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Printing Industry Exchange ( 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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Archive for April, 2012

Book Printing: Consider Both Design Goals and Custom Printing Costs

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

A client of mine is producing a family history print book. We’re not absolutely sure yet whether it will be long enough to warrant perfect binding—or even case binding—or whether the press run will require digital or offset printing.

That said, my client wants the book to be first class in design and primarily for family and friends. So at this point I’m guessing that it will be an 8.5” x 11” format, 100 to 200 pages (based on the number of photos and the amount of text), and case-bound in a limited edition on table-top case-binding equipment. I would assume at this point that the interior of the book would be digitally printed on an HP Indigo (or similar press) due to the short run (presumably less than 500 copies if the book is for friends and family), and the 4-color imagery in the text of the book.

Regardless of the method of producing the book, it will need to include one or more images reflecting two branches of a large family tree.

I was just called upon to offer advice regarding both custom printing and design issues, and I wanted to share them with readers who might face similar challenges.

The Goals for the Family Tree

A family tree includes a lot of information, and to be useful this information must be readable. Moreover, in this particular case the family tree will include two smaller trees: one for the mother’s side of the family and one for the father’s.

I spoke with a book printer to discuss options. He suggested the following:

From a Book Printer’s Perspective

  1. My client could print the two segments of the family tree on two consecutive pages within the book. If artwork on the two pages needs to cross over and align perfectly, these could be the two center-spread pages of a signature in a perfect-bound or case-bound book, or the center spread of the book if the text winds up being short enough for saddle stitching.

    Or, my client could print the mother’s family tree on a page preceding her chapter of the book, and the father’s family tree on the page preceding his. (Either way, there would be no additional custom printing charge. The pages for the family tree would just be part of the text.)

  2. My client could print the two segments of the family tree on the inside front and inside back covers of the print book. If the book were saddle stitched or perfect bound, this would be no problem, and if my client choses to produce a case-bound book, the segments of the family tree could be printed on the endsheets of the book.

    For either a saddle-stitched or perfect-bound book, there might be no extra charge, or only a minimal charge, depending on how the covers are printed. More specifically, some larger presses can print both sides of the press sheet simultaneously. In this case, depending on how many inking units the press has and how the covers are imposed (set up on the press sheet), the additional cost might be only for ink, wash-ups, and plates.

    On the other hand, if the covers must be printed once for the exterior front and back covers, and an additional time for the interior front and back covers, this option might add hundreds of dollars to the cost of the job. The same would be true if the job is case bound, since an additional press run would be needed for the endsheets, which might otherwise be blank.

  3. As a third alternative, my client could add an over-sized sheet (11″ x 17″ folded to 8.5″ x 11″) between signatures within the book (called a “tip-on”). This would work whether the book is saddle stitched, perfect bound, or case bound.

    If the print book is saddle stitched, the fold-out would need to be placed in the “high-folio” side (the back of the book) and open out to the right (placing it in the low-folio side is an option, but since it is more difficult, it would cost more). Basically, an 8.5” x 11” book page would be on one side of the staples (the front half of the book), and the larger, two-page fold-out would be on the other side of the staples (the back half of the book). The fold-out would be folded in just shy of the trim so the cutting knives won’t chop through the fold when they trim the book.

    Depending on the page count and press run, this can add $600, $700, or more, for make-ready and the book press run.

From a Designer’s Perspective

I thought about these options as a designer as well as a print broker to see whether the respective goals might be in conflict. These were my observations and my suggestions to the client:

  1. Seeing both the mother’s and father’s side of the family tree side by side would show a connection between the two sides of the family.
  2. But this would require a larger than normal page size to allow for readable text.
  3. Therefore, the ideal option would unfortunately also be the most expensive (the fold-out).
  4. Placing the two halves of the family tree side by side on facing pages would work, too. However, a fold-out treatment will be more dramatic, giving prominence to the design and type on the fold-out page.

