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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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Sticker Printing: Some Thoughts on Window Signage

I had to install a window static cling in a theater last night. Ironically, it was only 8.5” x 11” in size, the dimensions of a sheet of letterhead. Given all the standees I’ve installed with my fiancee, from a 15-foot, multi-level dinosaur that reached the tiles of the theater’s suspended ceiling (and even lifted one tile up slightly) to the giant beach ball for the movie Rio, I’m used to large standee and banner installations. This was very small. It was to be installed in the ticket window.

Perhaps because of its size, and the ease of the small installation, I paid closer attention than usual. And I learned something about window signage.

The Window Cling: Not Really a Cling

Instructions accompanying the small, letter-sized poster referred to it as a static cling. Upon close observation, however, I noticed that the “face” of the small poster held an adhesive, not the back. Therefore, I went inside the theater and installed the poster on the inside of the glass, facing out.

Since it stuck to the window with an adhesive, I realized that in spite of the positioning instructions, the poster was not a static cling but in fact a vinyl poster with an adhesive face.

Upon Closer Observation of the Window Sign

I had the good fortune to have an extra poster, so I took it home and looked closely. This is what I saw:

  1. Working from the backing sheet outward (the backing sheet was analogous to the backing sheet on a crack’n-peel label, which you remove and discard), the first thing I saw was the adhesive. Under a high powered loupe it looked like a sea of glistening suction cops on the printed face of the small poster.
  2. Under the glue, I saw the four-color image. I saw halftone dots, so it wasn’t an inkjet job. But it also didn’t look like offset litho, and how could you offset print on sheet vinyl anyway? A little online research made it clear that I was looking at a sample of flexography (or perhaps custom screen printing), both of which are good for printing on vinyl.
  3. Behind the image was a coating of white ink, brilliant white actually, to make the colors in the photo really “pop.”
  4. Looking down on the white backing, I could see that the image really was sandwiched between a white ground and the throw-away backing sheet. It was the exact opposite of most labels I had seen, which had adhesive on the back (you peel away the backing and then stick the label on the outside of the window, or on a bottle or jar, or even on a package you’re about to mail).

More Signs on the Way Home

After taking photos of the installation, I walked home and passed a number of stores with outdoor signage.

I saw window clings on the inside of one store. They were printed on much thicker vinyl than the poster I had just installed. They also had transparent backgrounds, unlike the small poster. I could see small bubbles, where the static cling installer had not squeegied the signage enough to remove the air pockets trapped under the plastic. I made a mental note that this static cling had been installed inside the retail shop rather than on the outside of the glass.

I also saw the windows of a Chipotle restaurant under construction, plastered with large format print signage. The images ran from the top to the bottom and side to side of all windows in brilliant full color. I looked closely.

  1. The vinyl of the posters was thick, and it had been affixed to the outside of the glass. I ran my fingers over the edges. I had once read that there were building permit differences between signage placed inside the window (part of the business establishment) and window signage on the outside of the windows.
  2. Unlike the static clings in the prior retail establishment, this full-window signage was clearly attached for the long term. It was very thick, and the adhesive on the edges seemed to be firmly bonded.
  3. Unlike the small poster I had just installed, this window signage had its adhesive on the back of the image, not the front. It was glued outside the building, against the window. My poster had had the adhesive on the front.
  4. I also thought about the signage I had seen on the windows across the street. This was a music instructor’s shop. He or she had wanted people inside the building to see out, but had also wanted people outside not to see in. So he or she had affixed large format print signage (called 60/40 perforated film) to the windows (60 percent image and 40 percent holes). In contrast, the Chipotle images completely blocked the view. After all, the restaurant was under construction. There was no reason to see in or out. But there was a need to display mouth-watering signage to get people ready for the restaurant’s opening night. And the product chosen for the signage did just that.

The Moral

Give thought to these options when producing large format printed window signage:

  1. Consider whether it should be installed inside or outside the window.
  2. Consider whether it should be temporary or permanent.
  3. And consider whether it should be transparent or opaque.

There’s a lot more to large format printed window signage than the image on the vinyl.

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