A Day In The Life Of The Vinyl Queen

Karen Griffin - Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Take one overcast, slightly showery Wednesday at the end of March....

First off, quick log-on to collect emails, note down the overnight internet orders, and set the machine to cut a couple whilst she enjoys her only coffee of the day.

On her way to collect a re-usable Wedding Fair banner for re-lettering, The Vinyl Queen walks her dogs, enjoys a breath of sea air and sets herself right for a busy day.

Vegan dog treatsThen its a quick drop of the dogs at the workshop, collect of tools and vinyls (not to mention her coat) and its off to Southsea to sign write a van for a vegan dog treat company, Barking Bakery Company (just as well those dogs stayed behind!!).

Two hours later, and she is on the road to Hayling Island to measure up a new venue for Lunch Box on the seafront there.  By now it is drizzling badly, but it doesn't stop Karen and her customer from deciding what graphics they want, and pictures are taken so they can be overlaid with artwork before a decision is made on the final look.  Short notice though.  The job needs to be designed, cut and installed in the next ten days before the grand opening.

On the way back, its a quick detour to Denvilles to drop off a re-lettered banner to a theatre group.  We know this banner well here - its on its 9th reincarnation!

Final stop to get a new windscreen wiper fitted, then its back to the workshop to deal with the emails, send out some quotes and 'wo'man the phones.

Finally, on this busiest of days its a quick clean of the new print room - ready for the new Roland Versa print cut machine arriving bright and early on Thursday.

Planning the Deadlines

Karen Griffin - Wednesday, March 22, 2017

March and August are, traditionally our busiest months.

March is easy to explain away.  We have a large annual contract (11 minibuses to be sign written) and as the weather picks up, we are busy with all those van sign writing projects that have been planned over the winter months.  Also, a lot of customers want to spend some profits before the financial year ends.

But August?  Interestingly, we move away from vehicles and onto re-usable banners.  So many events in September, and as schools are a large part of our banner customer base, they often place their orders as they tidy up the school and plan for the new academic year.  And then there is Christmas . . . never too early to plan for all those Christmas Fairs.  We do like a bit of Christmas when the sun is out!

At all times of the year though, we get people wanting things in 'Prime' time (yes, an Amazon phrase used regularly here).  So just this week we did manage to make some vinyl lettering ordered on Monday which arrived on Wednesday, yet when a customer rang on Tuesday for a Gazebo banner to be delivered for the weekend, we had to turn her down.

What a difference 24 hours makes!

So if you find yourself up against a deadline, do give us a ring.  If we can, we will help you out, but sometimes we have deadlines of our own.

Chasing deadlines

Different types of vinyl

Karen Griffin - Monday, February 20, 2017

So exactly WHAT IS VINYL?

Even we found ourselves asking this question when presented with 'trending stories' today.  A lady called Cotton wrapped in Vinyl.  And Karen thought she was the self professed Vinyl Queen!

Ferne Cotton Wears VinylSo the lady in question is Ferne Cotton.  And apparently anything goes during London Fashion Week.  Coinciding with the second film in the trilogy of 50 shades, you might do well to be worried in case this is a 'wearable trend'.

But in reality vinyl does come in many different forms.  The ultimate shape shifter.

Manufactured using by-products from the oil industry.  We can guarantee that however purist you are, there will be some form of this man-made synthetic that you use in your home or office.  Also known as PVC (poly vinyl chloride), it forms the basis of vinyl records (remember those), vinyl flooring (lino or even up market tiling), doors, windows . . . well the list is endless.

We use vinyl that is cast or calendered onto rolls to create a sheeting.  It is obviously a lot more complicated than that, but you get the idea.

And even within our small field of vinyl, we use several different types for different purposes or surfaces.  So next time you ring with an enquiry, don't be surprised if we ask you lots of questions as to how you are going to use your shiny new banner or vinyl lettering.  

We just don't believe that one size fits all.

Unless you are Fearne Cotton perhaps.

We Are Closing

Karen Griffin - Monday, January 09, 2017

But not for long!  2016 was such a great year for us that we are having to expand.  Having failed to find suitable premises in a good location, we are extending our existing workshop by 16'.  So this week we are swopping vinyl and squeegees for hammer and nails.  Pictures to follow!

Griffin Designs Extension

How Long Should Your Vinyls Last?

Karen Griffin - Thursday, December 01, 2016

This is a really topical point in our trade at the moment.

We offer a 3 year guarantee on our vinyls, against cracking, shrinking and fading, but we can only do this because in turn, our vinyl supplier boasts that their product will last outside in harsh conditions for 5-7 years.