At this point it is early in the process. We’ll see what my client will choose. I’m sure it will depend on the size and format of the print book, its budget, and my client’s design and editorial goals for the family history. These may all affect both the printing technology (digital or offset) and the binding options (traditional long-run binding or short-run table-top binding).

But this does illustrate the need to coordinate the physical requirements of the custom printing process with both the desired look and functionality of a job and the amount of money available for its design and production. And, as always, it’s wise to involve the book printer early in the design process.

Commercial Printing: Letterpress Is Thriving

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

I read an article about letterpress recently, sent to me via Google Alerts. The article was entitled “The Letterpress Thrives in an iPad Age.” It was written by Peter S. Green and published by Business Week early this month.

Multiple Copies of This Article

What I found intriguing was the number of times this article about custom printing has appeared, in blogs, online newsletters, etc., under slightly reworded titles, but always with the same lead paragraph appearing in the search engine results: five pages of Google search listings.

To me, this speaks volumes. People want the tangible qualities of custom printing work. In fact, people need the tangible qualities of print even more now because of the ephemeral (i.e., virtual) nature of the Internet.

The Gist of the Article

“The Letterpress Thrives in an iPad Age” describes the experience of several artists who come home from their day jobs (in some cases designing advertisements on their Macintosh computers) and either use their own letterpresses or rent them with other artisans within a group setting.

Why? They want to get away from the computer for a while, stop being wired-in, and create a marriage of physical art and physical communications.

According to the article, the market is there, too, noting that “Etsy, the website that hosts online stores for handmade goods, listed over 22,000 letterpress items in early April, more than triple the number a year earlier.” In addition, one artist described in the magazine article sells her work both online and in Anthropologie, an upscale women’s clothing establishment. Her custom printing products include greeting cards, wedding invitations, and thank-you notes.

Why I Think Letterpress Is Thriving

To add depth to the argument for the physical attributes of commercial printing work, another article I read noted that being 13 percent of the way through a book on an e-reader didn’t hold the same satisfaction for the reader as having read 40 pages of a 300-page book. There’s a sense of accomplishment that comes from knowing—in an analog way—that you have read a certain number of pages of a print book and have so many more to go.

My personal view is that letterpress is thriving for the following reasons:

  1. Our world has become increasingly impersonal and virtual.
  2. Letterpress has a more tactile quality than even offset custom printing, since the type and plates actually strike the paper and leave indentations (called “the punch” of the plate on the paper). The multi-level nature of the letterpress printed product combined with the all-cotton card-stock makes holding and reading such a printed piece a sensual pleasure.
  3. The artisans in the magazine article are approaching both the illustrations and type of the letterpress-printed items as artwork: more than just communication.
  4. Handcrafted notecards are very personal. They are far more intimate than a hastily written email note. (My guess would be that handcrafted writing implements—beautifully wrought ballpoint pens and fountain pens—might also be making a comeback.)
  5. The natural quality of the components of letterpress (the cotton of the paper and the metal of the presses) balance the artificial nature of computer images.
  6. The antiquarian nature of letterpress as well as its slowness balance the speed and perfection of cyber-life.

Samples From a Local Letterpress

I brought out my letterpress samples today to look for any qualities I had missed.

  1. I found a letterpress pizza in a miniature, printed pizza box. The pizza is a diecut puzzle printed in two colors on thick chipboard. Each of the six slices of pizza fits into its neighbor, and running my finger across the printed surface, I can feel the mushrooms and green peppers because the inking plates have created multiple levels on the surface of the chipboard. This is not just a sample of custom printing. It is a sculpture. And the strengths of letterpress reinforce its sculptural nature.
  2. I found a square letterpress invitation with a green heart hanging in a brown tree. The custom printing paper stock must be at least 16 points in thickness, with hills and valleys in the paper’s surface, much like stucco. The artwork and type are recessed into the thick paper as well as printed in a simple color scheme.
  3. I found a two-color Z-fold invitation. The all-caps headlines are actually blind embossed into the paper, as are the yellow water drops that form a background pattern. The complexity of the surface (its multi-level nature) combined with the simplicity of the black and yellow color scheme, plus the fact that screens are created with cross-hatching rather than halftones, makes for a powerful custom printing piece.

