After spending many years working in the signage industry, David Mattingly, owner of Xpressive Graphix, a full-service sign shop in Zanesville, Ohio, decided to start his own business in 2005 to better serve the artistic needs of the market. Many people simply view the signage industry as a labeling business, but the artistic abilities of signage are so much more than that, Mattingly says.
“Our designs stand out,” Mattingly says. “We put a lot more time and effort into the actual design and spend a lot more time with our clients than just taking orders. We try to figure out goals with signage whether it’s looking for a simple label or creating a custom image.”
With a 54-inch Roland SP540 printer and an RV, Mattingly originally planned to set up a traveling business, but Xpressive Graphix’s customer base quickly grew, he says. Mattingly decided to settle Xpressive Graphix in a one-room office, and after only two years, the business grew enough to move operations into a 5,200-square-foot building.
“We focus on a little bit of everything, but we still consider ourselves a design firm first,” Mattingly says. “Everyone here has some kind of background in art. Since we started, we progressed from doing decals, banners and small projects to now doing a lot of vehicle wraps and more dimensional signage.”
For dimensional signage, design is an especially critical element, which Xpressive Graphix recently showcased in a project for local restaurant Olde Falls Inn, Mattingly says. Olde Falls Inn has a longstanding history in town with loyal customers, but it wanted to attract new patrons with eye-catching signage. Originally, Olde Falls Inn wanted a digital signage unit, similar to another business down the street, but Mattingly encouraged his client to look at the possibilities of dimensional signage. While digital units certainly have their place, a well-designed dimension signage piece shines in its own unique way.
“Mainly, he liked that it was different; it’s a landmark instead of a label and stands out from the crowd,” Mattingly says. “There’s nothing in our area like this. We talked to him about his options, and he bought right into it.”
Before creating the design, Xpressive Graphix researched Olde Falls Inn’s history and put together some concepts based on its findings, Mattingly says. The final design incorporated elements from an old menu, which was the basis for the sign’s shape, and Xpressive Graphix added its own flair to help the monument stand out.
“He immediately fell in love with it,” Mattingly says. “We showed him some hand-drawn sketches, and he was amazed at what we could do. He jumped onboard with both feet.”
To fabricate the sign, which was primarily made of 15-pound and 18-pound HDU, Xpressive Graphix first built an interior armature made of steel and hung it vertically from the ceiling. For an authentic look, Mattingly and his team hand carved the wood features in the background using an air tool, he says. The figures were also hand sculpted and painted, and then all of the pieces were glued and screwed together. For better visibility, Xpressive Graphix added Sylvania exterior LEDs to create a reverse-halo effect. Including the frame, the entire sign weighed about 800 pounds.
“We spent a minimum of 150 hours on it, and we had pretty much all hands on deck,” Mattingly says. “Anybody who could hold a paint brush was painting. It was quite a challenge.”
Before installing the sign, Xpressive Graphix poured a 4' x 4' concrete footer reinforced with rebar and added bolts into the concrete, Mattingly says. Xpressive Graphix then mounted steel posts and welded the framework and main sign through the posts. From start to finish, installation took approximately six hours.
With the sign now up, the reaction has only been position—both for Olde Falls Inn and Xpressive Graphix—Mattingly says. Olde Falls Inn has gained the out-of-towner market share it targeted as well as an influx of locals who noticed the new look. Meanwhile, Mattingly estimates that Xpressive Graphix has gained about 20 new jobs from this project alone.
“For us, the impact has been huge,” Mattingly says. “Not only did everybody see it but everybody in town has been talking about it. Everywhere I go I’m hearing remarks. People didn’t know it was possible, so it’s been a big deal for us.”
Ultimately, Olde Falls Inn’s sign transformed into a landmark, which Mattingly credits for its success. This sign is unlike any other in town, and its uniqueness creates a memorable impression that a generic sign can’t match.
“If you turn a sign into a landmark, it does its job tenfold compared to having old, conventional signage,” Mattingly says. “When you push the envelope and make clients think outside of the box, it really gets them excited, and the creativity starts flowing.”