Meaningful Print

Imaging graphics for an exhibit tugs at the heartstrings of production staff and clients alike.

Printing signage and graphics typically doesn’t elicit an emotional reaction, but one project created by Woburn, Massachusetts-based Bluebird Graphic Solutions proved to be incredibly impactful for both employees and clients.

Although Bluebird frequently fabricates museum exhibits, the subject matter was unusually powerful for the displays the company produced for the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights, and Genocide Education at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, New Jersey. “To sift through this information and to be staring at some of these photographs for so long, it was an intense project compared to a lot of the stuff we do, and it had a real emotional connection for us,” says Ross Acerbi, Bluebird graphic designer.


While the exhibits were being finalized at Bluebird’s 9000-square-foot facility, another customer was visiting for a shop tour. The displays’ subject matter regarding human rights abuses attracted the attention of the visiting clients and kicked off an in-depth discussion – that had nothing to do with the client’s project.

The job was “intense,” Acerbi says. Factors that added to the intensity – besides the deep subject matter featured on more than a dozen printed wood panels – included crafting atypical elements for the displays, a turnaround time of less than two months, and an install site more than 250 miles from Bluebird.

Bluebird used its Mimaki JFX200-2513 flatbed printer to image graphics directly onto ¾-inch White Oak plywood. Additional printed elements used in the exhibit included ¼-inch black acrylic dimensional pieces – also printed on the Mimaki – and printed and cut matte white vinyl wall graphics.

bbgIt was a three-layer process to get the desired final product on the 4 x 8-foot wood boards. They first printed a ghosted white image, then two different layers on top for color, followed by the black and white text. 

Although Bluebird’s specialty is exhibit graphics, this project included some elements that were unusual for the company. The specifications from the design firm, Proun Design, featured the construction of wood display cabinets: new territory for Bluebird. “We actually built a wood shop before we could fabricate the cabinets,” Acerbi adds. Fabricators also consulted local furniture makers for tips to master cabinet making. 

The biggest hurdle? Trying to get the best quality wood, which is a challenge when working with a natural substrate, Acerbi says. They started with Birch and didn’t like the way it was yellowing, so they moved to White Oak.

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

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