ImagineThis printing

Musical Showcase: 427 Design puts capabilities on display in training room

Paula Aven Gladych is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colo. She can be reached at

An Akron, Ohio-based graphic design firm got a chance to create an innovative sales and training space for one of its large-format printing clients: an indoor street scene with a musical theme.

427 Design was asked by ImagineThis, a large format wholesale printer that outsources to smaller printing companies, to come up with a way to showcase its products and abilities in a creative, memorable and functional way, says Brad Hain, president of 427 Design.

“It will be a sales training thing for their people as well as onsite for some local printers to come look and see all the things they do,” he says.

The company had a small conference room on the second floor that wasn’t being used so the team at 427 Design set to work coming up with a concept.

“[Our contact at ImagineThis] said, ‘we have all these materials and want to show them in practice instead of samples of each piece,” says Andrea Brown, client service director for 427 Design. Since most of what they offer is outdoor signage, the challenge was “how to come up with a scene indoors that feels outdoors.”

What it came up with was a musical theme. Music “resonated with everyone in some way,” she says. The company created a music store front that was having a sidewalk sale. As part of the sidewalk display, the company wrapped three old guitars and a drum kit to make them look new and placed signs advertising the sale, as well as a point of purchase display for music CDs out front. A street travels down the middle of the room. The opposite side of the room is covered in a wall mural that shows a city view and park scape. In front of that are signs and fence banners advertising an upcoming concert in the park.

“The idea was to give them a great idea. Imagine some of this stuff happening. They can visualize it, touch it and get a good idea of all this stuff,” Hain says.

Erik Baker, vice president of sales for ImagineThis in Massillon, Ohio, said that his company employs many customer service representatives. When the company hires new ones, it wanted a place where internal people could train them and help them “better understand what these applications are used for: awnings, yard signs. When you see real life things like that it makes them understand it. That way they know it a lot better to help customers when they call in and ask questions about these products.”

The room is also used to show local sign shops the various possibilities.

Baker says his only recommendation to the team at 427 Design was to “make it energetic and fun and something everyone has in common with and that’s what they did.”

“It didn’t originate as a music theme at first,” says Brown. Originally they had the idea of creating a park with turf on half of the room with a street wending through the middle and numerous storefronts on the opposite wall.

“We went down that path for a week and then we were in a meeting internally, everyone was bouncing ideas,” she says. Attendees agreed that the project still seemed disjointed. It needed a theme running all the way through. The company’s creative director threw out the idea of music as a theme. That’s when it all clicked, she says. They ran the idea by Baker and he loved it.

For the project, the team at 427 Design went to thrift stores around town and brainstormed. They purchased old windows and doors for the store front, old guitars and drum sets to place in front of the music store and even called a scrap yard to see if it had the back end of a van it could use.

It did and they cut the back off the van to place in the room’s closet. The van still has working tail lights and the doors of the van open into the closet, where there are shelves with simple materials inside. The van was covered in a vehicle wrap that makes it look old and rusty.

“It was a really fun project,” Brown says.

The van and the backlit awning at the front of the music store are the main focal points of the room. The project even utilized printed window perfs on conference room windows that look down on the production room floor.

Baker says that it would be great if larger small sign shops could do something similar to peddle their wares.

“If they have end users, it would really help them sell that product too,” he adds.

ImagineThis has an online store for resellers and it takes orders night and day. It handles larger projects that the smaller shops aren’t equipped to handle. The company employs 15 people that work three shifts throughout the day.

427 Design is a 10-year-old graphic design firm that considers itself a creative solutions company.

“We do more than graphic design. We think beyond and use graphic design as a way into creative solutions for people: video, animation, photography, screen printing, illustrations, you name it,” says Hain. The company employs nine people.