Premier Graphics taking signage to new heights
By Alison Stieven-Taylor
Walter Caune loves his job. The director of Premier Graphics has been turning up to work for 20 years with unwavering enthusiasm, energized by an environment that involves constant change and creative challenges.
Trained as an industrial designer, Caune’s company specialises in interior fit outs and signage for a broad base of architecture and design clients.
“We work predominantly with architects, interior designers and design agencies, but we also do quite a lot of customised work for commercial builders like Hornibrook and Multiplex on their residential apartment complexes,” explains Caune.
He continues. “We are very diversified in what we do because our clients are. The nature of design and agency work means there is a lot of variety and as a consequence we get to push the boundaries, creatively, and to problem solve, which keeps it interesting”.
Caune thrives on this multiplicity and in being able to come up with solutions for complex designs. In any one week the company will work on fit outs for a range of environments from retail shopping centres to new restaurants and corporate headquarters.
Located in Noble Park, southeast of Melbourne, Premier Graphics employs 14 across a number of disciplines including joinery, furniture restoration, screen-printing, industrial design and traditional sign making. “We all have a bent towards architecture and because of the various skill sets, we have the ability to come up with solutions that will help our clients to realise their designs. Working in this market it’s a constant process of evolution”.
The company is positioned at the top end of the commercial signage market and produces “a lot more than just signs,” says Caune. “We’ve moved away from the days when a company just wanted its logo mounted on the wall behind the receptionist’s desk. Now corporate signage is incorporated into the entire office fit out creating a better working environment
|Just some of the work completed by Premier Graphics|
“Individual companies want to make themselves unique and in that, they are trying to create better workplace environments as part of their corporate branding. This has meant the signage aspect has broadened dramatically.
“That’s been one of the biggest things to change over the past ten years, the emphasis on the physical environment in the corporate market. Moving from one dimensional imagery to create a tactile environment, bringing a 3D aspect to the signage, adding texture rather than just flat images or colour panels. Signage now bleeds into the entire office environment.”
Premier Graphics’ own evolution has been largely “organic” says Caune. “It is a question of pushing the tooling we have to its boundaries and utilising our knowledge in picking the right processes and style for each job. The projects we work on never entail just one thing, it is about layering”.
Loathe to outsource because of the inherent problems that can arise from not being in control of the job, Premier Graphics does almost everything inhouse. “We are extremely conscious of quality control and when you subcontract you can let your clients down. On occasion we have to outsource because of the diversification of the jobs – we can’t provide for every application inhouse, but we have strong ties and affiliations with companies that offer specialty tooling”.
As is the case in the printing industry, Caune says everyone wants everything yesterday. Ten years ago the lead times were four weeks, now they are ten days. “Electronic processes like email, PDFs and proofing online have sped up the workflow, but with the type of signage we do there are some processes like spray painting that need time to cure. Signage is usually the last thing that anyone considers so we are on call and have to accommodate the building or renovation works. That’s probably the most awkward part of our job, coordinating with the other trades so we can get on site and install the signage”.
From a technology perspective Caune says digital printing has been a major development and “a complementary step for our industry.” Other inventions such as laser cutting and router cutting for engraving 3D elements have revolutionised the way signage is produced. But it is the designers and architects that are injecting new energy and ideas into the industry and propelling signage makers such as Premier Graphics to come up with innovative solutions. “That’s what we thrive on, the challenge of creating something new”.
Asked if he’s experienced an increase in clients requesting green solutions, Caune is somewhat cautious in his answer saying misconceptions exist in the market around what is really green. “Some architects will specify certain materials to be used on the belief they are environmentally friendly, but they all use toxic materials to some degree. A year ago the green push was big, but they are now stepping away from that position and looking at environmental care”.
Reflecting on the GFC Caune states that because of Premier Graphics’ diverse client base of designers and creative consultants, the company was able to offset slowdowns in certain segments with an increase in activity from other markets such as hospitality and education. “The stimulus package poured money into Melbourne particularly the private school sector. When the building industry slowed we picked up work from educational institutes. And at the moment the hospitality industry is very active. But because we don’t rely on one or two clients we have a good spread of work and income sources”.
This year Premier Graphics took out six awards in the Australian Sign & Graphic Awards. Asked how important industry recognition is he replies, “From a staff point of view, it is fantastic when our work is acknowledged or is featured in a design or architecture magazine as it reinforces we are producing at the top of the industry. There’s real satisfaction in knowing we are working on something special”.
Alison Stieven-Taylor is the creative director of Reality & Illusion Productions a B2B Media Communications Company. She is also an author, journalist and photographer. To find out more visit: www.realityillusion.com