Extreme Vinyl: Keys to Creativity

It’s easy to forget to keep the most important part of your company alive.

“I will master something, then the creativity will come.” – Japanese proverb.

From cyberpunk manga to neon-lit Kanji pictograms, there’s no escaping the wealth of cultural imagery and vignettes that is Tokyo in April. Your senses are on maximum overdrive as you process the visual spectacles that unfold before your eyes. On this trip – my second to Japan – I thought it would be fitting to discuss ways to generate creative wrap ideas and applications while I’m in a land that integrates art and design, both traditional and modern, at every corner.

Finding Inspiration
This picturesque city is awash in stunning architecture, historical sites, Sakura-laden fields, and intricately decorated cuisine – resources that will influence my work in the days, months, and years to come.

In our endless quest to push boundaries with our wrap designs, we should never lose sight of satisfying our core audience – our customers – whose expectations become more demanding with each job we’re awarded. I consistently want to explore the creative side of vinyl wraps, from design themes to installation techniques to available media. These simple yet proven options have inspired me to generate my own ideas for projects as each effort I put forth brings me closer to becoming a true “wrap artist.” Or, better yet, a wrap artist who gets paid for doing what he thoroughly enjoys each day.

In my LA office, I have assembled a large bulletin board (aptly named “Big Bang,” to signify “ideas springing into existence”) where I’ve gathered an assortment of magazine clippings, Instagram snapshots, anime cells, tattoo catalogs, fabric patterns, vinyl swatches, film paraphernalia, freehand drawings, color wheels, travel postcards, famous quotes – pretty much all of the memorable and insightful things that have left an indelible impression in my world. There are so many distractions at every turn of the day – especially in this digital age – and I can easily lose my focus or train of thought. I’m a visual person, and the board never disappoints. It has furnished me with numerous collaborative ideas for some of our most memorable custom and fleet wraps.

That inspiration is also where Google and the screenshot feature on my iPhone become such important tools in assisting me when I’m in the process of collecting ideas or I just need an extra spark to kick-start my next artistic endeavor. Where you find your ideas or how you collect them differs for each person or designer. My advice is to pinpoint an organized method that will make you feel comfortable and easily assist you in preparing for your next meeting with a customer. You’re never limited to just your computer, cellphone, or sketchbook; your mind is also the perfect memory bank, and may unleash a fury of untapped creative impulses you never knew existed when called upon. You might not even notice it, but all of your collected observations will start shaping your identity as an artist.

Turning Ideas into Jobs
How many colors are there in the world? According to Google, the number clocks in at 10 million. Like many established wrappers, I must admit that I get very giddy when a film manufacturer releases new colors, finishes, or textures into the market. Flipping through a vinyl swatchbook is like flipping through a rainbow of origami paper; the two art forms share the same principle of transforming themselves into decorative 3D shapes and figures. In our case, vinyl molds itself onto vehicles, walls, floors, pianos, etc. As inkjet technology advances, shops are more able to achieve a distinct color match or an astonishing digital print of themes, images, and silhouettes that are emblazoned on an exotic car or 53-foot trailer, revamping their appearance to delight clients and pique the public’s interest.

After you have mastered “Basic Wrapping 101,” the next stage in your evolution as a graphic installer or wrapper is to stay on top of your craft. Whether it’s a fleet wrap with 300 van units or a custom wrapped McLaren, each job opportunity presents itself as a means for you to develop your technique and your design ingenuity with your cuts, panel alignments, etc. When you’re armed with a concept or theme in mind, these opportunities provide a truly unique learning experience where you get to experiment with an array of graphic options and wrap techniques: vinyl overlays and underlays, mixtures of different textures and finishes, gradient color schemes, and more.

In the world of vinyl wraps, I realize there are no dominant design trends. Nothing is original; everything that catches your eye has been borrowed and recycled, but it’s made different with the designer’s personal touch. When you’re tasked with a graphic design job, the client gives you a number of conditions and requirements before you begin the work. As any designer can attest, it can be a very confining experience – or it can be freeing.

I treat every job that lands on my desk with the utmost seriousness, approaching it as an opportunity to build relationships with my clients through trust, the ability to design creatively, and the quality of our wraps. But not all jobs are created equal; sometimes you get a chance to flex that creativity, and sometimes you don’t.

With our entertainment-based jobs, I can only describe the behind-the-scenes atmosphere as a potent mix of politics, allure, and the macabre. It’s the early development phase of these assignments that truly excites my team; that’s where the creative exchanges, film tests, tight timelines, and the inception of proofs take place in anticipation for the actual installation phase. There never seem to be enough options to present to the client when it comes to these “high-security” wraps that are specifically commissioned for television, commercials, public events, or films. We are required to have backup plans on hand to accommodate all the last-minute changes; that takes more ideas and inspiration.

Designers should be mindful that creating something based on another person’s requirements is vastly dissimilar from doing something that meets your own personal requirements. This rule is not as applicable to a project where you are granted the creative freedom to pitch your own interpretations or themes to the client with little or no direction. Either way, the vinyl work we do is all subjective, and I believe you’re doing your best job when you open yourself up. Of course, this can leave you vulnerable – I tend to take things personally when a client rejects my initial ideas, in some cases with scathing remarks. But that’s also when you truly step out as an artist. It’s about channeling those creative impulses and not being afraid to make those choices that will hopefully shape your project into something special.

Those choices will also develop, refine, and define your signature style. As I take my last stroll down Tokyo Midtown, I find myself under a line of Sakura trees (also known as Cherry Blossoms) in full bloom. The flowers will fade in one week. I guess nothing lasts forever, and that’s what makes it so beautiful – just like the ideas floating in your head. Capture them now and apply them to your next work of art.

Read more Extreme Vinyl from Sino Tour or check out Big Picture's June/July 2017 "Ideas" issue.

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