An Interview with Thysse’s Director of Specialty Graphics: Jim Hagen
He’s Not Square, But His Graphics Are.
Meet the guy behind your next Specialty Graphics installation.
Based on our last post, which demystified some absurdly ‘out-there’ industry jargon, you know Thysse’s Director of Specialty Graphics is a witty, downright likable guy. Sure, being the jovial sort makes every communication and project more enjoyable, fostering a highly-collaborative environment for your Specialty Graphics installation.
But did you know he’s also an indisputable expert at his craft, with years of experience and an infectious passion to match? We asked Jim to set his squeegee aside for a moment to give our clients a glimpse of who they’d be working with if they trusted #TeamThysse to fabricate and install their next Specialty Graphics project. Here’s what the guy behind the magic had to say:
Thysse: How would you capture the essence of what you do in a thirty second elevator pitch?
Jim: I install graphics and displays in your space to improve brand awareness. My team and I digitally print and cut custom, full-color graphics, and install them to bring our clients’ designs to life within their facilities.
You’ve been working in the industry for a respectable length of time. How long has it been? Do you remember your first project?
Jim: Let’s just say if my career were a child, they’d be a young millennial hopefully in grad school by now. My first vinyl graphics job was lettering a Mazo Cheese tanker truck. My installation was awful. Wrinkled, crooked with a ton of bubbles. It was so terrible that the guy felt bad for me. Said it looked great, paid the invoice, and gave me a giant wheel of cheese. That was in 1994. I think I still have some of the wheel of cheese left.
Jim, it’s time to toss that cheese! Wrapping objects of all shapes and sizes with ultra-thin vinyl involves a pretty niche skill set. What led you to a career in this field?
Jim: In the Air Force I trained to repair avionics systems. Turns out, repairing aircraft electronics is pretty dull if you’re looking to scratch your creative itch! After helping a few friends with their logos and promotional materials, I decided to invest in my own vinyl graphics equipment. I did that as a side gig while my day job was still in electronics. Eventually, it turned into a second full-time job and one had to go! I chose the better option.
Have you ever wrapped any of your own spaces or equipment?
Jim: It’s always been easier for me to work on projects for someone else because I’m helping bring their vision to life on a piece they love. After all the years spent working on clients’ projects, two years ago I finally did a color change wrap on an old car of mine, now fondly known as Stella.
Is there a project you’ve always wanted to work on?
Jim: I’ve always wanted to work on wraps that “theme” children’s areas in hospitals. I once wrapped a mobile X-ray machine at American Family Children’s Hospital to look like a fire truck. That way when it’s wheeled into the room, it doesn’t look so frightening.
People who haven’t worked in the industry may not realize the skill and craftsmanship involved in a project. What are some of the unique challenges and considerations involved in an installation?
Jim: Installing graphics in a space or on a 3D object is much different than a website or a flat printed sheet. The graphics need to flow all the way around. Sizing the graphics correctly, then executing the installation to match the client’s original design is a huge undertaking. It’s a giant leap from the computer screen to the walls in a reception area!
Have you had to learn any special skills to execute an install?
Jim: Ambidexterity? Over the years, I’ve learned to write, knife cut, scissor and squeegee with both hands. Sometimes you find yourself in a position where only your left hand can reach what you are working on.
Word on the street is that you have some pretty epic hobbies outside of work. What do you like to do in your free time?
Jim: I’m definitely all over the place with what I like to do in my free time. I’m a nerd for vinyl records and vintage electronics, like the 70’s Marantz™ receiver I’ve been repairing. I think the old gear just sounds better! I’m a hack on a water ski and surfboard, and enjoy spending time with our horses. I don’t barrel race with them like my wife does, but I do love a very fast trail ride! Oh, and I can’t forget cruising in Stella.
What’s something that might surprise a client about the install process?
Jim: Some clients look oddly at me using a propane torch to heat the vinyl I’m installing. It’s an open flame typically used on hard-to-remove metal hardware, or to remove paint from furniture. I like to use a propane torch because it’s cordless, easy to control and the heat is instant.
Knowing a quality install from a poor one might not be common knowledge for the average person. What are some common mistakes to watch out for?
Jim: Each project brings its own challenges, and if an installer doesn’t take time to create accurate templates and detailed installation guides, it can really affect the longevity and impact of the final product. Creating square borders for leveling, and ensuring perfectly straight graphic overlaps can mean the difference between an exceptional and average installation.
What are the benefits of working with a company who can manage both the production and installation aspects of a project?
Jim: In short, accuracy and efficiency. Your printer can evaluate your design, modify it to suit the space, and produce the graphics with the installation in mind. If necessary, they can design around trouble areas like door handles and outlets, all while considering the existing architecture and furniture. When it comes to the ‘wow’ factor of an installation, it’s all about the small, but important, details.
A lot of people don’t get to do what they love for a living, but it seems like this is more than a daily grind for you. What is it that motivates you?
Jim: It starts with meeting business owners and seeing their passion. I’m always honored when a client trusts me to translate and install their designs, that ultimately will help grow their livelihood. I’ve made some great connections with some of the hardest working people I know and gained their respect – that is a high achievement in my book! This sounds corny, but for me, every installation is personal. My business reputation means everything to me. I guess I’m old school.
Now that you know a thing or two (or twelve) about the man behind the headshot, it’s hardly a surprise why Jim fits the Thysse bill. In 1941, Thysse’s founder set the precedent that we’d define ourselves by our passion, pride, and craftsmanship. Eighty years later, we still take that sentiment pretty seriously around here.
For us, Specialty Graphics is the sum of the whole installation process, from helping our clients translate their designs and fabricating exceptional graphics, to bringing their design to life in a physical space. The connections built along the way are just one more of the joys in choosing Thysse to be where you go with your brand.
Got a cool design in mind and need someone to help with execution? Want to go water skiing with Jim? Give us a shout, or feel free to explore more on your own first.
Interested in a fabulous install but not sure where to even begin? We’d suggest starting a conversation with our Experiential Design team to see how we can help.