Small Biz Saturday: Paragon Design + Display adapts with changing times

The Ann Arbor-based visual communications company overs a wide range of printing services. (Paragon Design + Display)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Paragon Design + Display has been adapting to industry changes for almost 40 years, but the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was something the Ann Arbor business could never have anticipated.

Currently located on Washtenaw Avenue, the display and printing studio is feeling the same pressures felt by Ann Arbor’s other small businesses. In addition to being forced to closed for many months earlier in the year, it has seen a dip in client orders and a change in client needs.

In a typical year, the studio would usually be making displays and signage for events, athletics games and trade shows, according to Paragon Design + Display retail operations manager Brock Lytle.

But 2020 isn’t a typical year. Instead of preparing events signage, local businesses are ordering COVID-19-related items, including social distancing graphics, floor decals and sneeze guards. Some businesses are even getting creative by asking for items like branded wrapping paper and branded backdrops for video calls.

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Company president Bill Van Cleve said that the shift in client needs is partially due to budget cuts and freezes experienced by commercial clients. Displays and printing aren’t considered essential, so projects with some clients, including the University of Michigan, are on hold.

The lack of events has hit the business pretty hard, he said.

A mural and metal prints at the Patrick V. McNamara Federal Building in Downtown Detroit. (Paragon Design + Display)

However, there is a silver lining: the studio has gotten some new clients in the area and is working with new products.

Account manager Christie Sampier noted that as the dispensary industry has grown around Ann Arbor, more and more businesses in that industry have become clients. So have more and more community members.

“We’re getting a lot of people that are wanting prints,” Sampier said, explaining that community members want high-quality prints of their own artwork, as well as prints for crafting and scrapbooking.

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Paragon Design + Display has also been doing more mural work over the past six months. Recently, the company created a 70-foot mural for a client in Chelsea and a mural for the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office.

Lytle said that the printing studio now creates customized gift wrapping paper and custom facemasks. When Paragon was allowed to reopen in June, it was even made custom facemasks for Eastern Michigan University’s mascot, Swoop.

Paragon Design + Display is able to create customized wrapping paper for its clients. (Paragon Design + Display)

Coming up with creative ideas isn’t new for the 38-year-old Ann Arbor company. “We’re always trying to adapt to what customers may need or what trends are going on,” Sampier said.

Lytle added that the visual communications sector is very fluid. “This industry changes quite a bit,” he said. “So there’s lots of trends and new materials constantly coming out, so we’ve been able to embrace that change attitude over the years."

Keeping up with innovations has also helped the company to introduce more people-friendly and sustainable options. The latex ink Paragon uses for some of its printing doesn’t smell, according to Van Cleve. This not only makes it better for the people who produce printed products but it’s better for customers.

“Everything we’re doing is way more eco-friendly,” he said, explaining how the company has adapted during its long life.

A magnetic display at Zingerman's Bakehouse created by Paragon Design + Display. (Paragon Design + Display)

Community members are always welcome to walk into Paragon’s Washtenaw Avenue location to talk about their printing and display needs, said Van Cleve.

“We’re totally open to consumers coming in, and we offer things that no one else does," he said.

In addition to printing, the small business offers photo restoration. Van Cleve said that as community members dig through their photos, Paragon can help with color matching and mounting. Photos can be printed on different materials including canvas, aluminum, wood, acrylic and different papers.

If clients can think of it, Paragon can print it, according to Sampier.

Learn more about the company’s services through its' website. It is currently offering free quotes as well as in-person and virtual appointments.

Paragon Design + Display is at 4557 Washtenaw Ave.

About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.