I think I understand the current appeal of letterpress.

Commercial Printing: Sappi Paper Fosters Sustainable Forestry

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

I recently received a print book written by Sappi paper company (formerly Warren Sappi) entitled Taking the Guilt Out of Paper. Sappi manufactures and supplies paper to commercial printing establishments and other vendors. The print book is promotional in nature, but it makes several cogent points about paper-making and the harvesting of trees in general.

The Charge: “Go Paperless. Save a Tree.”

Sappi notes that it’s not as simple as this. Promoting sustainable forestry actually improves the health of forests and wildlife. (And, as we know, plant life absorbs carbon dioxide and gives off oxygen, so we all need the forests.) Using custom printing paper that has been certified, ensuring that responsible methods have been used in its planting and harvesting, actually helps ensure the continued existence of vibrant forests, healthy wildlife, and clean air, soil, and water.

Harvesting trees while planting far more than have been cut does result in variation in the age of growth in the forest. This is true. However, what Sappi refers to as “variation in age class within a forest” actually promotes biodiversity of both plant and animal life.

It is more a question of stewardship, of being careful about using only those commercial printing paper products that reflect such certifications as SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) and FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), and using paper products responsibly and with purpose (without waste) to help keep the eco-system thriving.

We Actually Have More Trees Now

Responsible, sustainable forest management approaches trees as a crop. The goal is to plant more while harvesting less. This has led to an abundance of trees in the United States, more now than there were 100 years ago. Since it is in the best interest of the paper products industry to ensure the longevity of the forests, the industry participates actively in protecting both the trees and the forest animals.

Sappi Commercial Printing Paper Preserves Wildlife, Too

Animals and fish depend on the trees for their food, water, and habitat. However, the animals, fish, and even the insects scatter the seeds, fertilize the soil, and disperse the pollen. So there is a mutual dependency between the animals and the trees, and for this reason the Sappi paper company promotes the health, longevity, and increase of wildlife as well as plant life.

In addition to working with wildlife groups to educate companies and individuals about conservation, Sappi considers the effects of various tree cutting techniques within a particular wildlife area. In some areas Sappi may harvest more actively, in some less.

In fact, not cutting trees in a responsible way would cause a forest to become old and one-dimensional, with all growth of the same age. This would in fact decrease the amount of land suitable for particular animals, birds, fish, and insects.

Biodiversity Is Essential

The ideal situation, according to the Sappi paper company, is biodiversity, which implies that multiple species of plant and animal life, of various ages, can coexist harmoniously. While Mother Nature often acts aggressively to manage forestland—through fires, insect infestations, plant and animal diseases, and wind damage—commercial printing paper companies that adhere to SFI and SFC guidelines simulate the gentler aspects of nature to manage the forests responsibly while providing paper fiber (and hence a product, service, and employment) to individuals and organizations.

National Geographic Speaks Out

Taking the Guilt Out of Paper Usage by the Sappi paper company includes remarks by Hans Wenger of the National Geographic Society. He notes that:

  1. Forests are “100 percent renewable.”
  2. In terms of carbon emissions, an entire year’s subscription to the National Geographic magazine is comparable to using one gallon of gas in the family car.
  3. The electronic revolution has its costs, too, particularly in terms of the energy needed to run the computers and servers (to create the documents and store them over time) and the extraction of resources to make the electronic devices (many of which, such as mercury and cadmium, cannot be recycled easily if at all).

Balance Is Key

If I had to distill the entire print book into one short message, I’d say that Sappi focuses on responsible use of resources. Both commercial printing paper and electronic media will be with us for a long time. Each has its place and cannot be totally eclipsed by the other. But in order to ensure future resources, it is important to use the resources we have purposefully, without waste, and with consideration towards sustainablity.

