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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: Two More Unique Standees

I installed a rather unique standee (large format print) today with my fiancee. It’s for the new Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation film, and it spins. While doing the installation in the movie theater, I also saw a unique standee for The Good Dinosaur, a flat background wall out of which the silhouette of a dinosaur had been cut. Here are some thoughts on both, and on why I think they are more than just eye catching.

Mission: Impossible

The Mission: Impossible standee is a series of three boxes on a pole. Each box has four printed sides, and a blank top and a bottom. On the four sides of each box is either an action photo from the movie or text relating to the film. Between each box I placed a lazy-Susan spinning device.

What makes the standee unique is that it moves. It’s called a “spinner.” Each of the three boxes can move independently of the others, setting up a different series of large format print images one over the other.

Unlike most of the other standees my fiancee and I have installed, this one is not static. It changes. I’ve seen this only five or six times in the last five years. What makes the movement engaging to those who interact with the standee and move the boxes is twofold:

  1. All physical items have three dimensions: length, width, and height. But this standee has an additional dimension: time. Movement is related to change over time. This is what made the sculptures of Alexander Calder called “mobiles” unique. Because elements of the sculptures moved in arcs and circles, the mobiles were always slightly different, unlike other sculptures and paintings.
  2. Most standees are meant to be seen and appreciated from a distance. In contrast to these are the photo booths: cardboard environments in which you sit with the movie characters while someone takes your picture. In this way you interact with the photo booths. The same is true with this “spinner” standee. You can move it, so you are actually interacting with the standee. You’re participating in the marketing-art experience.

What You Can Learn

Movement and interactivity are powerful draws in any kind of artwork, be it fine art or commercial art. As a marketer, or designer, your task is to capture the interest and imagination of the viewer. Movement and interactivity will increase your chances of doing this. If you’re designing a large format print display, you can incorporate one or both of these characteristics into your work. In some cases, even if you’re designing a print book or another custom printing piece, you can do the same thing.

The Good Dinosaur

I was struck by the creativity in this standee because the central image, the dinosaur, doesn’t exist. It is actually composed of negative space cut out of the background box.

To explain, in fine arts the concept of “negative space” refers to all shapes and areas that are not the main subject matter of a painting or drawing (usually the background). Relating this to the standee, an image of a dinosaur on a field of green (the background) is the subject matter, and hence the entire background is secondary, and it is referred to as negative space (in contrast to the dinosaur, which is positive space).

In a more complex piece of art, the triangular shape of background image formed by a woman’s arm with her hand on her hip (for instance), might be considered a smaller area of negative space—also a part of the background.

What makes a piece of art compelling is the interaction between the negative and positive space. They fit into each other like pieces of a puzzle. In the case of the standee, one usually expects the subject matter, in this case the dinosaur, to be positive space. The standee designer thwarted the viewer’s expectation, and made the dinosaur not only negative space but “nonexistent” space.

More specifically, the three boxes that comprise the green background were created in such a manner that they end along the contour of the dinosaur. This required some serious thought in the composition of the standee as well as skill in die cutting the cardboard pieces of the standee.

But beyond the required technical expertise, the overall standee is unique because the designer challenged the viewer’s expectation of how the dinosaur would be presented. That which is unexpected can intrigue and delight the viewer. And this is an asset in both fine art and commercial art.

What You Can Learn

Find ways to lead the viewer down unexpected paths. Include unique treatments in your artwork, whether something as ephemeral as a ghost image created with a tinted varnish or a raised and textured UV coating to simulate the leather of a football or the hairs on a spider.

If something is unexpected, it will catch your viewer’s attention from among all the other potential stimuli he or she could be absorbing. To sell a product or service, good marketing does exactly this.

Use these building blocks in your next design piece.

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