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Grandesigns’ Work Is Getting Around Town

Jack Garacochea already had tens of thousands of square feet of advertising space. And it went unused. Literally went .

From warehouse to store to restaurant, dodging through city streets and across the maze of Southern California freeways--for hours, this prime advertising space could be sharing a traffic snarl with a captive audience of thousands upon thousands of consumers.

But it went mute, wasted; a blank page nobody thought of writing on.

Pioneer French Baking Co., the Venice firm that Garacochea heads, has a fleet of more than 80 trucks, from delivery vans to 50-foot-long transport trucks. Each as nondescript as any other truck on the road.

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That is, until now. Garacochea has called in Grandesigns, a Los Angeles company that has given art a new roll in advertising. Grandesigns specializes in painting or printing artsy images on the sides of a company’s trucks, turning them into mobile commercials.

Garacochea figures that at least a million people a day will see the new truck ads--which will show a baker and his wares or a Parisian bicycling along with fresh loaves of bread.

The rolling billboards, as Grandesigns calls them, are typically bright and bold. Stressing art over type, the designs are eye-catching enough to stand out in a world where flashy ads are splashed on radio and television, printed in newspapers and magazines, scrawled across the blue heavens or on bus benches and even leap across Sunset Boulevard from one billboard to another.

Artist Paul Whitehead had been doing this odd kind of commercial work for about five years before he and David Sharples got together in 1983 and founded Grandesigns. The company now has five permanent employees.

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Grandesigns also will paint a company’s building or do regular billboard work, but it stresses helping its clients use “the assets they have on hand, rather than going out and renting from somebody else,” said Sharples, also vice president of the company.

The artisans paint or print--or both--the design onto the surface, depending on size and texture. For smaller areas, such as delivery vans, the design can be created in a silk-screen print and reproduced on decals that are then affixed to the sides. Larger trucks and buildings are usually all hand-painted; on some, the methods are used in combination.

The company’s customers have included paint manufacturers and a utility, an art museum and a delicatessen, an exterminator and a Las Vegas hotel-casino. And now, Grandesigns is plotting double duty for about 70 of the trucks in Pioneer French Baking’s fleet.

Sharples said the market has been helped along by Nike’s creative and successful billboards and murals, which show an athlete in action and the Nike name unobtrusively. That “has helped us . . . has opened companies up to using less conventional billboards.”

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But Grandesigns’ approach to advertising is as pragmatic as it is aesthetic. “I suppose what we’re doing,” Sharples said, “is art for business’ sake.”


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