Education and the Installation Trade
Three critical trades comprise the wide-format industry: graphic design, printing, and installation. Axis Graphic Installations focuses solely on the installation stage of the process, so the trend that is currently impacting our business the most is installation education and training. Graphic design and printing have been available in educational institutions such as trade schools and colleges for decades. But if you take a design of stunning quality, produced by a stellar printer, and hand it off to an unqualified installer, the end product will be less than desirable.
Graphic installation began as a self-taught skill set. In the early years, there were a few groups that developed training and educational workshops for graphic installation, most notably, the 3M/UASG and PDAA programs. These programs inspired material manufacturers to create educational and certification programs geared towards the proper installation of their product lines. Then came the “vehicle wrap boom.” Through exposure from sign and graphic conventions and auto shows, the art of vehicle wrap installations became an industry spectacle. Now, most of these events host their own form of vehicle wrap contests, with installers coming from around the world to participate. This has been outstanding for the installation community, and has inspired the creation of many vehicle wrap training and educational programs.
But vehicle wraps are just a portion of the services offered by most installation companies. That is why I am extremely excited to see the launch of a new PDAA program that will have training and certification courses for every aspect of installation, including vehicle wraps, commercial fleet installations, color changes, paint protection films, specialty glass films, resurfacing films, hardware-based signage, commercial tinting, and even paper hanging.
All of this training is getting graphic installation recognized as a viable trade. Fresh Artists, a nonprofit organization based out of Philadelphia, Pa., holds an annual event called Cool Jobs. The mission of this event is to introduce 600 at-risk seventh graders to people doing real jobs that they probably didn’t know existed, and to show them accessible paths to obtain those jobs. In 2018, Cool Jobs approached SGIA, and for the last two years has featured graphic installation as one of its career choices.
For more than 10 years, Roland DGA (Booth 4616) has appointed Matt Richart and Dallas Fowler to head its Born to Wrap Series, which teaches all three trades of the industry. In the past five years, they have had some teachers from high schools and vocational colleges attend their program.
Daniel Nava, founder of the International Brotherhood of Wrappers (IBOW) training program, also provides training and education to all three trades. Their program offers remote training, as well as field training. So, for designers and producers having issues or needing education, an IBOW instructor can log onto their computer and show them exactly how to achieve anything they want. Last year, Nava spent months working with Jesus Bujanda, an automotive teacher for Denver’s Jefferson High School, to create and add sign and graphic installation to his automotive program. This could be the beginning of a trend of vocational schools across the country adding graphic installations as a trade option. Truly exciting!
PRINTING United is going to be a phenomenal event. I think what I am most excited to see is the installation talent that the PDAA Pro Team Relay (Booth 7250) will bring out. It’s always fun to see talented installers working at peak performance levels.
Ken Burns is the President/CEO of Axis Graphic Installations Inc. He is a native of Boston, MA and studied Business Management in the mid 90’s. He has consulted, developed and managed multiple Fortune 500 companies. In 2006, he approached his friend (who was a 10-year veteran graphic installer at the time) and asked him to teach him the art of installing vehicle wraps. Ken saw the value in this niche industry and had the idea of bringing his knowledge of large corporate structure to a newer industry that was mostly comprised of independent subcontractors. He started his first Axis team in South Florida in 2009 and has since developed teams in Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Beyond vehicle wraps, Ken and his teams have become proficient in all types of sign and graphic installations.