After a successful project at an NBA Arena, LSI Graphics gained the trust of Lit Vodka and took on a second massive installation for the brand.
LSI Graphics, based out of Memphis, Tennessee, has been a power player in the wide-format printing market for more than 45 years. They’ve created custom print, signage, and promotional products for businesses around the world. The company’s mission is to “bring creative ideas to life by providing modern graphic solutions with integrity, service, and enthusiasm.” They succeed in achieving this mission by being meticulous and thoughtful with every project. Throughout the years, they’ve worked with clients like the National Basketball Association (NBA), The Make-a-Wish Foundation, and major universities.
Lit Vodka, a vodka brand focused on marketing to millennials, approached LSI Graphics with the prospect of creating a branded bar in the FedEx Forum, the home of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, in October 2019. After a few meetings and trips to the arena, LSI took over a space that was once the Bud Light Bar & Grill. The shop transformed it into the “Lit Lounge,” which has the feel of a nightclub within the basketball arena. Lit Vodka was so happy with the results that they called upon LSI Graphics again in early 2020 to take over the club lounge at the Infinite Energy Arena in Atlanta.
“We gained trust from them [Lit Vodka] after the project at the FedEx Forum. So, they actually flew Penny Walker, our sales rep, and I out to the Infinite Energy Arena and we spent a couple days there walking around the space and kind of getting an idea of what’s going on. It can be overwhelming because it’s an entire arena,” says Austin Barnes, creative director, LSI Graphics.
While designing, printing, and installing graphics for an entire section of an arena may seem like an intimidating task, LSI Graphics takes pride in their ability to meet a client’s needs in any scenario, no matter how big the project may be. They hang their hat on the ability to create stunning environmental graphics.
“Environmental graphics are our forte. My background is in architecture. Special orientation doesn’t bother me; I actually enjoy it. And I think that’s the difference – when you’re talking about environmental graphics, you’re talking about multiple graphics in relation to each other that define a space,” says Barnes. “That’s something that we’re all excited about when we get to be a part of it – when we get to really transform an entire space using different materials, techniques, and designs. We’re definitely equipped to do it all.”
So, how does a project like this get accomplished? It begins in the design stage.
The design process started with Barnes and Walker’s tour of the arena in Atlanta. While there, Barnes brought his camera and began to take pictures of the designated area Lit Vodka would be inhabiting. During their tour, they began to imagine the best way to brand the space and gained valuable insight from the Lit Vodka team during a few dinners.
“They basically showed us huge spaces and said we can do whatever we want. We took a lot of pictures. We didn’t bother with measurements at first because it’s daunting and you don’t know what you’re doing upfront,” says Barnes. “So, we just kind of used those pictures to mock up different styles of graphics to find out where we can make the most impact. I always try to keep scale in mind, even though we didn’t take measurements. I just kind of have an idea of how big something can be, keeping in mind material limitations and cost, to present something that’s eye-catching and impactful.”
LSI sent Barnes’ mockups to Lit Vodka to get their thoughts. With the trust gained from the FedEx Forum project, LSI got the green light relatively easily.
“I just edited directly onto the pictures we took from that trip and presented it in a deck that showed the spaces with some detail, no sizes or materials called out, just a ‘here’s what it will look like’ deck,” says Barnes. “They said go for it and we kind of had to reverse engineer from there, using the materials we had in mind already. We sent our guys out to do a site survey, take really good measurements, and double check.”
Prep and Production
Because Memphis is only 400 miles away from Atlanta, LSI Graphics was able to produce the materials at its facility using an EFI Vutek LX3 Pro LED printer and an HP Latex 3600 printer.
“Our team went down to Atlanta and installed everything. Producing everything in-house gave us a chance to quality check and have real control over the look and feel of it,” says Barnes. “And the upside to that is we can communicate with the people who will be installing it in real time and make sure it’s going to work. It really keeps us from backing ourselves into a corner.”
There were some difficult installations in this project, like the large gray flames on the ceiling, which required very technical skill to install. “It’s just a lot more difficult and challenging to work over your head like that,” says Walker. “So, there were a lot of breaks and rolling the shoulders and things like that.”
LSI’s installation team cuts no corners and can be completely trusted by the design team. “They’re experts and we throw a lot of stuff at them when we mock it up,” says Barnes. “Sometimes we’re like ‘I don’t know if we can do this,’ and they’re like, ‘yeah we can definitely do that.’ They’re definitely experts at what they do.”
A Mimaki CG-FXII cutting plotter was used for all of the graphics installed by the team, and the acrylic flames were made with a custom in-house acrylic. The installation team is trained to take photos so that Barnes can give final approval of the installation.
“We have a dedicated email address that all install photos come through,” says Barnes. “The entire design team can see the installations in real time as they’re being sent in. We have the opportunity in that scenario to catch stuff before it needs to be fixed.”
At the end of the project, the installation team installed everything perfectly, and Lit Vodka was extremely impressed. The project was a success, and LSI Graphics was able to satisfy their client once again.
“It’s an attribute to the relationship we have with Lit Vodka, and their trust in us. It’s cool when people hire you because they believe in your ability to do what they’re asking you to do,” says Barnes. “They left us alone – apart from saying they loved what we were doing – and that doesn’t always happen.”
Equipment and Supplies Used
EFI Vutek LX3 Pro LED printer
HP Latex 3600 printer
Mimaki CG-FXII cutting plotter
LSI Removable 180Cv3 with 8520 Matte Laminate
Custom LSI acrylic
3M Scotchcal Royal Blue 3630-36 RTA vinyl
Adobe Creative Suite