Expand Your Wide-Format Repertoire
The use of digital printing for interior decoration and branding elements has grown as a practice and made inroads into our lives. For this article, we’ll define digital decoration as printed elements used to decorate, brand, or beautify spaces, be they student learning environments, locker rooms, or corporate board rooms. They include elements such as window graphics, custom-printed wallpaper, floor graphics, and murals.
The significant opportunity here is that digital printing (mostly inkjet) brings its inherent values (full color, short runs, minimal setup, etc.), mixes them with easy-to-acquire materials, and gives wide-format-equipped in-plants the ability to provide branding, identify buildings, or offer unique decoration in new and interesting ways.
As an in-plant printer with the right wide-format inkjet capabilities, you can (if you choose to, and if it fits within the goals of your operation) produce interior decoration and branding elements for your parent organization. While much of the production work can be kept in-house, some projects may require the skills of an experienced graphics installer (more about that later), as many of these projects utilize pressure-sensitive materials.
Gone are the days of boring, monochromatic entryways and conference rooms. With the use of wide-format inkjet, large-scale wall murals can be produced to match brand colors, slogans, and messaging, or even provide added character to each area of a multi-floor or multi-department facility.
Because the panels for murals are generally printed in “tiles” of less than four feet in width, the size of the finished mural is in no way limited by the width of your printer. For most murals, the substrate is a pressure-sensitive vinyl, and the print should be laminated to ensure it can resist moisture, minor scratches, or everyday abuse.
While murals often present a specific image or convey a distinct message, wallpaper is more of a decorative element. A university, for instance, might incorporate the school’s colors and elements of its logo into subtle, unobtrusive patterns that can be installed in interior spaces. Used in this way, wallpaper can subtly convey the brand without being showy about it.
Depending on the application, digitally printed wallpaper can either be laminated, pressure-sensitive vinyl, or actual inkjet-receptive wallpaper product, which is installed using traditional wallpaper glue. The latter of these choices, while more expensive and complicated to install, looks like the wallpaper products we imagine in our mind’s eye.
Large windows present an excellent opportunity to provide a decorative touch or convey a brand message. While some applications utilize standard, opaque pressure-sensitive vinyl, other applications use transparent or translucent materials to create interesting effects.
Additional opportunities are gained by companies whose wide-format devices feature integrated contour cutting systems. In these cases, frosted or other translucent materials can be cut into decorative and/or branded shapes, and can serve to add an element of privacy to, for instance, a glass-walled conference room that looks out onto a busy hallway or sidewalk. For most applications, pressure-sensitive window films are required. Others require wet installation. For some short-term applications, static-cling films can be used.
Buildings are filled with elements that can be utilized as opportunities for decoration and/or branding. Columns, elevator doors, and floors are all areas where graphics can be applied, either to advertise an upcoming event (as a short-term use) or to enhance the look or feel of the space at hand.
This is where creativity can come into play, and the inherent benefits of digital printing make for the easy, routine changing of graphics to match a product push, key messaging, or event promotion. Again, most of these projects will likely use pressure-sensitive materials. For many operations entering this space, knowledge of the possibilities of the materials and the projects they can be used to create can greatly expand the ability to “sell” them within your parent company.
As mentioned earlier, a skilled graphics installer may be needed to provide the essential, final step in many of the jobs mentioned above. The reasons for this are two-fold: The first is that your staff may not have the skills or know-how to do a large, complicated installation; the second is that an inexperienced installer, working without backup or “do-over” prints, runs a pretty high risk of an unsuccessful installation — and do-overs ruin your margin. The Professional Decal Application Alliance (apps.sgia.org) has a listing of certified graphics installers on its website. They can be used to ensure success of the big projects. You do the production, they do the install.
To a person just entering this area, the myriad choices of films, substrates, and overlaminates may be a bit overwhelming. The good news is that most of these companies have robust websites and technical teams that can help pair your in-plant with the right material for the job.
Truthfully, for most of these applications you don’t need a supply closet loaded with exotic stuff. Most can be done using fairly standard, easy-to-acquire products. If you have a standing relationship with a graphics installer, reach out to them. They hold deep knowledge of the available products and can help steer you toward success.
Ready to Go?
So, now that you’ve read this, should you run out and equip your operation to jump headlong into digital decoration? Maybe, but probably not. The true purpose of this article is to help you understand that printing operations using some the of same imaging technologies you might already have in your in-plant (in this case, wide-format inkjet) are doing some pretty amazing things and producing graphic elements that were once well outside the wheelhouse of an in-plant. Any operation with the right tools and the right materials can serve these product areas. The choice to do so, really, is a business calculation.
The current preponderance of photo books, customized ceramic mugs and t-shirts, and wide-format photo prints have trained the consumer (and the print buyer) to want more of what digital printing can offer, and to want it more deeply entwined into their lives.
Similarly, the growing use of digital printing in the decoration of striking decorative or branding elements for spaces including hospitals, offices, and educational settings, has given way to more diverse and unique looks within those spaces. While the elements discussed in this article may seem like novelties now, always remember that today’s novelty is often tomorrow’s normal.
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