May '16

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52 • RV PRO • MAY 2016 rv-pro.com a variety, since the design team normally makes the selection and we try to hit everyone's likes. Then, they do a process of elimina- tion; for some it's like a beauty contest where they go with what attracts their attention right off the bat." Not only will the designers at Apex have ideas in front of the OEM, but they'll be competing against designers from other graphics companies as well. "It's a very, very competitive market," stresses Graphix Unlim- ited's Vitali. "Sometimes it doesn't seem like good customer service and quality have enough weight in their decision-making process, unfortunately." BGS's Poling and Graham concur that there are times when the OEM product manager and team really have no idea of what they want, or they're unable to articulate it. In those cases, having a solid relationship is critical. "Like almost any business, this is built first and foremost on relationships," says Graham. "However, at the end of it, when you get a customer who stands up and says, 'That's exactly what I was talking about,' that's the ultimate vic- tory. Often there's an emotional attachment to the brand by the product team, and it's really important to them." That's also not to say that these RV manu- facturers don't have their specialties. Apex cuts vinyl stencils that are then used to mask parts of the units while paint is applied. "We stress the lifespan of the product," says that company's Daly. "It's also more expensive and the look is nicer. You can go bigger with the designs and have a broader palette when you go with paint. There's also more time and expense involved, so our clients make the higher-end coaches." Both BGS and Graphix Unlimited are cut- ting vinyl graphics, some that has been digi- tally or screen-printed with custom colors. For instance, Graphix Unlimited does custom color matches for some of its OEMs. "We started with their fiberglass and metal units, where they want us to match the colors and then blend the designs into their colors," says Pam Hecht, that company's quality control manager. "It saves them money, but we do a lot of custom-match colors." At BGS, its dominant customer base has been in toy haulers, fifth wheels and trailers – although the company is doing more expensive units as well – and Graham says much of that is driven by the looks of the vehicles towing those units. "For instance, if we're designing graphics to go on a unit that has a tan sidewall, we're going to try to get a color pattern or a series of colors that are similar to whatever the top five colors are in the pickup market," he says. PHOTOS BY BURLINGTON GRAPHICS For towable RVs with tan sidewalls, Burlington Graphics tends to pick color patterns similar to those that are popular in the pickup market. Burlington Graphics prototypes every color scheme it develops between the time it's chosen by a particular RV maker and when the unit goes into production. And someone from BGS will supervise the installation by the OEM's crew.

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