A Devon-based vehicle graphics firm, Hippy Motors, is taking on trade vinyl supplier big-boys, Hexis claiming that the vinyl supplied by Hexis did not live up to its stated lifespan.  Indeed, these photos supplied by Hippy Motor's customers would seem to reflect this.  The large blue flower on the photo below shows very bad shrinking and cracking after less than two years.  And there are many examples of this.

You can see where Hippy Signs are coming from.  They have installed a vinyl supplied by a nationally renowned manufacturer in good faith, taking their data at their word, only to find the vinyl is not fit for purpose.  The victim in all this is the customer, and I am sure Hippy have managed to address the problems whilst they sort out the long term situation with Hexis.

Hexis cracked vinyl

We often see vehicles around with sub-standard vinyl.  Sometimes this can be down to the install.  A lot of times, a customer has purchased vinyl on the internet or from a sign shop which does not offer a guarantee.  

Either way, looking at vinyl on the roll, we too cannot tell the difference between one that will go the distance and one that will not.  We HAVE to rely on the word of the manufacturer, just like our customers rely on our word.

We know our customers are not affected because we have not used Hexis in years, but we are keeping an eye out just in case our three favourite manufacturers have been pulling the same stunt.

The Plonker in the Multi Coloured Van

Karen Griffin - Friday, November 18, 2016

I have written before about 'Nephew Art' - when a client comes in with their own artwork, which looks good but doesn't reflect any good principles of successful drive by marketing.

Yes, we often have customers who want every available space on their van or car covered with vinyl graphics.  This is less common on vinyl graphics than vinyl wraps, where a vehicle can be literally covered in rainbows, images and flames that totally detract from the business details.

Poorly designed vehicle wrap The goal for any kind of vehicle design has to be with achieving that clear message, and a pleasing graphic is almost secondary.  Even the instantly recognisable Sky vans - those experts of vinyl wrapping - have their name clearly emblazoned on their fleet.

 Most of our customers are small traders, and they need their contact details easily readable.  Preferably with the website at the  full length of the vehicle, as it is so much easier to remember a website seen on the move than a telephone number.  This is  generally our starting place for a design.

 We do accept that customers want as much bang for their buck as possible, but when it comes to vehicle (or any large scale graphics) less is generally more otherwise the design might actually detract from the point of sign writing in the first place.

'Bullet points are only for paper' is our favourite phrase.  Too much information means that your van will only be remembered for its poor driving as it whizzes past you on the motorway.  Too much information means that boredom sets in at traffic lights.

So whilst you might have some grand ideas for your new motor, why not let us present to you a second design - a wild card if you like - that will be totally effective, but most likely different to your initial idea.

An Eye On The Future

Karen Griffin - Friday, November 11, 2016

Its that time of year, here in West Sussex.  Lots of Year 10 students trying to secure their week work experience placement for February 2017.

cartoon man with tape measure

We usually get 8-10 applications.  We ask each student to send us an email or text as to why they want to work here.  Most have never looked at our website, and the schools have us listed as graphic designers.  The remaining couple of applicants are asked to visit with a parent for a look round.

It is a huge pleasure to see their eyes light up as they realise they will not only be designing but also making real things by the end of the week.

We spend a lot of time forming a project that these youngsters can see through from start to finish in a week.  Sometimes it goes awry if a big, urgent order comes in, but mostly they go home with something they have made for their rooms or their bikes.  Young people need investment and nurturing, and it is an honour to be their first experience of the work place.

Increasingly the school, we find, take that responsibility less seriously.  They teach on out of date software, using applications that are no longer used by trade.  We had one student who had only be taught in inches (yes, a 15 year old!).  Many have never used a tape measure before.

But what they cannot tell you about social media and YouTube is not worth knowing!

It's a familiar story and many small businesses locally tell me they have the same experience.  If schools cannot equip students with the skills they need to be a valuable member of the work place, then what hope is there for the next generation?

Its A Wrap

Karen Griffin - Friday, November 04, 2016

And nothing to do with films!  Its all about the vans, and sometimes cars.

Van wrap in progressVan wrapped to look rusty

I ought to start by saying that we don't do vehicle wrapping at Griffin Designs, and here is why.