Large Format Printing: Multiple Standees and Marketing Theory

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Installing a large standee for The Dictator today, I had some thoughts about the importance of placement of standees and other point of purchase displays. I thought these might be of use to you in your large format printing work.

Placement of Standee (Immediacy)

The goal of large format signage is for it to be immediately seen. As the long escalator disembarks on the main floor of this particular movie theater, you are immediately greeted by a moving Madagascar standee. The canon barrel goes up and down, raising and lowering the animal characters stuffed in the barrel. Motion, wild color, and the faces of the creatures grab your interest.

Placement is key. You see this moving, large format printing structure before anything else, as the escalator reaches the main floor.

Placement of Standee (Competing Images)

When we completed The Dictator structure, we were asked by theater management to place the standee in an open spot next to the Dark Shadows standee. By itself, Dark Shadows is huge. It is also exciting, since it combines printed graphic panels with a velvet chair in which the movie patron can sit for a photo opportunity, surrounded by the ghastly inhabitants of Dark Shadows.

That said, The Dictator standee is larger, simpler, lighter in color, and first in a series of standees going down the hall in the movie theater. It includes a large, overstuffed chair in front of a large circular poster of the main character. It is flanked by two flags hanging on wooden poles. Under the chair is a circular, inkjet printed floor covering—a simulation of a round rug.

The Dictator standee dwarfs the Dark Shadows standee. I think this is true for two reasons:

  1. In general, what you see first makes the strongest impression. The Dictator is first in line and larger than the other standees.
  2. Whatever is harder to see makes a lesser impression. Movie theaters are dark, and the fact that The Dictator is positioned under better light, and is itself lighter and simpler in general, makes it more of an eye catcher than Dark Shadows, even though I personally think the Dark Shadows standee is far more intriguing up close.

Unique Materials Engage the Viewer

In a prior blog positing, I had mentioned that I liked the way Dark Shadows involved the viewer. The Dictator does the same thing. Both are photo opportunities. I think the unique construction materials accentuate the immersive quality of the standees. Both Dark Shadows and The Dictator include printed materials (flexographic panels of solid color as well as offset printed images), but they also include physical objects (chairs, flagpoles, and, in the case of The Dictator, a custom printed floor covering resembling a large, round rug.

Both standees create an environment for the viewer to step into. You can participate with the standee. In the case of The Dictator, you can run your hand across the embroidered chair or reach up to touch the inkjet custom printing work of the soft fabric flags on wooden poles. Images of flags, offset printed and diecut, just don’t compare to the emotional engagement of real flags, a real chair, and a real rug.

Safety of Standee

You wouldn’t initially think about it, but standees that invite participation put both the participant and the theater at risk. You can hurt yourself if you’re not careful. So in both the design and production of these photo booth standees, as well as their placement, safety has to be a consideration.

For instance, the Dark Shadows standee includes a chair made of layers of corrugated board covered with padded velvet cushions and graphic panels. It is quite sturdy. It is also bolted to a floor panel so it can’t move (making it safe for enthusiastic teenagers).

Overall Thoughts for Your Own Large Format Printing Work

Here are some concepts you might take away from this experience:

  1. Think big. All large format printing displays fit within an environment and compete with other point of purchase signage. Larger, brighter, simpler, more colorful—all of these qualities will get your image noticed. And for marketing, it’s all about getting noticed.
  2. Think physical reality. If your point of purchase signage has protruding elements, or is positioned in the way of foot traffic, or is dangerous in any other way, a marketing moment can turn into a legal one or even a tragedy. Someone can get hurt.
  3. Think surroundings. Your image will compete with other images. Determine the location early in the process, and even if there are no competing marketing images to consider, do consider the lighting, the surrounding wall color—everything else in the environment.
  4. Think interactive. Your large format printing display will grab the viewer if it invites him or her into its own fanciful world. Using real objects (like the chairs or the fabric flags on wooden poles) makes the installation more real and hence more immersive.

