created the project’s most significant hurdles.