Immersive Flooring. Floor Graphics Channel the Arts

By Olivia Cahoon

Digitally printed floor graphics are found in a number of places and utilized frequently for events, promotional purposes, retail, and trade shows. Common uses include décor, marketing, and communicating information to consumers in a creative manner. With the right press and media, floor graphics withstand high-traffic areas for short- or long-term use, both indoors and outdoors. Because they display across large surface areas, these graphics easily attract attention and convey a message.

Above: Graphic Image Flooring of Minneapolis, MN worked with TMG to recreate paintings used on 21 elevator lobby floors.

High-Quality Flooring

Founded in February 2013, Graphic Image Flooring, LLC is an international provider of custom flooring in Minneapolis, MN. Originally, it strictly offered printed BILD formerly G-Floor Graphic vinyl media from Better Life Technology. “As it says in our name, it remains our primary focus,” shares Tim Wirtz, founder/president, Graphic Image Flooring. Today the company creates high-quality, innovative polyvinyl flooring using customers’ supplied images.

The shop’s services originally reached within the Midwest and now stretch across North America, shipping as far North as the Yukon and South to Bermuda. 100 percent of the company’s offering is flooring, although it recently entered the floor mat business.

Digitally printed indoor floor graphics with a focus on event and trade show flooring is its primary focus. “The industries we serve are heavy trade and event but with my strong retail background and the value retail customers are beginning to see in a longer lasting graphic, we continue to expand our customer base,” explains Wirtz.
The idea to open a floor graphics shop occurred after Wirtz came out of the signage industry. At the time, custom printed floor graphics were known but custom printed flooring was a new and emerging trend. “We were excited about what was possible and the ability for our customers to be able to design the floor they want, not just something off the rack.”

Popular requests include 75-mil thick graphics for commercial spaces and event floors. “For commercial it is simply because we can create something that nobody else can,” comments Wirtz. For example, the print provider recently completed nearly 20,000 square feet of flooring for the Long Beach Terminal for Carnival Cruise lines. The flooring consisted of a boardwalk, beach, and soft grass under the park benches.

Digital Technology

Floors are printed using the EFI VUTEk LX3 Pro eight-color inkjet printer. It handles flexible and rigid substrates up to 126 inches wide and two inches thick. “The ink is vibrant, flexible, and opaque, offering what customers have come to expect in custom flooring,” adds Wirtz.

The shop pairs its EFI VUTEk LX3 Pro with media exclusively from Better Life Technology. Graphic Image Flooring uses BILD print media for its superior durability, ink adhesion, and easy installation. Finished roll sizes are available up to 10×47 feet for a range of uses from permanent or temporary flooring to point of purchase, wayfinding, and events.

BILD print media features a topcoat for added durability, ease of cleaning, stain resistance, and slip resistance. It is a 100 percent solid polyvinyl product without heavy fillers or foam. The material is both lightweight and recyclable.
“Focusing on one type of material and area allows us to maintain a high level of service, quality, and speed to customers,” explains Wirtz.

The company rarely uses laminates for floor graphics as it specializes in BILD print media in 35-, 50-, 75-, and 85-mil thick vinyl flooring and mats. Laminates are only used when existing customers need temporary floor graphics.
Finishing is completed on a Zünd G3 XL-3200, which offers precise digital cutting over long distances—up to 50 feet—allowing every seam to line up across the floors.

Trade Shows, Events, & Retail

Graphic Image Flooring owes much of its success to the trade show and events market. This industry has become so immersive that flooring is now a valuable space. To further take advantage of this need, the company offers reusable shipping tubes so customers can extend the value of their printed flooring by storing and shipping countless items.

By focusing on reusable trade show and event floors as well as more permanent commercial and residential flooring, the company’s largest challenge is awareness and pricing. “We have worked hard to become a knowledge leader in the space and a trusted partner for many brands, marketing companies, creative agencies, as well as homeowners,” shares Wirtz.

Graphic Image Flooring’s retail customers typically seek flooring that is more durable and long lasting. For this reason, retail customers typically request heavier vinyl for flooring projects. According to Wirtz, heavier vinyl has all the advantages of a traditional thin floor graphic but with the benefit of lasting considerably longer.
“Instead of measuring useful life in weeks we can offer months and years. This is where we have seen the greatest impact in the retail market,” he adds.

Trade show and event flooring tends to include either carpet or vinyl, depending on the customer’s requests and needs. This offering is not only limited to large corporations and brands. “More of our smaller customers have started to discover the value in a printed floor,” comments Wirtz.

To better serve a variety of industries, Graphic Image Flooring offers three levels of flooring for short-, mid-, and long-term heavy traffic use—satisfying each customer’s unique requirements.

Art in Daily Life

In 2015, Royce Mulholland of The Mulholland Group (TMG) approached Graphic Image Flooring. TMG wanted to include visual art into the renovation of its affordable housing property in Syracuse, NY, as a means to enrich tenant lives.

Together, TMG and Graphic Image Flooring decided to recreate one painting for each of the 21 elevator floor lobbies in the affordable housing unit. The process took several months as the paintings were enlarged and recreated. Graphic Image Flooring was required to provide a test print to ensure they could achieve the proper colors. “Thankfully we did on our first attempt,” admits Wirtz.

Recreating the texture surfaces and matching the color of the original paintings on a new digital surface was the primary challenge. The shop spent many hours readjusting the colors to the spectrum range that the client desired. Once the images were perfected, the files were printed using the EFI VUTEk LX3 Pro on 21 adhesive-backed linoleum sheets each measuring 10×13 feet.

Each printed floor was inserted into the tiles around it so the floor was smooth without any variations. All 21 floors were created using Better Life Technology BILD print media. The second surface was printed on ceramic texture with a satin topcoat.

From approval to printing, it took Graphic Image Flooring less than two weeks to complete.
Finishing was straight forward using the Zünd G3 XL-3200. With the ability to print in large sizes using the Zünd, each floor was finished in a single piece making installation quick and easy while saving the contractor time and money.

“This project started as an inspirational project for the developer in partnership with an art curator. What an incredible opportunity to turn small art into larger floors for a low-income, high-rise building,” shares Wirtz.
Utilizing its digital printing technology, Graphic Image Flooring recreated paintings for 21 elevator lobby floors so that every time a resident steps off an elevator they are greeted with a bright, colorful, and happy landing.

Printed Flooring

Floor graphics continue to be an attractive trend in commercial buildings, events, retail, and trade shows, whether for decoration or wayfindng. With its EFI VUTEk LX3 Pro and Better Life Technology BILD print media, Graphic Image Flooring has the advantage of fitting into any flooring environment.

Dec 2, 2019, Digital Output, Olivia Cahoon