Looking Down: The Emerging Use of Floor Graphics
In today’s world, it’s hard to get people to look up; their noses are constantly in their phones. Whether checking social media channels, reading emails, or responding to text messages, the direction many of us are looking is downward.
For someone who prints signage, this sounds like a nightmare, right? No one’s looking up, so how are they going to see your product?
The answer is simple: bring the graphics to the floor, and before you know it you’ve got an opportunity to capture the unlimited potential of an untapped advertising market.
“It becomes a great advertising space, and you wouldn’t have thought that years ago,” says Eric Berger, owner of Philadelphia-based Color Reflections. “The supermarkets have been doing it for years where they put little stickers in front of promos. They’re pushing some product — new toilet paper or new toothbrush or whatever. But I think now a lot of retailers are seeing the advantage of using the floor space.”
Floor graphics are a growing medium that have gotten more popular as a result of the pandemic. The need for “stand six feet apart” graphics brought an uptick in business to many in-plants and sign companies. New IPI data shows that 62% of in-plants are now providing floor graphics. As the need for COVID signage wanes, floor graphics are continuing to see demand as an advertising medium.
Directing Foot Traffic
Cowan Graphics, in Edmonton, Canada, was commissioned by a small business in Calgary’s downtown that wanted to take advantage of foot traffic. Owner Blaine MacMillan says Cowan was hired to create sidewalk graphics for a boutique coffee shop that wasn’t allowed to have dine-in business due to COVID-related restrictions.
“This entity was really challenged to try and find a way to direct foot traffic, and the use of … a sidewalk graphic was tremendously helpful to them … to both launch and sustain their business,” MacMillan says.
Floor graphics are being used for trade shows, TV sets, and even one-time events like weddings. In fact, Berger says that as mandates get lifted and events continue to come back, COVID signage is decreasing, and the demand for event signage is growing.
“There will always be events where they need a temporary floor. So that business will continue to grow,” he says. “The COVID stuff will not. That’s actually died dramatically.”
In the past, Cowan has done large 50x50´ circular graphics that would be placed on a dance floor with the bride and groom’s initials on them. The company also produced a large collage for a couple that showed their life together as part of an anniversary event.
One of Color Reflections’ more interesting recent projects was helping with the set of the HBO series “The Gilded Age.”
“We printed to real wood for ‘The Gilded Age,’ and you know it’s a period piece. So, we printed parquet flooring that they installed and that was printed onto luan wood, and it looks exactly like it should for that period. So that one was really interesting,” Berger says. “And it’s not like we did just one room … we had to make these floors for an entire mansion, so it was thousands of square feet. It was pretty cool.”
Berger says Color Reflections has also created floor graphics for the Superbowl and the Drew Barrymore Show using G-floor, which is a thick and translucent portable flooring that can be semi-permanent or permanent depending on whether you glue or weld it down.
Installing floor graphics does have its share of challenges. Berger says it’s not for the faint of heart.
“The G-floor can be anywhere from 50 to 75 mils think, and then you have to put a flood white on the back, and it’s expensive, so if you have a problem where a printer craps out, you’re down a couple thousand dollars without even getting the job completed,” Berger says. “It’s very intricate. We’ve done a ton of parquet floors, but there’s a lot of detail there.”
Every job is an adventure, Berger says, and you basically don’t know what you’re going to get until you start printing. “If one side is off by just a couple mils in thickness as it goes through the machine it will skew ever so slightly. So, after you do 60´, it’ll start square at one end and it’ll be skewed just a little bit toward the end, so unless you have really good installers or a forgiving image, it can be a nightmare.”
MacMillan also raises the point that weather, especially when doing outdoor sidewalk graphics, can pose a problem for installations. If it’s raining, snowing, or sleeting, then everything gets put on hold and you’re left to rely on fallback plans.
Preparing for the Future
So as events, and concerts, and crowded spaces re-emerge, what are shops like Cowan and Color Reflections doing to prepare for the onslaught of business?
The answer is two-fold: they’re communicating, and they’re stocking up.
“With events coming back, I believe that the owners of these events are going to try to be that much more innovative and bring a unique product to the market,” MacMillan says. “Floors have not commonly been used historically, and I think that the smart ones are going to try and make use of that space as a new medium.”
“We try and market it on the web, we send email blasts that are specific to flooring and what can be done, because a lot of the designers or people who work on sets, they don’t know what can be done; they’re used to hand painting things or buying just traditional vinyl flooring, where they can now have custom,” Berger says.
Both MacMillan and Berger believe this medium is growing, and it’s quickly going to gain popularity as we begin to return to a sense of normalcy.