Image Advantage was formed in 2004 to provide unique signage and commercial graphic design for Northeastern Wisconsin's small businesses. Our goal is to provide upscale design to promote our client's business, while keeping within their budget. "Great design does not need to be expensive design," states Image Advantage's President, Nikki Goral. "I see so many small businesses that have poor lettering on their company vehicles. Some of it is because vinyl lettering equipment has become so affordable for the masses, that anyone who can boot up a computer automatically calls themselves a "signmaker." Some is because vinyl lettering is sold by length or square footage and to use a larger height for lettering means more material; a bit more in price and therefore, a client gets shy with the finances."
"A signmaker's job is to provide the best possible solution to advertise the client's business. As we all know, phone book ads are expensive, and if you compare the price of a small business marketing and design plan that communicates effectively, such as vehicle lettering, your return is much higher. I know of one business in Green Bay that has one vehicle on the road that utilizes a catchy name and a fairly well designed logo. A friend of mine said that he saw their vehicles "all over the place," when in actuality, they only had one truck lettered!"
Image Advantage specializes in small business start-up packages that include logo design, high quality business cards, letterhead, envelopes, vehicle lettering, signage, brochure and direct mail creative services. "We also provide custom-made multi-media and multi-dimensional signs that utilize hand-carving & lettering, sandblasting, stained glasswork and gold-leafing or gilding. All work is performed in-house to our exacting standards. We use only the highest quality gold leaf from Germany, automotive paints on metal fabrication and 3M vinyls. Our large format digital printer can produce images for vehicle wraps, posters, banners or presentations."
Image Advantage constructed a new facility in 2006. "We are very excited about the new shop. We never thought we would be into a facility of this quality for a long time!" remarks, Nikki. The shop is 5400 square feet with 14' overhead doors, a formal office and conference room, a design room, working shop area and a warehouse space. The entire building has in-floor heat, which minimizes dust and particles that can get into projects with a forced-air system. Image Advantage is the only sign company on the east side of Green Bay, hoping to capture the market from the east side to Door County to Algoma and Kewaunee.
Nikki Goral - President
I began my sign career at a young age by lettering a bug shield for a local country-rock band with model paints. My dad said to me at the ripe age of 14, as I am lettering this thing at the kitchen table, "Whatever you decide to do with your life, DON'T BECOME A SIGNMAKER!" I laugh at that almost every day. That just goes to show you that kids will never listen to their parents! (The bug shield took four hours to letter and I got paid $35.00) "I should have known back then that you will never get rich in the sign business, but if you go to work loving what you do every day, that makes up for it."
With a Bachelors Degree from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in Fine Art and a Minor in Graphic Communications and a Master's Degree from Silver Lake College along with being a part time faculty member at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College since 2013, Nikki brings 27 years of sign experience to Image Advantage (2018).
"I began my “formal” career in a "speedy" sign shop producing mostly banners and small PVC signs. I learned some basic computer skills and became very good at "vinyl". A position opened up at a De Pere sign company for a full-time designer to be the "second-dog" in a "two-dog" design team. I learned so much about illuminated signs, channel letters, sandblasted signs, hand-lettering and airbrushing. I was with them the next three and a half years, through college graduation. I worked with some great craftsmen there. We worked on some great projects and even got one published in a sign contest."
"I was surprised to learn that a former co-worker suggested me for a job at an Appleton company. The owner was a third generation proprietor of the business. The shop foreman worked there for 45 years and his son was also employed there for 25 years. There were two salesmen brothers having 15 and 30 years in with the company. I accepted the position and became the only designer. I learned how to fabricate any type of sign, what could be built and what couldn't be, how neon got bent and colored and how to design proper foundations for structural requirements. I really got into the design end and drew schematics for foundations, lamping and fabrication for each job.
We didn't do any vehicle lettering-it was a strict commercial sign shop with most signs being the pole type with under-clearances of 10'-150'. I worked for them for five years, through a buyout, a design facility move and a shop consolidation."
"In 1999, I was getting married and I took a new position at an established Ashwaubenon company. They had just developed a commercial sign division and had hired a commercial sign salesman and needed an experienced designer. Once again, after thinking I had seen it all, I was exposed to something new to me-screen printing. Digital design was creeping up on the industry and I took classes to keep us at the forefront with that type of production. We acquired a large format digital printer and a CNC router. Our largest account was providing signs and advertising for the original Green Bay Packer's stadium renovation on a three-year contract. I was able to use all of my skills I had learned in past positions; hand-carving, sandblasting, lettering, painting, CNC router skills, digital printing and design, along with managerial duties and budgeting."
"After 5 years and having completed one of the most notable projects in the state, my husband & I wanted to start a family. In February of 2004 I left the Ashwaubenon company. I had planned on doing some interior design work to bring in some extra income, as I was planning to be a stay-at-home mom. A friend of mine had wanted me to keep on lettering his race car and was concerned that I wouldn't have access to sign making equipment anymore. We decided to buy some basic equipment to do race cars and small signs by word-of-mouth. Word-of-mouth is a great thing! I began doing more work and by July, when our baby was born, I had a 3-week waiting list."
"We have been very fortunate to be in the position that we are in. We never expected to grow so much, to be in a facility so soon, or to have the support of our family and friends like we do. I get to raise my children, do what I love every day, create new and exciting images and help other small businesses succeed."