Magazine Printing: Redesigning a Periodical

Friday, April 13th, 2012

A colleague of mine recently received the task of redesigning a magazine for a defense firm. She asked how I would approach this custom printing job.

General Approach to a Visual Make-over

I listed three starting points that I would use if I had just received such an assignment:

  1. I’d consider the goals, mission statement, and overall character of the organization. The redesigned publication should visually reflect all of these, consistently expressing them through all design elements, from typefaces to color usage to design grid to placement of white space.
  2. I’d compare the publication to a selection of current printed and online marketing materials from the organization (brochure printing samples, print posters, print catalogs, etc.). The redesigned publication should either complement these materials, or the other publications should also be redesigned to reflect the new visual identity.
  3. Finally, I’d compare the redesigned magazine to other marketing collateral from competing organizations. The redesigned periodical should conform to the general “look” of the custom printing work from other industry leaders, but it should also stand out in some distinctive way.

Specific Design Elements to Consider

Design comprises a set of tools, or building blocks, including type faces (serif or sans serif, old style or modern), type sizes (contrasts between body type and headline type), the design grid (the number of columns, and their relative size and placement), images, color choice and placement, use of white space, and so forth.

These tools work together to give a tone or mood to the design and to move the reader’s eye around the page spread, from the more important elements to the less important ones.

A Critique of the Initial Publication

When my colleague showed me a sample from the magazine printing run that immediately preceded the redesign, this is what I saw:

  1. The cover included a relatively small headline, the company logo, and a collage of photos. All of the photos held equal weight visually. It was impossible to identify the most or least important photo in the collage. There was no focal point on the cover.
  2. Inside the magazine, there were justified columns of type separated by vertical rules, with multiple screens, color bars, and photos scattered everywhere: a huge number of design elements. There was almost no unused space, and the overall experience was claustrophobic. Many of the design elements seemed to have no purpose other than a decorative one.

What I Told My Colleague

I made these suggestions to help my colleague approach the redesign of the publication.

  1. Choose a visual focus, particularly for the cover. Decide how the reader should navigate through the page. What should he or she look at first, second, third?
  2. Choose one page spread, and simplify the design elements within that one page spread. Take out anything that does not directly support the visual (and editorial) goals.
  3. Choose one typeface for the headlines (perhaps a sans serif, given the crisp, technical air of the defense industry content), and then choose a complementary typeface for the text copy (perhaps a serif face for legibility). Take out the vertical rule lines between columns of type, and make the text ragged right. This is easier to read, and it will provide more white space, giving a looser and less claustrophobic look to the magazine.
  4. Include more white space in general. It gives the reader’s eye a resting point, and it helps lead him or her through the content, from more important elements to less important ones.
  5. Choose photos that also direct the reader’s eye through the page spread. For instance, if the subject of a photo is looking off to the right, the reader will do the same. If there is a headline to the right of the photo, the gaze of the person in the photo will encourage the reader to look at the photo first and then the headline.

My Colleague’s First Mock-ups for the Redesign

My colleague showed me mock-ups for a dramatically improved magazine printing design. Here are some elements she included:

  1. The single cover photo was a composite shot of a group of people sitting in a semicircle, all looking at a globe. The title, the futuristic typefaces, the monochromatic color scheme, and the simplicity of the image all reinforced the expansive atmosphere and technological focus my colleague wanted to convey.
  2. Inside the magazine, the consistent typefaces and type sizes immediately reflected the relative importance of all editorial elements. Photos on the table of contents page were grouped (creating a simple, square shape that contained the four images). My client had positioned page numbers for the articles in the bottom right of the four photos, creating visual rhythm through this consistent treatment.
  3. There was significantly more white space than in the initial design of the magazine, which helped group similar elements and set them apart from type and images used in other magazine stories.
  4. Initial caps introduced the articles, immediately attracting the reader’s eye.

Overall, I’d say the redesign was excellent.

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Custom Printing: A Wedding Package Case Study

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

A client came to me with a three-element wedding package. Interestingly enough, it had been designed through an on-line print design vendor to be sent to my client for final offset or digital custom printing.

