From Vinyl to a View


In recent years, vinyl application has expanded to include windows, walls, floors—and now even barricades.

On a recent project for Merchandise Mart in Chicago, ER2 Image Group in Bloomingdale, Illinois was tasked with creating a large vinyl wrap for a drywall barricade blocking off the food court while it was under construction.

This wasn’t ER2’s first job with Merchandise Mart, a large commercial building that houses everything from wholesale goods to retail shops to a college campus. The sign company has worked with Merchandise Mart for almost eighteen years and has provided a good portion of the graphics they use on a regular basis.

On this particular job, ER2 started by meeting with the client to discuss their vision. A design firm designed the wrap, which features historical figures in black and white.

ER2 next took measurements of the roughly 300-foot-long, 10-foot-high barricade.

“The barricade is a very rough construction, so even if the measurements are correct on the architectural plans, once actually built, it’s sometimes a little bit different,” explains Gary Schellerer, COO and vice president of ER2 Image Group. “So we went out and took field measurements of everything that was produced.

“Then we took the designs that were given to us from the design firm and altered them to fit the actual barricades.”

A lot of vinyl was needed to complete the project, but ER2 didn’t have to waste any time on ordering any since they already had it in stock.

“We have a lot of production printers, so we have a very big inventory of pressure-sensitive films that we keep on our floor on a regular basis,” explains Schellerer. “It’s not uncommon for us to do a barricade or display of that size.”


ER2 used an HP Scitex LX850 printer to output the graphics onto 3M™ Controltac™ Graphic Film Series IJ160-10 vinyl with an accompanying calendar overlaminate. The shop chose this particular vinyl because it had a lower life expectancy and was therefore less expensive, which made sense since this was a temporary install that would only be up for less than a year.

“With barricade-style graphics, they’re not going to be up for more than a year, so you don’t need a cast film that has a life expectancy of exterior five-plus years,” says Schellerer.

Another reason they chose this vinyl was because of the adhesive. Oftentimes vinyl can have a difficult time adhering to certain paints, especially low-VOC paints. So a combination of a strong adhesive and advising the client on the best paint to use on the barricade worked in ER2’s favor.

“If you can get in front of the painters and make sure that they’re using the appropriate paints in this day and age, your life will be a lot easier in the graphic world,” says Schellerer.

The install took about three days in total and included more than just vinyl graphics—it also incorporated a unique visual element.

ER2 wanted to give visitors the option to “see through” the wall and view the construction going on behind it. The company came up with the idea for circular, acrylic peepholes. To fit the design, these holes were cut out of the drywall where the eyes of the historical figures would be.

ER2 chose acrylic for the transparent panels, since the material would be able to withstand people looking through and touching it.

Using its MultiCam 3000 Series CNC router, ER2 routed the 3/4-inch-thick clear acrylic into shape so that it could be adhered from the backside.

“We chipped away the outer rim of the acrylic, kind of like if you can imagine a Frisbee—the outside two inches were only 1/4-inch-thick, and then the acrylic itself is 3/4-inch-thick,” explains Schellerer. “There’s a process where our router will actually go maybe 80 percent through the material and just hatch away all the acrylic so that there’s a ring that allows you to press against it from the backside and adhere from the backside to the drywall.”


ER2 applied adhesive around the ring to hold it in place in the drywall. Black 3M pressure-sensitive vinyl in the shape of a spiral was applied to the face of the acrylic before it was installed.

The final result was so “eye-catching” that the client asked ER2 for more.

“They loved it,” says Schellerer. “In fact, they contracted us to extend the wall into a different area and create the same type of scenario into another area of the Mart.”

By Ashley Bray

All photos: ER2 Image Group