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The Art of the Build

Polaris’ history, illustrated by artist Adam Turman

When a vehicle is in the design stages, Polaris engineers consider features that go beyond its on – and off – road capabilities. The lines, the colors, the shapes combine to help tell the story of the adventure, evoke the legacy behind the brand, and reveal the art of the ride.

As lines play a significant role in a vehicle’s design, they too are a signature style in artist Adam Turman’s artwork – and that commonality helped Turman depict Polaris’ history and array of products in a larger-than-life mural in its company headquarters in Medina, Minnesota. And as Turman saw firsthand, vehicle design is art form of its own.

Painting the Polaris story

In Polaris locations throughout the country, from manufacturing plants and R&D facilities and offices, the company’s storied history plays a large role in its interior spaces, as does imagery of the company’s variety of products. When it came time for a redesign of the Medina corporate office, it was important to continue that tradition. The redesign occurred in parallel with the work to evolve the Polaris corporate brand. The serendipity of these events created a fun opportunity to showcase the new branding, inclusive of the tagline Think Outside, while pursuing a company first – a commissioned piece of art.

“Think Outside means something different to each person,” explains Holly Spaeth, director of branding and partnerships at Polaris, who helped lead the mural project. “But this is especially true for each employee. Bringing the stages of Think Outside visually to life felt not only impactful, but meaningful as it relates to what we focus on every day at Polaris – helping people find possibilities in the outdoors. Once we had this idea, we knew we needed an artist who could truly do it justice.” It just so happened that the perfect person also happens to call Minnesota home.

Turman, with his bold, colorful, painting style, was the answer – and the expansive blank wall leading to the main Medina conference room became his canvas. Turman is known for his bold style and colorful takes on beloved landmarks and the great outdoors. His work can be found throughout the Twin Cities and the Midwest, and his prints are in private collections worldwide.

“One of the neatest things I came to see during this process is how the Polaris employees take such pride in the company,” Turman says. “It made a lot of sense for the mural to hang in a high traffic location where so many people would [will] get to see it.” (The Covid-19 pandemic caused Polaris to close its offices in March; the offices remain closed.)

Artists and Engineers

With its deep Minnesota roots, Polaris has a big story to tell when it comes to company history. The mural would have to encompass an array of elements, including Polaris’ products, its people, the design process and its innovative technology.

But before Turman ever dipped his brush into paint, he needed to metaphorically immerse himself in Polaris blue and Think Outside in order to best portray the company’s colorful history. To do that, he spent time with Polaris designers and engineers in the Medina and Wyoming facilities in February serving as sort of a visual apprentice in order to fully understand the vehicle design process from concept to competition. “I went behind the scenes and saw how the design engineers do the clay work, how they transform sketches into vehicles,” Turman says of the seven-month project. “To see the process – to understand the mechanics of it, from the testing of the products to seeing how it all comes to life, was really helpful.”

Turman says that his goal with every painting is to convey a story, to catch a viewer’s eye and draw them in. “As best I could,” he says, “In everything Polaris does, from initial thought processes to engineering to assembly – design plays a big part, it’s industrial design. It’s analytical. I wanted to illustrate what they do in a way that people could appreciate and visualize the overall story.” Once that step was completed, Turman used reference photos, began his sketches, and together with Spaeth and Greg Brew, vice president of industrial design, began a back-and-forth process to refine the sketches in order to best portray the company’s storied history.

A different kind of assembly line

The wall outside the conference room provided the ideal canvas, however, the mural wouldn’t be painted directly onto the walls. Because of the large scale of Turman’s work, and the fact that Polaris wanted to have the mural done in a way that would allow it to be portable, the artist and Polaris employees from the Industrial Design and Facilities teams had to figure a solution that included determining a suitable mounting mechanism and fabrication of the mounting brackets, test fits, and moving the panels to and from Turman’s studio. The result was a 24-foot wide canvas, using six, eight-foot tall panels made of Dibond sheets of aluminum with a plastic core that would last for decades to come, and smooth enough for Turman to apply paint.

Once Polaris prepped [made] (Panels were purchased and primed by Polaris team) the panels, they were shipped to Turman’s studio in Golden Valley, Minnesota, where he constructed a frame to hang the panels while he painted. He projected the mural sketch onto each of the panels to get clean images, using a pencil to trace the outlines. In order for the color illustration to pop in the style he’s known for, Turman under painted the background first, applying deep yellows and orange in the sky and clouds. Moving to the foreground using rich colors for the rock and wood elements and deep blues to heighten the pop of the Polaris blue. Then, he layers on the main objects, the RZR, the Bennington pontoon, the Scout Bobber, and the INDY snowmobile. The welders, the builders, even the design engineers from the facilities he visited he shadowed are represented in the mural.

Thick black lines are his signature style, and his use of them achieves an engaging, illustrative style that’s so easily identified as Turman’s work. His lines, created exclusively with a high-pigment carbon black paint, act much like lines on a vehicle, helping draw distinction, create movement, delineate edges, and create a framework for how the many elements come together within the overall design.

This piece of art truly became Think Outside brought to life.

Installation at Polaris HQ

When the mural was finished, and the panels had been moved to the Polaris office and installed on the wall, Turman spent a half day doing some clean up and refinement before the piece was considered finished. The size, the color, the imagery come together to create an impressive, meaningful piece of artwork, and one that’s certain to be enjoyed by the many Polaris employees and visitors who pass by the mural each day (once the offices open back up, of course).

“This is how I give back,” Turman says. “Murals are some of my favorite pieces, they’re giving of yourself, taking your artwork and sharing it with other people – that’s what art should be – given to the people for enjoying.” And that certainly aligns with the intent of each Polaris vehicle; ultimately, the vehicles are built for riders and drivers to enjoy the ride – it is an artform, after all.