The three pieces included an invitation, an envelope, and an RSVP card. As a separate commercial printing job, my client wanted a thank-you note and envelope. She sent me a low-res PDF of all elements to help me visualize the job

A Small Print Run

First of all, my client wanted only 100 or 150 copies of all wedding package elements. The small press run put the job in the arena of digital rather than offset custom printing. My client had initially wanted a two-color job (black and a single PMS). Due to the nature of digital printing (i.e., both inkjet and xerographic printers use 4-color process inks), the PMS and black would need to be simulated with process color builds.

Letterpress vs. Thermography

My client had seen samples of letterpress printing and thermography and wanted to know if these were possibilities.

First of all, I love the aesthetics of letterpress printing, in which letterforms are recessed slightly below the surface of the paper. This is a “strike-on” process in which metal plates with raised image areas actually strike, and press into, the paper fibers as they deposit the printing ink. Letterpress would yield a beautiful wedding invitation package. Unfortunately, letterpress custom printing was too expensive, so the bride chose not to pursue this option.

Engraving would have been another good choice, with its slightly raised letterforms. (In the engraving process, type and images are incised into a metal plate, and the pressure of the printing rollers forces the paper into the inked, recessed image areas of the plate, resulting in slightly raised letters on the paper.) Unfortunately this was too expensive, given the 100- to 150-copy press run.

Thermography would have simulated the effect of engraving, but the job was too short for an offset printing run. (Here’s how offset custom printing relates to thermography: The thermographic process initially involves an offset printing job. Thermographic powder is deposited onto the wet offset ink, and intense heat causes it to bubble up, creating a raised appearance resembling engraving.)

So we were left with digital commercial printing on the HP Indigo, which in itself is not a bad alternative, depending on the design of the wedding package elements, and the paper on which they are printed.

Considerations with Color Builds

I asked my client to consider the following when she designed the job for the digital press. The sample PDF of the wedding package elements included wispy type with fine strokes. My client wanted to print these in color. I suggested that she choose a color build with only a few of the four component colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black). For example, she could build a dark blue color using cyan and black. I suggested this to dissuade her from building fine type serifs with four sets of xerographic dots (C, M, Y and K). Such an attempt could result in fuzzy type if the HP Indigo were out of register even a little.

Choosing the Right Paper

Using a few evocative words from my client describing her goals for the paper choice (“a rough/tactile quality; weighty enough to “feel” formal and high quality; white, though not brilliant white, and slightly off-white paper options; looking for a formal feeling; envelope options should avoid the cheap/thin paper that would undermine the overall presentation”), I asked the commercial printer for a few suggestions. I also asked that paper samples be sent from the paper merchant to my client.

What We Can Learn from This Case Study?

Here are a few things to think about:

  1. The combination of the press run and the amount the client is willing to spend will determine the printing technology. That said, do consider a number of alternative custom printing techniques for your job (offset, xerography, inkjet, thermography, engraving, and letterpress).
  2. The right paper choice can make a simple custom printing job look more expensive and elegant. Ask your commercial printer or paper merchant for unprinted paper sample books (make sure they are recent; there’s a date on the back of each paper book). Also see if your printer or the paper merchant can send you printed samples on the paper choices that interest you.
  3. Thermography is great for simple text. Keep in mind, however, that it is not precise. Therefore, if you have a wedding invitation with intricate artwork and simple type, consider printing the artwork conventionally and the type with thermography. In addition, choose typefaces for thermography that don’t have thin strokes and serifs.

Large Format Printing: An Immersive POP Display

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

I recently wrote about a standee installation involving a motorized cannon with moving animals sticking out of the cannon barrel. Motion added a fourth dimension—time–to an otherwise three-dimensional point of purchase display.

The next standee I installed with my fiancee, while not a moving structure, added yet another dimension to the marketing art of point of purchase large format printing—viewer immersion.

