Two big events in the motor sports world early this month gave a Mount Ayr firm a chance to make a splash on a big stage.
Podium Ink, a graphic
design firm started by Mount Ayr natives Brad Elliott and Burt Murphy, got its name out in a big way at the SEMA show in Las Vegas, NV, and the
Arenacross event held at Wells Fargo Arena in Des. Moines.
Take the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, NV. It is the premier automotive specialty products trade
event in the world.
Over 100,000 industry leaders from 100 countries are on hand with products for the automotive, truck and SUV, marine and recreational
Podium Ink from Mount Ayr had some of its work on display there too.
There was the 2008 GMC black pickup that was on display
in the Skyjacker suspension life booth that had been decked out in eagle feather graphics by Podium Ink and put together with a host of after-market parts
in a collaborative effort by Dick Elliott of Mount Ayr.
There was the truck and trailer from Wichita, KS-based Total Performance Inc., which brought the
first of its kind 1969 RCR Series 3 Camaro to the show. The graphics for the trailer were all [Page 11] Podium Ink and had been printed and applied to the
truck and trailer at their plant in Mount Ayr.
The car itself, designed with the Richard Childress Racing (RCR) legacy of Dale Earnhart racing in mind, has the last engine that Earnhart won a race with in
it and will be auctioned off in Scottdale, AZ later this winter. It is the first of 50 cars that will be built using the design and are expected to go to collectors
somewhere in the $150,000 to $200,000 range after this very special first one is sold.
The work of the Mount Ayr company could also be seen when the Arenacross event
was held at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. That's where the design work of Burt Murphy had more sway.
He has designed the decals and look for a number
of motorcross racing teams, including the one owned by his father, Joe Murphy of Mount Ayr and the firm gets its name on motorcross bikes as a racing sponsor.
Not bad for a graphic design firm that is really just getting going as a full time effort for both Elliott and Murphy.
"Brad has connections with the racing
world on the east coast where many of the NASCAR teams are based while I have more connection with the motorcycle world in Southern California," Murphy notes.
"Coming together gives us a wider range of design opportunities."
While Elliott has worked more with car and truck design, Murphy has experience with making
motorcycles, four wheelers and off-road vehicles like dune buggies stand out with eye-popping designs.
While Brad Elliott has been to the SEMA show in
earlier years while working for other companies, it was a bit different being there marketing his own company.
"It is a great networking opportunity and
we had interest shown from firms on both coasts as well as from places like Australia," Elliott noted.
Elliott says that their location in the midwest makes it
easy to deal with the time zones on both coasts. In fact, saying that Podium Ink is located in Mount Ayr was a conversation starter for people who had't
ever heard of the community.
One of the advantages for the firm in the motorsports world is that both Elliott and Murphy come to the design from being
enthusiasts to begin with.
"Some other firms have designers who do not come to the process from a background of having grown up around the motorsports
world," Elliott said.
While design in the motor sports area is one of their niches, they are doing work for other types of firms as well.
local firms have used their services. They've shared concept images for adding murals or upgraded elements to buildings around the Mount Ayr square on their
own. Pictures have been on display in the window of Timby Steakhouse and bakery on the north side of the square.
They have also come up with a number of
ways to add value to products like Coleman coolers to make one-of-a-kind gifts. They had one of these on display at the Ducks Unlimited banquet not too long ago.
The design work that Elliott and Murphy do can really be done anywhere -- especially in this age of computers and online communication. It's a high pressure
"With our Mount Ayr location, however, we can balance work and still have a life in a supportive community," Elliott noted. "In the city you have
a big stressful commute but here we can keep our sanity."
The two friends from high school took different tracks for their design education. Murphy graduated
from Iowa State University while Elliott is a Northwest Missouri State University graduate, who designed the logo that the university now uses.
with firms that dealt with motorcycles while Elliott worked for an automotive aftermarket firm before they decided to strike out on their own together.
Having a partner with a little different background lets them bounce ideas off each other that make them both better, Elliott said.
In their role of
graphic design marketing, they have worked on everything from websites to vehicle wraps and from logos to printed pieces.
"One of the exciting things
right now is being asked for a solution we haven't dealt with before and working to develop one to see how it is done," Elliott said. "We see
ourselves as creative problem solvers, and if we find something we can't do ourselves, we find someone who can."
Podium Ink didn't just happen overnight.
Elliott and Murphy agreed almost a year ago that they would like to put together their own design firm. They worked nights and weekends on projects to
get them started.
A catalyst for making the leap into their own building came when the former Alliant Energy and Great Western Bank building came on the market.
The building suited their needs to a T, providing office and design space, area for their 54-inch wide vinyl printer and space that vehicles could be
brought into the building so they could be wrapped in vinyl graphics.
Keeping up with the latest trends in software, computers, and production is part
of the process of having a design firm and the firm has a state-of-the-art printer that can print on media 54-inches wide by as long as the roll of material
being printed is.
For some uses, the materials are the laminated to provide ultraviolet light protection and to stand up to wear. Materials like
banners and the like don't have to have the extra layers, however.
The latest experiment is with material that can be put on a wall and then removed like
the life-sized posters of sports stars being marketed.
There are all kinds of plans as the business continues to grow. They want to upgrade their
company website and provide online sales opportunities. When the get their workspace looking like they want it to, they'll have an open house to let the
public see their operation.
"It's kind of a neat story that two small town artists who were good friends growing up and remaining friends as they went
their separate ways can come back to Mount Ayr and create a business in rural Iowa that is getting recognition on the national scene," Elliott said.
like to share the message that young people our age can come back and use the skills they've learned to grow businesses that can have national
scope but be based here in Iowa," Elliott noted.
"We can't think of a better place to start a business," Murphy said. "We think this is a great opportunity
to help build our home community."
Photographs courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015
Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, October 30, 2014