CAN WE FIX IT?

Ask Links Signs and Graphics, and the answer’s “yes, we can!”

Blackpool’s popularity as a resort destination for families is soaring and Links Signs and Graphics, itself Blackpool based, is playing its part by supplying a range of signing and graphics services to the resort and to businesses in the region. Among the latest projects LSG has delivered, is a range of ambient graphics for the Madame Tussauds™ attraction, building on work the company has previously supplied.

Madame Tussauds is one of Blackpool’s most enduring and popular attraction. Once inside, visitors can rub shoulders with uncannily realistic models of celebrity favourites. LSG’s work provides rich, ambience-enhancing set graphics that emphasise the experience, putting the models in a familiar context. LSG has already provided immersive graphics including a cliff-face for Bear Grylls, a jungle clearing for Sir David Attenborough and a studio for the Chatty Man himself, Mr Alan Carr. The latest work LSG has produced represent a bit of a departure.

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With his disgusting personal hygiene issues, off-colour complexion and bad moods, one of the attractions newer stars would seem to get off to questionable start in the popularity stakes, but, everyone loves Shrek. LSG’s work places the world’s most admired ogre in his swamp complete with a log-crawl for the legions of kids who flock to see him. It’s a world first for the Blackpool attraction and a great example of LSG’s expertise in digital print.

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LSG used its Mimaki JV-33 for the set graphics to satisfy the need for vibrant, larger-than-life colour the set needed. For the print media, LSG specified Metamark MD5-A. Mimaki printers and Metamark MD5-A are no strangers to each other and the combination, thanks to the Metamark media’s ink handling and high resolving capabilities, produce sensational results in the right hands. MD5-A features Metamark’s MetaScape air evacuation adhesive system making application much simpler as trapped air doesn’t stand a chance.

The finished application accomplishes all its designers set out to achieve. Plenty of murk, detail so deep you could swim in it if you were minded to, and just the sort of atmosphere ogres seem to like.

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Perhaps the polar opposite of Shrek, but just as popular with young audiences, is Mr Positivity himself, Bob The Builder. Again, LSG’s work provides the star with the ambient graphics needed to deliver the full strength “can we fix it” experience and once more makes the point that, in LSG’s case, “yes, we can.” Full-on colour is again the need and so the JV-33 and Metamark MD5-A provide the outlet for the LSG team’s digital printing and application skills. The result does the job. It sets a tone and a context fitting the family oriented area of the attraction like a glove and creates a sense of wonder in the young audience that will endure for a lifetime.

To bill LSG as a signmaker would be selling the company a little short in terms of the capability it fields. LSG is a committed investor in technology and in people. It puts an emphasis on quality and the value of superb finishing. It’s a technically accomplished printer and it knows how to manage complex projects too. The company’s work for Madame Tussauds makes the point.

SIGNS EXPRESS SHEFFIELD MAKES A SPLASH

Signs Express Sheffield takes digital print further with Metamark…

Signs Express, Sheffield, has used its competence in creating durable and expertly installed digitally printed murals, particularly in the exhibition and retail markets, to great effect at the site of a new hydrotherapy pool at Sheffield Children’s Hospital. The Signs Express Sheffield’s team’s installation adds colourful and stylised marine-life themed graphics to the state-of-the-art facility creating a buoyant mood and just the right ambience for its young visitors to enjoy.

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The new pool at the Ryegate Children’s Centre, which was built following a successful fundraising campaign, was opened in March 2013 by Paralympic gold medallist Oliver Hynd. The facility is designed to help disabled youngsters develop their skills and strengthen their bodies.

The new facility replaces the centre’s previous fifty year old pool and features an attractive, contemporary design with an easily accessible sunken bathing area with underwater lights and an improved hoist system.

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Signs Express Sheffield worked with Cat Powell the manager of Artfelt, The Children’s Hospital Charity, to assist and advise regarding the applied graphics. The application environment is one where continual high levels of humidity would challenge the stability of the applied prints so the right choices and technical expertise were key. The Signs Express team also advised regarding preparation and the application of a speciality paint to the walls to further promote reliable adhesion.

Matt laminated Metamark MDP-H printed on Signs Express Sheffield’s Roland VersaCAMM printer was selected for the job. Proven for its ability to bond to low-energy surfaces, this specialist digital media delivers the high impact results the design demands, and, with large expanses featuring planes of even colour, also confirms Signs Express Sheffield’s expertise as a digital printer. The results are artefact free and flawlessly applied.

Carol Morris, owner of Signs Express Sheffield said,

“It has been a joy to be part of this project.  Signs Express Sheffield worked with key members of the team including the artists and hospital staff to ensure the right decisions were being made. The end result…a wonderful environment for the children”.

Cat Powell, Artfelt Manager at the Children’s Hospital personally sent a letter of thanks to Signs Express Sheffield saying –

 “Thank you so much for all your help in making the hydrotherapy pool project a great success. Your support paid a key part in helping us to be able to transform the pool and we are extremely grateful for this”.

