We received a great many submissions of worthy projects for our 2017 Vehicle Graphics Contest – solid evidence that shops all across the country are coming up with highly creative designs and performing complex installations. Advances in all aspects of the wrap world are making this possible, from software to printers, wrap films, laminates, laminators and other tools. But the creativity and craft behind the materials and supplies is what drives the burgeoning demand for wraps, with shops outdoing themselves year after year. And 2017 is no exception.
Judges, former winners
This year, a few shops that regularly enter the contest and place among the winners could not enter for various reasons. While we missed seeing their projects among the entries, we took the opportunity to ask them still to participate, only as judges. Happily, they agreed – enthusiastically! I would like to thank the following judges, former winners all, who shared their time and expertise to select the 20 projects on the ensuing pages: Katherine Becher (Wicked Wraps; Mukilteo, WA), Hayes Holzhauer (bluemedia; Tempe, AZ), Chris Kmit (Incognito Wraps, Las Vegas) and Jerry Spraggins (Chazzzam Signs & Graphics; Bellingham, WA). All did a considered but efficient job.
The obvious choice
The judges chose the winners of the seven categories of our competition, but the Best of Show was obvious to our staff: the Pokémon Mobile Capture Unit by Absolute Perfection (Sykesville, MD). This wrap had everything – a wildly creative concept, painstaking design, a combination of wrap films including translucent and reflective, and even LEDs to make it glow in the dark. The company installed the wrap on an employee’s (Tom O’Malley) car “live” during the USSC show last December. (Editor’s note: Even though Pokémon is a registered trademark, because no payment was involved, permission wasn’t necessary.)
“My design was inspired by the new Pokémon GO mobile app and my love for rustic and weathered wrap designs,” said Chris Fong, VP, applied graphics division. He conjured a narrative to back up his idea of the Pokémon Mobile Capture Unit – the story going that “this vehicle spent years battling and capturing fierce Pokémon,” he said. Portraying them inside the vehicle using window graphics (another specialty of the company) reinforced the theme. Design elements, such as claw marks and dents mimicked the damage that various captured Pokémon have done.
“I visited junk yards and took over a thousand photos of rust, dents, broken glass, etc.,” Chris recalled. Using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, Chris estimates he spent 40 hours over three weeks creating the final design’s 200-plus elements.
LEDs peek at you
“I had an idea that I wanted to have LEDs glow under the vinyl,” Chris said. In the past, light strips had been too thick, leaving them as easily seen under vinyl as kids hiding under their bed-covers. However, Chris said, “I found a company [search “Lychee neon” on amazon.com] that sells an LED strip that’s paper thin.” Using 3M IJ180mC-114 “transparent” vinyl, Chris’ team could wrap over and completely hide the red light strip while allowing about 75% of the light to glow through. The underlying vinyl comprised a custom-cut, diamond-plate design incorporating the Absolute Perfection logo. “I picked a diamond-plate design because it would work great with all the metal and bolts,” Chis said.
The shop printed the wrap on 3M IJ180mC-10 using their HP 360 Latex before applying 3M Scotchcal 8520 Matte Overlaminate with their Seal 54 laminator, and brought everything to Atlantic City. Using a textured laminate for the roof gave the rust design more depth. Still not done, they also employed 3M’s new 780mC-10R “reflective” vinyl to incorporate a caution strip on the rear spoiler for a more interactive look to anyone following. Company owner Bill Valway and Tom joined Chris for the installation, which took 16 man hours during the show.
The combination of sheer inventiveness – from the detailed Pokémon concept through the use of new vinyl films and even LEDs – and the flat-out fun factor, make this project not only the Best of Show, but also a new standard for capturing a great idea using the best and newest products. Summon the “trainer” in you so your shop can catch – and maybe even surpass – them all.
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