A Description of the Dark Shadows Standee

The Dark Shadows movie standee (which you can see at various movie theaters) comprises a theater simulation, with diecut characters positioned from the front to the back of the structure. They are of different dimensions, from large (in front) to small (in the back), giving a sense of depth (foreground and background) within the three dimensional environment. Most of the diecut figures are free-standing, supported by rolled corrugated board posts (like scarecrows on wooden sticks).

Slightly in front of all the other characters stands a diecut Johnny Depp image on a cardboard post positioned behind a chair.

Here’s the genius behind this large format printing display: It’s a photo booth.

Passersby sit in the chair (composed of criss-crossing layers of corrugated board within a box, to create a seat with an added back and over-stuffed arm rests—a veritable throne covered in velvet cloth). Family and friends can then take photos of the person sitting in the chair. From the vantage point of the camera, however, the person in the chair is surrounded by the ghoulish inhabitants of the Dark Shadows standee.

As with photos of individuals taken beside cardboard cutouts of President Obama (which often seem to be quite real), all the Dark Shadows characters seem to be as real as the person sitting in the chair.

Why the Standee is So Effective

From a marketing perspective, this standee works because the participant can step into the fictional world of the movie. It’s like Alice stepping through the looking glass into Wonderland. From the point of view of the digital camera, it’s total immersion, so the point of purchase display not only involves the participant in the present moment, but it also allows for a photographic record one can revisit in the future.

Bridging the Gap Between Old Media and New Media

In addition, the standee actually links the physical media and immersive experience to the newer digital media. That is, the large format printing display employs cross-channel marketing technology.

Specifically (and I’m not yet sure about the details), one can send photos taken with this point of purchase display to one or more websites (including Facebook, of course) to participate in a marketing initiative related to the movie.

Good marketing involves repeated messages and, with integrated marketing, it involves coordinated exposures through different media channels. This point of purchase display engages the participants (the chair is actually quite comfortable) and brings them into another world.

The Physical Dimensions as They Relate to Custom Printing

Here’s how it’s made:

  1. The entire back of the structure is made of corrugated board printed solely with black ink on the back and sides of the display. The way the ink came off onto my hands suggests flexographic printing: i.e., printing directly onto the box with ink and rubber press plates.
  2. The front of the amphitheater is made of multiple graphic panels stitched together with tabs and slots, or metal screws and nuts. The graphic panels are examples of offset custom printing on thick enamel press stock. It looks like the graphic panels are also coated with UV varnish, film laminate, or press varnish for gloss and protection.
  3. Within the top half of the structure is a small theater composed of a diecut front panel and a graphic printed back panel. Once attached to one side of the front panel of the small theater, the back panel is bowed, creating a small curved environment within an environment. Figures placed in this space are small. They appear to be far behind the foreground figures.
  4. The front-most figures are made of offset printed paper glued to corrugated board and then diecut. Their supports are flexographic printed flat sheets folded into four-sided posts.
  5. The chair has an intricate honey-comb structure of laminated pieces of corrugated board sitting within a box. This is to support the weight of the participant sitting in the chair. In an interactive point of purchase display, such physical requirements are important, both for the safety of the participant and the liability of the theater.
  6. Foam structures covered with red velvet comprise the arms, seat, and back of the chair, and printed graphic panels (offset custom printing on enamel paper glued to corrugated board) adorn the sides. Intricate, carved chair legs are composed of printed cover stock and corrugated board (assembled via tabs and slots into multi-faceted simulations of the wooden chair legs).

How You Can Incorporate Some of These Marketing Techniques Into Your Work

Here are some things you might learn from this point of purchase display and incorporate into your next large format printing item:

  1. Consider how you can involve the viewer in the experience. Can you make the display something he/she can touch and interact with?
  2. Can you incorporate other media, in addition to custom printing, into the experience (as the movie standee connects with a marketing website to which the participant can upload a photo of himself/herself)?
  3. Other than custom printing on cover stock; laminating it to chipboard or corrugated board; and using various diecuts, folds, and spot gluing techniques to create an environment; how can you bring other substances into the sculptural environment? Can you use wood, fabric, foam, or other materials to vary the tactile experience of the participants and make the environment more immersive and memorable?