  • A wrap is shockingly expensive, often 8-10 times the price of vinyl sign writing.  Yes, there are lots of business for whom the expense is worth it, to get their vehicle noticed amongst so many in the crowd.
  • The success of a wrap is all about the design - something we are skilled in and are happy to help with but despite going on a course, it really is so much harder to apply than it looks and it turns out we are not that good at it.  Its about knowing your limitations.
  • You need to be doing 3 or 4 wraps a week to be a really good installer, and as yet we just don't find customers asking for them enough
  • A wrap totally protects the vehicle, even from stone chips, so when you take it off, there is no damage.  Ideal for customers who need a pristine vehicle for trade  in purposes.
  • A full wrap has to be declared to your insurance company and will affect the premiums
  • You vehicle will be off road for 3-4 days. All the trim has to be removed, the vehicle wrapped and the trim replaced.  Most of our customers like our mobile service so they can keep working whilst we do their van in 3-4 hours.
Wraps do totally transform a vehicle - though we did smile at these pictures.  Love swopping a brand shiny new vehicle to a rusty old banger!

What Type of Vehicle Can Bear Chevrons?

Karen Griffin - Friday, October 28, 2016

Have you noticed how many cars and vans have chevroned sign writing these days?

Highways mantainance vanChevroned van

Alton emergency dog handler

Well, as you would expect, there is a catchy title to this type of sign writing.  Chapter 8.  Yes, it really is called that.  Somewhere, back several decades, there was a decree that vehicles who needed to stop to work on, or stop to inspect works on, a road with a speed limit over 50 mph needed these specific design and standard of chevron decals on the rear.  They don't come cheap, as you would expect, and they have to be reflective vinyl.

But it is the interpretation of a vehicle with the requirement to stop on a road with a speed limit over (. . . . you get the idea) that is so very confusing.  Could delivery vans be included? How about general tradespeople like plumbers now that houses are along roads over 50mph?  (Or even parents with small children in the throws of potty training?!?!).

In fact the ruling on the Government Guidance in Chapter 8 of the Traffic Signs Manual only advises that chevrons are intended to increase vehicle visibility at the roadside for vehicles frequently stopping, but this is guidance only, not legislation, so it is now quite common on many vehicles as a tool to increase visibility.

These chevrons should be reflective red-orange with yellow.  Reflective yellow and red together are for Emergency Service Vehicles only and it is unlawful to use these on any other type of vehicle.  Very hard to tell the difference in any light.

Please do get in touch if you interpret Chapter 8 differently.

Is The Message Being Buried by Technology?

Karen Griffin - Friday, October 21, 2016

Back in the day . . .when sign writers actually hand painted signs . . . wording was kept to a minimum in order to keep costs down.

Then came computer cut vinyl graphics.  Much quicker than hand painted in the labour front and the materials were not excessively expensive.  And over the years there has been a move to the inclusion of ever more complicated logos and higher density of wording on signage that needs to be easily read.  Which adds to the cost again.

But now we have a new technological advancement in the flat bed printer. The printer doesn't mind how many words it prints to a sheet, so the incentive of clearly crafted copy on cost grounds is negated.

The general rules for making an effective drive-by layout haven't changed through all these technological changes.  

It used to be easy to move clients away from over cluttering their vehicle or banner simply because of the cost of all the extra lettering.  It really is an art to produce an effective design, that is concise and easy to read from a distance without diverting too much of a driver's attention.  Especially when that attention is distracted from dashboard screens, sat navs, wider roads, faster traffic etc.

So our challenge here at Griffin Designs is to ask ourselves not 'Can We?' but 'Should We?' use the new technology to the full without regard for product effectiveness. 

I got the vinyls on time and they were great! 
Thank you for your quick work, that was really appreciated!

LC, on receipt of her bespoke vinyl stickers

Thanks Karen, and thanks for organising this for me – I don’t know what I would do without you!

Fontwell Park Racecourse, EN
My order arrived safely today and I love it!

Thank you so much for providing such a fantastic service, I will definitely be back for more.

JP, on receipt of banner
Just thought I would drop you a line to say how impressed I am with your Cambridge Weight Plan car decals, when I went to development day earlier this year the car park in the hotel was taken over with the car decals and again at our convention 2 weekends ago at the Sofitel in Heathrow, the car park had loads of your decals.  

CL, Cambridge Weight Plan Consultant
The vinyl looks great Karen! Thanks so much!
JG, on Christmas Pop Up Shop Lettering

I can’t remember if I ever got back to you to say thank you for all the hard work you went to, to ensure my car decal was right?  I’ve now got it on my rear window; it looks great, and I’m extremely pleased with it – so a big thank you!

JR, Cambridge Car Decal

Thank you so much for the artwork, I love it! Wow if only all companies operated as efficiently as Griffin Designs!

JP, Cambridge Consultant
Excellent service - thank you so much.

