By Cassandra Balentine
For many businesses, signage helps define their image and brand to make a positive impression. From lawn signs to banners and silicone edge graphics (SEG), sign and display solutions are limitless.
Custom Sign Lab’s history dates back to 2011, when it was founded as Vinylocity Imaging (Vinyl + Velocity) by Clayton Letourneau, a second generation graphic designer and sign maker. After studying the craft for over a decade with his father, he opened a small, 450 square foot home workshop in 2011. In the early days, Letourneau recalls getting creative when space was tight, using larger co-opted work spaces for bigger projects as needed.
In 2016, Vinylocity was rebranded as Custom Sign Lab. Clayton Letourneau, managing director, Custom Sign Lab, felt the name change spoke more to its product evolution. “We gained a reputation for putting creativity first and working on very customized signs.”
That same year, Letourneau’s wife Katy joined the company and business really started to take off.
In December 2018, Custom Sign Lab moved into a 2,400 square foot shop, added new equipment, and expanded its in-house capabilities. “In 2020 we made our first outside hire, a full-time graphic designer, and the growth has continued since,” shares Letourneau.
Today, you’ll find the business in a 3,200 square foot shop based in Beamsville, ON, Canada. It has five employees and is on the verge of growing that number again. “We currently operate out of only one location, but in the future it may make sense to expand into multiple locations to have better immersion in outlying markets,” he notes.
Above: Custom Sign Lab, based in Beamsville, ON, Canada, offers wide format print, fabrication, and installation services.
Wide Format Work
Custom Sign Lab primarily offers wide format print, fabrication, and installation services. Letourneau notes that about 40 percent of its business is wide format printing and the rest is fabrication and installation.
For its print work, it operates a 63-inch Mimaki USA, Inc. CJV300-160 Plus, which was purchased in 2021 to replace an older 2011 Mimaki device. It runs with GREENGUARD Gold certified SS21 inks.
“The print/cut function of the CJV line is crucial to our shop and gives us the versatility required to complete all of our work on one machine. The only downside is in times of high production demand the cut feature can tie up the machine when we would rather be printing,” he admits.
To complement the printer, it also employs a 60-inch roll-to-roll laminator that is used to coat nearly all of its printed goods.
Other equipment includes a 4×8-foot router to cut all non-ferrous metals and perform three-dimensional carving; and a 4×3-foot, 80 watt C02 Rabbit Laser USA machine, which is ideal for engraving a variety of surfaces as well as cutting acrylic and wood.
Textiles are a new venture for the shop. Until 2021 it only printed the occasional canvas panel, which was a courtesy service rather than a main product. This was mainly due to the limitations of eco-solvent printing on textiles. However, in early winter 2021 the print provider had an opportunity to work on custom point of purchase retail displays for a high-end apparel brand.
Letourneau recalls that the project required three important features, the first was ease of use for changing the images, the second was soft and crisp image quality, and the third was a custom look that made their brand stand out.
He used Budnick Converting, Inc. Banner Ups brand SEGDesign frames and KederTape LITE, paired with Rite-Media fabric supplied by Spicers Canada ULC, and finished the system off with custom-built base plinths for the frame system to fit into. Rite-Media fabric is printable on most eco-solvent printers and really opened up the possibility of printing fabric without a hefty investment in a new printer or equipment.
SEG is an up-and-coming textile application for the print provider. Letourneau sees it as a wide open market with unlimited growth. “Fabric displays like Banner Ups SEG design frames offer us a soft signage option that not only looks clean and crisp, but is also highly customizable and can have images swapped by the clients with ease and autonomy.”
For SEG media, it prefers Rite-Media fabric as well as products from Fisher Textiles. “Both are coated fabrics suitable for eco-solvent printable applications,” he states.
As previously mentioned, it works with Banner Ups to build SEG solutions. “We’ve trusted Banner Ups for years with its PowerTape and PowerTabs for banner assembly. When it originally released the SEGDesign frame system we didn’t have a use for it, but Rick and the team always provided such great support with other products that when we did have a need for SEG displays, it was an easy decision to make,” shares Letourneau.
Growth and Opportunity
Custom Sign Lab is growing. While it settles into a new location there are many opportunities on the horizon. “We aim to hire a full-time graphics installer in the first quarter of 2023 to relieve the pressure of our existing team,” says Letourneau. The company hopes to expand the printing side of the business by 200 percent next year. It continues to grow its capabilities and expertise by always learning and partnering with companies it can trust.
Jan2023, Digital Output