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Printing Industry Exchange (printindustry.com) is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Large Format Printing: Creating a Dimensional Standee

My fiancee and I just installed the standee for the new movie Transformers: Age of Extinction. In spite of our four years’ of installation work, we had never assembled a standee quite like this before. I thought you might find some elements of this large format print product not only interesting but also applicable to your own custom printing design work.

Creating Dimensionality in the Standee

By its very nature, a standee is a three dimensional print product. It is a construct made out of fluted cardboard, chipboard, and often such other materials as wood, simulated velvet, or even AstroTurf. However, in most cases, images have been printed in 4-color process inks on flat litho paper. Granted, the custom printing paper is then laminated to chipboard or fluted board, but the images themselves are flat.

In contrast, the Transformers standee actually adds dimensionality with various layers of printed lugs affixed on top of other sections of the large format print standee.

To begin with, let me describe the Transformers: Age of Extinction standee. It is what looks like a dinosaur with one foot on the wide and narrow standee base and one foot out in front on the floor. On the back of the creature is a figure clad in armor with a sword raised high.

The base is three dimensional in that it has length, width, and depth. It is a wide rectangular pedestal with a cardboard post to which the flat torso of the dinosaur creature has been attached. The dinosaur is a silhouette, diecut from a custom printing sheet and laminated to chipboard. However, attached to the flat torso are numerous “lugs.” These lugs are much smaller, diecut portions of the legs, torso, head, and arms of the animal. The printing on the lugs exactly matches the printing on the base level below them. In addition, the lugs rise up slightly on perpendicular tabs, and the lugs are positioned over or under one another in layers.

My fiancee and I must have attached at least thirty such lugs during assembly, building outward from the flat torso of the beast. Some lugs resembled vertebrae. Others seemed to be portions of the animal’s flared nostrils and glowing eyes. Granted, everything had somewhat of a metallic effect as well, since the creature seemed to be a cross between a living being and a machine.

What made the finished product so interesting was the almost baroque intricacy of the scales and vertebrae, each set at a different distance from the base flat image of the animal. The overall, three-dimensional effect was staggering.

An Alternate Version of the Standee

Ironically, we will be installing another version of the Transformers standee in a day or so at another movie theater, and even though the first version seemed large and imposing when we finished assembly, the second version will be almost twice its size (the first is eight feet; the second will be thirteen feet). I have seen the instructions, and they seem to be almost identical to those for the smaller version, except for the size of the pieces.

I have paid close attention this year to the subtle differences between standees sent to different movie theaters promoting the same movie. Some have included more or fewer characters in the display. Some have been three-dimensional and even motorized, while alternate versions have been simple, large, flat posters of the exact same image. So seeing an alternate version of a large format print standee that mirrors the design of another but at a much larger size piques my curiosity.

The Support Within the Standee Base

Standees are not only three dimensional promotional pieces. They are also interactive, and kids will often climb on them. So I was interested and pleased to see the intricate system of cardboard supports placed within the base of the standee to ensure its durability and avoid injury to anyone who might climb aboard.

Using a system of cardboard struts placed at right angles to one another in a checkerboard pattern, the standee designer had created a robust support system inside the rectangular pedestal. I’m sure it also added weight to the support base to keep the dinosaur-like creature from falling over, but what surprised me was the apparent strength of the pedestal, which was made of nothing but paper.

What You Can Learn from this Case Study

Here are three take-aways, which you might apply to your own point of purchase or large format print design:

  1. Go beyond a flat image on paper if you’re designing large format print signage. Consider adding levels or layers to create dimensionality. Diecutting silhouettes can be powerful, but creating the illusion of depth can be even more striking.
  2. Consider the size of your large format print. How dramatic would it be at twice the size you had initially planned? Of course, this might also blow your budget, but for the right project, it bears consideration.
  3. Keep safety and durability in mind. You can design something made of chipboard or corrugated board, and with a little ingenuity in its construction, you can create a product with a level of durability you might find surprising.

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