The letter also included thanks for hospital staff working with the children. Jenny Featherstone, team leader for community physiotherapy and occupational therapy at Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust added –

 “We are immensely grateful to all of the people who have been involved in this project. The new pool provided as with a bright, fresh, fun environment which will transform hydrotherapy for all involved”.

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Sign Express Sheffield’s work at the new facility demonstrates how the creative use of digital print continues to define an expanding application market. Wall covering, a specialisation the Signs Express Sheffield team is known for, in particular is capable of transforming spaces with minimal disruption and really does live up to its billing as being only limited by  the imagination.

METAMARK FOR ADDED ATTRACTION

LSG TAKES THE STAGE

Links Signs and Graphics plays its part in Blackpool’s stellar regeneration…

Legoland, Alton Towers and The London Eye might not appear to have much in common beyond being very successful public attractions, but they’re in fact all operated by the same company – Merlin Entertainments Group. Merlin also manages Warwick Castle, Chessington World of Adventure, and Sealife Centres among other attractions in the UK and overseas.

Merlin’s success has propelled it to the point where it is now the largest attractions operator in Europe, and the second largest in the world. With over fifteen thousand employees and real passion for its brands, Merlins’ attractions’ success demonstrates the company’s expertise in its field.

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Among other attractions to recently enter Merlin’s portfolio are Blackpool’s iconic Tower, and what was until recently Louis Tussauds’ Waxworks, also in Blackpool. Blackpool’s Council acquired these assets, and others, from Leisure Parcs Ltd. recently and now, with Merlin at the attractions’ helms, is intent on using them to achieve Blackpool’s ambition of becoming a thoroughly regenerated international holiday and business destination.

Ambition’s alter-ego is investment and the Council has secured significant funding in pursuit of its goals. The Council estimates that its plans would result in as many as 800,000 additional visitors coming to the town every year, who will take home great reviews of their experiences and between them have spent up to £55M and yet be all the richer for it.

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Plans for the Tower include an “Eye” branded experience and a 4D cinema at what’s now the Tower’s observation level and, coming gently back to street level again, Merlin intends rebranding Louis Tussauds Waxworks into the UK’s second Madame Tussauds so extending the reach of the London based brand, which Merlin also operates.

Merlin’s plans for the waxworks are no less ambitious than those it’s applying to the Tower. In what amounts to a top-to-bottom rebranding and relaunch, Merlin is moving the attraction out of the traditional, and into the interactive age. The attraction clearly has its role to play in Merlin’s plans and in Blackpool’s.

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It speaks realms for the talents of a company that styles itself a Signmaker, but is in fact much more, and the versatility of the digital output that the company produces, that Links Signs and Graphics, LSG, was approached and appointed to provide a significant contribution not only to the new attraction’s signing, but to the creation and installation of its ambient exhibit graphics too.

The ambient graphics the attraction employs, contribute powerfully to the overall experience visitors will be buying when they visit Blackpool’s Madame Tussauds. The models themselves engage the visitor on one level, the ambience on quite another. The whole experience is the product of expert design. The desired outcome, a memorable visit that people will want to repeat so building the brand’s reputation and its proven pulling-power.

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LSG’s work amounts to a set-building exercise on a scale that befits the importance of the venue. Working with its operator’s designers, LSG was required to produce flawless digital output to decorate the scenes’ flats. The printed materials used amounted to about a thousand linear metres. 

The laminated output was produced using Metamark MD3 digital vinyl which was applied directly to the flats’ prepared surfaces. Like its other MD Class media, Metamark’s MD3 is highly regarded for its ink appetite and resolution holding ability and it clearly produced a command performance in concert with Linkss’s Mimaki JV-33 printer, which was used for the entire print run.

The printed MD3 flats recreates real world resonances in which the models’ subjects are known. Ben Fogel’s model perches on an exposed rock-face rendered by LSG on the scene’s flats and continuing onto the floor. Alan Carr is surrounded by all his chatty self’s familiar scenery and the likes of Jonathan Ross and Davina McCall among many others are all part of an experience made all the more entertaining by the creative work provided by LSG’s work with Metamark materials.

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Given the size of the print run and the fact some panel matching was inevitable, one of LSG’s production challenges was ensuring total consistency from one abutting panel to another. The Metamark MD3 played its part well in this respect and others. LSG’s application team working with the designers, ensured that panel overlaps were carefully managed and expertly fitted. The result is uniform expanses of colour even where the design is swept in density over a run of many metres.

Every element in a programme the size of the Madame Tussauds project plays a role in delivering the whole, undiluted experience. Luckily, in LSG, the project found a company where quality is cultural, and talent available. Digital print in the hands of LSG has proven itself equal to the job of transforming an attraction and bringing it into an age where the participation and involvement of the visitor is key.