LN, Church Administrator on her new stamp

Karen – They look fantastic!!! Thank you so so so much !! J xxxx

Sussex Pet Sitters on new signage
Hello, Decal received today, Fabulous, Thankyou. If only the rain would stop to apply it, Ha!Ha! Many Many Thanks
DS, on receipt of self-apply Car Decals
We have received the banner safe and sound, thank you. It looks fantastic! Thank you for all your effort in assuring it reached us in time.
MC, Arun District Council
Just letting you know i received the car sticker yesterday.   It more than met my expectations and i'm really pleased with it.

JW, on receipt of her Cambridge WP Car Decals
Thanks so much for the banner, it looked great at the Last night of the Proms on Saturday!

TJ, JC Solicitors
I LOVE the car decals!!! Thank you. The video online was very helpful and well worth watching.  You're right, it's addictive. I want them everywhere!!!!!

LC, on receipt of rear window car decal
Just seen the A29 Banner up for Ladies Evening.It looks fantastic!
EN, Fontwell Park Racecourse
Decals arrived thank you what a great service you provide.
JT, on receipt of car decal
Just received the banner and just a quick note to say how pleased I am with it …stunning. So thank you very much for your quick turnover and if any of the other branches need anything like this in the future you will be top of the list.
MH, Bath on receipt of Royal Marines Assoc banner

Brilliant … thank you so much!

RW, Henry Adams on sponsored boat decal
Many thanks for your service. Now I have my order I feel free to tell you that you were not the first company that I was in touch with. However, you proved twice as efficient, twice the the quality and half the price. 
Sandy, Caithness Cheese Co on his vinyl lettering
Thankyou for such a great job, I agree with you that it looks fab
Adrian Hunt, on his applied car decals
It has arrived & it's blue & I love it !! Thank you so much !
Earth Seed To Bloom, on receipt of rubber stamp
We’ve got the stamp, which is exactly what we wanted
KL, Heritage Investments, rubber stamps
Hello Karen. Thank you very much for my vinyl lettering which arrived last week and is perfect!
KM, Romsey
WOO HOO!! Marvelous news. They just arrived. They look great! Thank you very much, we are very happy.
LB, Artificial Eye, London
 . .to thank you for your generous contribution towards the live music event at the Spotted Cow. The evening was an overwhelming success and raised the outstanding sum of £1200.
North Mundham Primary School, on their event banner
Thank you for the promptness of attending to our order for a stamp, the quality is quite amazing!
Paul, Ice Band
Yup, the A board is looking great !   Thank you for taking the time to create such an eye catching, elegant & informative board, & completing the branding image.
SF Arundel Acupuncture, on arrival of her new A board
I just wanted to say I had my first enquiry from someone that had seen our car last week. Lots of people comment on 'seeing it about' but this has been the first enquiry (which I am sure will be more than just that) from someone genuinely excited about the services we offer, and already recommending us to friends.
CB, Task Angels, on success of car decals
Did four of the banners yesterday and they really were quite painless and easy as you say.  Thanks for the instructions and encouragement, etc.
JH, on replacement of banner lettering
The lettering was perfect.  Thank you very much for helping me out over the Bank Holiday weekend.
SJ, Maritime Acoustics
Just wanted to say THANK YOU SO MUCH for getting the sign done for me so quickly.
Weight Loss & Beauty Centre, on window decals

I just wanted to email you quickly to say that the stamp came today - it is perfect! I'm so pleased with the end result, it really has surpassed my expectations. Thank you so much for your extremely swift service, and care and attention to the design.

RP on arrival of her rubber stamp
the rubber stamp is perfect
KC, Chappell Sports Cars
"Thanks for such prompt delivery of my address stamp.  Despite the snow & ice, my lovely postie delivered it today.  It's just the job :)
LB-J, Hayling Island
Fantastic Karen – I think it looks great Thank you for your excellent help and service.
MB, Cambridge Consultant
I love it I really do, its fantastic! Thank you so much for everything you have done for me.
Peek-A-Boo-Events, on receipt of banner
Just to thank you for my order.  The decal looks great on the car
CD, on her Cambridge Car Decal
"Received the stamp today and we are thrilled with it. The quality is fantastic and we will definitely recommend you."
IJ, Dog Togz on receipt of a logo'd rubber stamp
Thank you very much, the signs arrived this morning, and have already been put up. They match very well, and I was impressed how easy they went up. Thank you for all your help.
NM, Environment Agency, Wales on vinyl lettering
I would just like to know that I'm soooo happy with my stamp  A very big thankyou

Kaiser, Boxer Dog
Its fab!!!  Thanks sooooo much.
SF, CWP Consultant on her car decals

Hi Karen just to let you know decals arrived safe today and look bloody marvellous thanks have recommended you to another consultant .... Thanks for a great service and great decal will shout if I ever need any more thanks again from Alli

AG, Scotland on her Cambridge Weight Plan car decals
'WOW, it looks fab. I'm already noticing people checking it out as I drive around.  Well done, a brilliant service, fantastic customer service, and a fabulous price. You tick all the boxes.'