Large Format Printing: How to Create a Memorable POP Display

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

My fiancee and I just installed a movie standee for an upcoming animated film, Madagascar. What makes this particular installation noteworthy is that this is the first standee we have installed that actually moves. In addition, it incorporates almost every aspect of printing I can imagine.

Here’s a rundown of the printing and mechanical technologies reflected in the standee design. Consider using some of these in your next point of purchase display or large format printing job.

Add Flexography to Offset Lithography

The back section of the standee we installed consisted of a three-part tent made of offset-printed graphic panels laminated to corrugated board. Poles made of corrugated board that we folded into long, four-sided posts held the three tent components together. The third and smallest part of the tent (the topmost part) included a diecut flag supported by a chopstick glued to the back of the corrugated board.

A box structure was added to the back of the tent to give it support. It was composed of a back and sides (separate parts) attached to one another with tabs and slots. The box was entirely black. It had been printed via flexography (direct printing on the corrugated board with rubber plates and ink).

How you might apply this custom printing technology to your own work:

  1. For a large format printing run of a point of purchase item, consider flexography if you have simple black solids or line work. You can print directly on the cardboard without needing to first print on enamel stock and then glue this to chipboard or corrugated board.
  2. Approach a point of purchase display as a physics project as well as a marketing design project. How will you create a structure that will hold itself up and not collapse from its own weight? Consider spot gluing thin wooden sticks or pieces of cardboard to the back of otherwise fragile, diecut design elements.

Custom Printing on Thick Cover Stock vs. Gluing Text Stock to Corrugated Board

The second part of the Madagascar standee consisted of several cartoon animals jammed into a cannon, with a stack of birds on each other’s shoulders lighting the cannon’s fuse. The cannon moved up and down, powered by a motor assembly.

The back panel of the cannon (completely flat on the part not visible to the audience, and curved on the front) was made of unprinted, diecut corrugated board. Five triangular pieces of particle board were screwed together and then screwed to the back panel of the cannon as a counter weight. Strips of cover-weight custom printing stock, printed with four-color design elements, were stretched over the part of the cannon that was visible from the front of the standee.

How you might apply this custom printing technology to your own work:

  1. If you have a large budget for your point of purchase display, consider adding movement to an otherwise static piece. This creates a dramatic effect, but it involves equal parts of design/custom printing and mechanics/physics.
  2. Those design elements that are decorative (but are not absolutely necessary for the structural integrity of the point of purchase display) can be made of printed cover stock rather than cover stock laminated to corrugated board or chipboard. Keep in mind that these will not bear weight without tearing, so they must be decorative only.
  3. Consider how the point of purchase display you’re creating must move. In the case of the movie standee, the cannon barrel structure had to be attached to a cannon base (printed enamel stock laminated to corrugated board, with styrofoam wheels to which paper graphic panels had been glued). An elaborate structure of long screws, plastic or metal spacers, and lock nuts positioned the elements where they needed to be to move correctly. And a motor assembly attached to a particle board (wooden) structure allowed the standee to move.
  4. You may want to use a motor, screws, spacers, and other hardware in your point of purchase display. Stabilizing the motor on a wooden structure will give permanence to an otherwise fragile display. Consider how the display will move, and add counterweights as necessary to balance all moving parts. (In the movie standee, the animals heads were attached to their bodies with metal pins that allowed them to shake like bobble heads as the motor moved the cannon barrel up and down).

Why Go to All This Trouble and Expense?

A point of purchase display that incorporates moving parts will be expensive for your custom printing service to build and ship, and it will cost extra to assemble. However, such a large format printing job will be truly memorable. It will stand out from all the other point of purchase displays that are motionless. When you’re selling something, that’s magical. That can make all the difference.

Get Large Format Printing Quotes from Mutiple Printers.


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