Décor for More Business

Wood, acrylic, and glass are just a few of the substrates MN Designs transforms into gorgeous interior décor products.

Cayce, South Carolina-based MN Designs’ bread and butter is vinyl, but owner Marsha Newman is always exploring ways to expand her reach and meet her customers’ needs, which is how her business grew from offering banner material in the ‘90s to specializing in wholesale signage supplies and digital printing of graphics and banners. 

Newman – whose 10,000-square-foot facility is run by six employees – mostly prints wholesale for other sign shops. Following a visit to SGIA Expo in 2017, Newman decided to replace her 6-year-old UV flatbed with a hybrid wide-format inkjet printer – an EFI H1625 LED – to expand the variety of materials on which she can print. 

Newman has found a niche in direct-to-substrate printing for the décor market. She has recently provided hundreds of prints of artwork on wood for a customer who then supplies the items for gift shops to sell. She also frequently prints artwork on acrylic, canvas, glass, and foamboard. Another recent direct-to-substrate project included printing images of athletes in action onto glass panels that were used in the fitness center of a local university. 

print
MN Designs second-surface printed this photograph onto the back of three 10 x 37-inch acrylic pieces to be hung side by side as wall décor. The color was printed first and a white ink was printed on top of the color to make the prints translucent when viewed through the acrylic. 

“If it’s flat, MN Designs can print it,” Newman says. The options for substrates with direct-to-substrate printing are vast – and Newman admits she’s having fun with it. 

MN Designs printed a series of vintage maps of Charleston, South Carolina, on Birch wood. “Printing these on wood has really been a worthwhile project. They have a beautiful texture, and each piece of wood is different. The texture of the wood even makes the water in the image look like it has movement to it,” Newman says. 

charleston
The shop printed more than 100 24 x 32-inch vintage maps of Charleston, South Carolina, that the customer supplied to gift shops to sell as home décor. Because of the variations in the natural 1/2-inch-thick Birch wood, each map is unique. The wood grain gives the water in the image the appearance of motion, Newman says. 

Newman always had a love for art and considered studying it in college, but was discouraged by a high school teacher’s suggestion that her only career choice would be an art teacher. Although she eventually chose to earn a finance degree – and she worked as a Federal Reserve Bank examiner before starting MN Designs 25 years ago – her interest in art and creative endeavors remained.  

Because of the improvements in digital printing quality, MN Designs prints beautiful graphics and artwork every day. “Now, I’m around art all the time. It’s really come full circle for me,” Newman says.

Explore more direct-to-substrate graphics in Big Picture's May 2018 "New Direction" feature.

Companies mentioned within this article
View more from this Big Picture issue