TM, Middlesex on her Cambridge Weight Plan car decals
'Stamps received, very pleased with them and your services.  Thank you'
LW, JJD Skips
'Thank you for your work on the banner I saw it this morning and it looks great. '
TW, Lancastrian Infants' School, banner sponsored by Peugeot
received this morning, very pleased with purchase. Thank you
AH, Subaru Dealer, Loughborough
Just wanted to drop you an email to say thank you so much for doing the stamp for me. Its just as accurate and professional as I need it to be. Again, many thanks and I will be sending more business you way soon
AP, Purley
Fab job! Many thanks
AS, West Sussex NHS Primary Care Trust
Thank you for getting in touch, the banners were excellent, and I really appreciated you turning them around so quickly.
CC, West Sussex County Council, London 2012 Ahead of the Game
I absolutely love it, as does everyone else, thanks so much
CF, Foresters Lodge
Thanks for the banner. It's up and looks ok
CP, Chichester District Council
Many thanks for your help again

DB, TD Facilities, on repeat order of vinyl stencils
Many thanks for making these amendments. It now looks fantastic.
DL, Help for Heroes about a sponsored banner
We are writing to thank you so much for your donation of a replacement banner for our music Festival. It restores ones faith in human kindness. . . . we raised a staggering ��20,000.
Fundraising Office for 4SIGHT, West Sussex Association For the Blind, on their banner
I just wanted to thank you again for the banner, he loved it! Actually it is still hanging up two weeks later!
GC, Birdham on 60th birthday celebration banner
. . . thank you very much, it looks great
GJ, Great Dane Developments Ltd on advertising board
The logos have arrived safely. They are exactly the right size and just what I wanted.
JB, Internet order for Boat Decals
On this bleak and rather depressing Monday morning your concise and great info is like a breath of fresh air . . .
LC, Phoenix Rose, London
Definitely put me down as a very satisfied customer. I found you on a Google search. It was important to me to get a reasonable replication of the Jaguar logo.
MB, Kent
Thanks very much for the stamps, and for doing them so quickly
SM, sfmconsulting.co.uk
Cheers again for your excellent service. You will certainly be getting more of our work in the future
TH, Flexile Ltd
Order process was really smooth and the product was brilliant
TM, Lets Go Operate
Hi Karen. Received the stamp this morning, Bern is one very happy bunny, thanks so much.
VH, Liverpool
Stamps received today, these are great so much cleaner than the old fashioned way!
VP Vanila DPS
Just a quick thanks for another great stamper
ZH, Dynamic Osteopathy
A very belated thank you for the new banners. I put the first one up and everyone commented on how fabulous it looked. It is so much more noticeable than our old canvas ones and in the summer I will endeavour to get a sponsor sorted as you suggested.
MA, North Mundham School
We had lots of very positive comments on the wonderful design of the banners and they looked fantastic outside the school . . . this year we raised £2500 which we were absolutely delighted with.
MA, Treasurer, PTA North Mundham Primary School

Just received my replacement letters.  Thank you so much for sorting this so quickly

Kate, on receipt of Cambridge Car Decals
Thank you for the prompt service all arrived today!!
ACG Accounting on receipt of their vinyl bumper strip
I have received my print thank you so much for such fast delivery.


AB, on receipt of car decal

Just to let u know that I received the vinyls this morning ok, and they all look really good many thanks.

DE, Perth on his vinyl lettering for a Burger van
Two words :
Banner = fabulous.
Again, thanks for the quick turnaround - very much appreciated.

JT from www.theolivejar.com
Brill thank you so much i love it and thanks for taking the time to get it right for me so cant wait for it to arrive =]  thanks so much Karen
KC, on her new car decal
Thanks so much for the banners - the team were very impressed today!

MA, Whyke United Under 11's
 just wanted to write to say thank you very much for my wheel cover and lettering.  It looks fab!  I am hoping that people will see it around and that I’ll get lots of new customers.
SL, Cambridge Weight Plan
I have it!

That was extremely fast!!  I'm very impressed.

Thank you very much!

TS, Marwicks Brasserie, Bosham on receipt of banner

My dad has put the decal on and it looks great!  Too dark to take a picture now but will send one on soon. Thanks for your great customer service.

WF, on receipt of Hypnoslimmer Car Decal
Goodness knows what your workshop smells like, because these banners have rather an orange-y whiff to them now!
Wilderness Development, on receipt of re-stripped banners
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