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Large Format Printing: A “Squeezed” Standee Design

Spiderman 2 is coming out in June, and my fiancee and I just installed a “domestic theatrical standee” for this title. “Domestic theatrical standee” actually just means it’s huge, so it will dwarf the other standees in a movie theater.

Superior Functional and Aesthetic Design

We install a lot of standees, so when one of them reflects particularly good product design, both aesthetically and functionally, I like to mention it in a PIE blog article.

Like many of the other large format print standees, the Spiderman 2 display consists of a wide, flat box on a pedestal, with a large graphic adorning the front of the box and all movie information (title, credits, logos) reversed out of the dark pedestal.

Set out from the background by approximately 6” cardboard supports, an upside-down Spiderman “lug” (the technical term for a diecut cardboard attachment to the front graphic image) curves around the left front half of the standee, with his signature spider web filament (another diecut “lug”) crossing the standee in front of him and attached to the base pedestal.

What Makes This Standee Design Special?

First of all, the vertical sides of the background box are not really vertical at all. The top and bottom horizontal planes of the standee are wider than the sides, and the vertical sides curve inward at the center and then flare outward at the top and bottom. It’s as though someone had thrown a lasso over the standee and cinched the background box at the center, squeezing it to make it smaller—or like a waistline with a tight belt.

This works for two reasons. First of all, the curious shape of the standee sets it apart from other large format print signage. In the past four years, I can’t remember installing another standee quite like this.

Moreover, the vantage point of the background graphic is unique. You are looking down from above Spiderman’s position above the tall skyscrapers. Then, below Spiderman, you see the villain (either projecting or receiving flashes of electrical current), and then below that you see the grid of city streets, cars, signs, and people. You have a unique vantage point: an almost dizzying point of view. And the curved sides of the standee amplify the effect of this skewed perspective, creating the illusion that you are falling downward from above Spiderman. Way cool.

Furthremore, the fact that Spideman is upside down adds to the illusion of vertigo. The arc of his leg, torso, arm, and spiderweb filament create a “C” pattern around the left side of the graphic image. He is darker in hue than his opponent at the top right side of the graphic, but the sparks of electricity surrounding the bad guy draw the eye immediately toward him. Your eye goes right to the bad guy, even though he’s about a sixth of the size of Spiderman.

By using artistic principles of perspective, the large format print designer has created a unique point of view above the super hero, looking down at Spiderman, his nemesis, and the city far below. The illusion of depth makes you feel like swooning, and the curved sides of the standee exaggerate this distorted vision.

The Functional Design of the Standee

A lot goes into a standee design. Like a print book, it’s a physical product existing in space. Moreover, it has to be designed, printed, boxed, transported, and assembled before it can work as a marketing tool—which is, after all, its reason for existing. (Its goal is to sell movie tickets.)

When I first opened the box, I could see that the printed and diecut standee consisted of relatively few pieces assembled into a relatively small carton (when compared to other “domestic theatrical standees”). This large format print standee gives you a lot of bang for the buck. Larger, heavier standees might cost significantly more to design, print, diecut, pack, and ship to theaters. (Also, keep in mind that these standees are delivered to multiple theaters in each city, so the freight charges can really add up.) Some of the larger standees may not even be as effective, as dramatic, or as provocative as this Spiderman 2 standee.

Functional design of a large format print standee also includes ease of installation. I enjoy installing well-designed standees, the ones that can be assembled smoothly and easily.

Even though the sides of the exterior box structure are curved, the standee designer included a series of straight diecut sections, each with a slot for the tab, all along the curve. They are easily accessible, and the standee substrate doesn’t need to be bent or curved during assembly.

During installation, the standee components all went together without stress or strain. Then the central internal structure went together quickly to support the large format print graphic that covered the front of the box. And the front panel graphic had adequate slots and tabs to make assembly a breeze.

What You Can Learn from This Standee Design

  1. Study your competition, and then do something different. If you’re designing large format print signage, or even a print book or brochure, collect samples, study them closely, and then devise a way to make your piece different in an unexpected or even humorous way.
  2. Tricking the viewer’s eye can be provocative. Unexpected contrasts in size or placement can grab the viewer’s attention, as can odd vantage points, or a distorted or dramatic perspective.
  3. Consider not just the aesthetics of design (typeface, design grid, color usage) but also the functional aspects of your marketing project. This includes the availability of materials, cost of custom printing and finishing, and even the ease and cost of shipping. Design is only one component of a successful marketing campaign, albeit a crucial one.

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