5.0 ★★★★★ Bill was very responsive, creative, and diligent in working with us on the design for the name on our boat. The final product was everything we wanted. –David Bennet, Sabre 34, Forever Young
Expert Advice with VINYL GRAPHICWORKS
An interview with Vinyl GraphicWorks founder Bill Mann
About Vinyl GraphicWorks
Vinyl GraphicWorks is a full-service visual image solutions company based in Marblehead. They design, produce, and install graphics for boats as well as fleet vehicles, storefronts, signage, banners, and large format printing for corporate clients across the United States, although the majority of their business is right here in Marblehead.
If you’ve spent any time in Marblehead or Salem harbor, chances are very good that you’ve seen their work on many of the beautiful boats moored there. While they offer full-service from design to installation, they also work with boat owners interested in doing their own design and installation, providing step-by-step detailed instructions. They love working with clients and sharing their knowledge about the various materials used throughout the design process. Gold and silver lead is especially popular at present for boat names. They can do a 22 carat gold or silver leaf film in several textures and patterns (Turned, Florentine, Brushed, Burnished, even Diamond Plate). With so many high-quality materials and patterns available—carbon fiber, metallic, reflective, etched/frosted, wood grain, fluorescent, and special effects vinyl—there is a great solution for everyone.
How does vinyl compare to hand-painted signage?
Vinyl is now the standard material for boat names and graphics. We use high-performance marine-grade vinyl that lasts up to 10 years per the manufacturer, but usually even longer (as boat vinyl sits vertically, not horizontally in the sun, manufacturers’ tests are on vinyl sitting horizontally, directly under sunlight). This longevity is why hand painted boat names are rare these days, and very few around here are doing them anymore. Hand painting is more expensive as it’s essentially commissioning an artist, requires re-coating/touch-up every year or every couple of years, and is very hard to remove after multiple coats are applied. You’ve also got to wait for paint to dry, whereas vinyl is good to go as soon as it is applied. While we do not remove old painted names, we can recommend marine professionals who do. We are able to re-create a hand-painted name from a picture in order to maintain the artists original hand drawn design and have done so for many happy clients. Having a digital file once the design is done makes it easier to produce in the future and also makes it easier to create crew gear, embroidery merchandise, etc. Vinyl is ready and can get wet as soon as it is installed. Paint needs time to cure.
Which looks best from a distance / up close?
Hand painted artwork can show imperfections of a by-hand process. A computer-generated design can be perfect or offer similar imperfections to mimic hand painting. Both can have a beautiful, classic, and traditional look achieved in the design process. From a distance both can look amazing … or not, it all depends on the design that goes on the “canvas.” Hand painting is truly a lost art, and some artists’ work is simply masterful! We often recreate original hand-painted name designs for customers who can no longer get their boat name painted.
Can I install my own letters? What materials do I need? Does the temperature matter?
Yes, we send out jobs for our DIY customers throughout America. We include prep and installation instructions along with a squeegee application tool. Our instructions also list the material manufacturer’s recommended application temperature range.
Are there special requirements for boat lettering or installing a boat graphic?
Yes, there are different requirements for Coast Guard documented vessels and state registered boats. Most have to do with the letter/number character and height (for visibility) and graphics placement location.
Will I ruin my boat if I want to remove another name / re-name my boat?
It’s important to start with the right tools and knowledge. We’re always happy to talk through the process and recommend the tools to use. Although, sometimes it’s best to have removal included in the renaming process. In some circumstances, compounding & buffing or even wet sanding are needed. We always recommend having properly equipped marine professionals handle this type of work.
How do you work with people long-distance?
For the most part, the same way we work with people locally. Most frequently all the work is done via phone and email/text. An initial phone conversation leads to designs being sent by email. Once the design is final, production is done in-house at our Little Harbor facility. Installation services for distances further away than we typically travel (outside New England, although we have installed as far away as Florida), are contracted to certified graphics installers around the country. We collaborate together in the installation process. All part of the new normal in today’s remote world.
About the founder, Bill Mann
How did you get into sailing?
Growing up in Marblehead messing around in boats, I sailed at Pleon as a kid. I got back into sailing later on when going for a cruise on an old race boat. My roommate asked me if I wanted to be hoisted to the top of the mast to check out the view. Little did I know that was the beginning of my career doing bow. I did a lot of big boat racing that eventually led to competing around the world in some high-profile regattas and being fortunate enough to sail with America’s Cup crews and learn from some of the best sailors in the world. But it was always most important to me that it remained just fun times with crews of great buddies having a ton of laughs together offshore, inshore, and onshore. We’re still doing that whenever we get the chance.
How did you start your company / grow your business?
I grew up here in Marblehead, so naturally I spent a lot of time on boats. As the owner of my own small advertising company focused on graphic design, I was able to have some control over my work hours which allowed me to support my sailing and fishing habits. I started out helping a few friends design their boat names, then a few more, then eventually invested in a plotter so I could design and cut the boat names in-house. Word of mouth works exceptionally well in the boating community, and the rest, as they say, is history.
I’m proud of the way we’ve been able to expand our services and products beyond doing boat names for friends to include a considerable amount of corporate work. We recently moved into new office space in order to accommodate more equipment and hired and partnered with some amazing installers and designers. However, collaborating with boat owners and working through the design process is still my passion and remains the core of our business. It’s an honor to be part of this very personal process, knowing we’re able to deliver a product they’ll love for their years of ownership.
What are you most passionate about?
When I’m not working on boats, I enjoy spending time on the water with my wife and daughters. They are also involved with the business and have been so helpful, especially recently when they had no school and joined me in the office. It was a perfect way to stay productive, teach them some valuable life lessons and spend some quality time together. Of course, our yellow lab Sawyer is a fixture at the shop and can usually be found hanging out by my side while I’m working or keeping the boatyards safe from seagulls during installations.
What are you complimented on most in your work?
We’re proud of our customer testimonials and think they speak for themselves. We’ve received over 40 5-Star Google reviews (a few of which are included below) and look forward to earning more glowing reviews on HarborMoor!
5.0 ★★★★★ Bill and the team at Vinyl GraphicWorks are a pleasure to work with. They have done all the graphics for my office and my boat. I refer them without hesitation to all of my customers. Their work is excellent, on-time, and reasonably priced. —Andrew Savage, Back Cove 37 Downeast, Areté
5.0 ★★★★★ Billy Mann is amazing in his designs, products and delivery. I have used Vinyl Graphics for several projects and continue to be pleased beyond expectations. Real quality work at reasonable prices. Billy is the best and very easy to work with; highly recommended. — Peter Dragonas, Legacy 34, Liberty
5.0 ★★★★★ I have worked with Bill now for 3 separate boat names, each with unique designs. He is easy to work with and has tremendous passion for his craft. Creative, patient, and professional are a few of his traits that make him stand out. The finished product will make you proud! —Jeff Dinsmore, J120, Nevado
Do you have a question for Bill? Leave a comment below or reach out to Bill and his team directly on HarborMoor Services!