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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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Commercial Printing: This Standee Epitomizes Industrial Printing

I was installing a standee tonight with my fiancee and thinking about industrial design: the concepts and goals discussed in “Industrial Print Has Awesome Potential. But What Is It Exactly?” Marcus Timson’s article in the 2/8/13 edition of, which I summarized in the last issue of the PIE Blog, had broadened my awareness.

The standee we were installing was a photo opportunity standee. I have written about these before. The goal of this particular type of standee is to place the participant within the fictional world of the movie and then provide a photo opportunity to record this interaction between reality and imagination.

The standee we installed promoted The Croods, an animated film. It consisted of a background graphic panel containing all the characters of the movie along with the movie title. Essentially it was a printed rectangular box about six feet wide, seven feet tall, and three feet deep.

Attached to the front of the graphic panel were two “lugs,” graphic panels depicting two characters sitting in approximately one-foot deep movie theater chairs. Between them was a printed and physically constructed movie chair for the audience member to sit in. My fiancee and I took as long to build the chair as to assemble the rest of the standee. To a great extent, this is because the chair had to be functional, while the remainder of The Croods standee was promotional.

Building the Chair for the Standee

As I studied the assembly instructions for the standee, the first thing I saw was just how many more printed and diecut pieces there were for the chair than for the much larger graphic panel. The seat base, back, left and right arms, and seat cover all had printed cardboard covers along with an unprinted, structural inside box, and inside this box there were cardboard assemblies to hold the weight of a human body.

The inside of the chair back and base included a honeycomb structure of corrugated board with strips set at right angles to one another (like the cardboard inserts in a case of wine bottles). Even though these were essentially made out of paper (fluted cardboard), the way they were made to distribute the weight of the person sitting in the chair proved that a cardboard structure that has been properly designed can be very strong. The inside of the seat cover, in contrast, consisted of eight flat pieces of cardboard (for comfort and equal weight distribution, I imagine).

Overall, even though the standee was nothing more than a cardboard assembly intended to promote The Croods, an awful lot of thought had gone into its construction. Some designer had carefully considered the physics of weight distribution as well as the aesthetics, printing, and diecutting of the custom printing job.

Safety First

As my fiancee and I assembled the background graphic and then the chair, and then attached the two, I could see the attention to safety that had gone into the industrial design and custom printing of the standee. Not only had the interior cardboard structures been designed for comfort and support, but a matrix of screws and washers bolted elements of the chair to each other and to the background graphic panel. In addition, the assembly instructions made it very clear that the entire structure needed to be placed up against a wall and not out in an open space. Although the chair and background graphic panel had been constructed with safety in mind, it was clear that the designer wanted to make absolutely sure that rowdy teenagers jumping into the chair to have their photo taken would not flip the entire standee over and get hurt.

Why This Exemplifies Industrial Custom Printing

In his article, Marcus Timson defined industrial custom printing as “print that does not have the primary purpose of carrying a promotional message…print that is part of a manufacturing process…that either enables the function of a product or that enhances its appearance or decoration.”

Clearly the design of The Croods photo op standee and chair reflects both art and science. The amount of offset custom printing, flexographic custom printing, and particularly the diecutting of all the individual elements of the chair (both the exterior graphics and the interior honeycomb structure) all came together to provide a functional experience as well as a promotional and aesthetic one.

The Croods Standee Compared to Other Photo Opportunity Standees

My fiancee and I have assembled and installed numerous photo op standees. The Dictator and Dark Shadows come immediately to mind since they also included chairs. While the Dark Shadows chair was attached to a floor panel attached to the background (but not directly to the back panel as in The Croods standee), the chair for The Dictator was completely separate. I think the chairs attached to the background were actually safer in their construction, and the bolting of the chair to The Croods standee made it the safest of all three standees.

Interestingly enough, the Dark Shadows chair and The Croods chair were both offset printed onto cover stock, which was then laminated onto corrugated board. However, the Dark Shadows chair had the added texture of real velvet. And the chair used in The Dictator standee was composed of actual fabric stretched over stuffing and a plywood base, arms, and back. The standee designers had gone to great lengths to achieve realism in their photo op standees, and the distributors had paid a premium to ship these heavy standees to theaters.

Why You Should Care

One might consider all of this irrelevant to commercial printing since most of the interior work was unprinted. It was, however, diecut in exquisite detail, and all with functionality, structural integrity, and safety the paramount goals. Hence, this was industrial custom printing in the purest sense.

If it hasn’t happened yet, you may one day be called upon to design and print a functional object. Maybe it will be a part of a promotional piece. Maybe it will be a point-of-purchase display that will hold hair products or stacks of magazines. In any case, you may be called upon to consider the design piece as a physical object in space as well as a flat image. It may have structural requirements or safety requirements. In either case, you will need to consider not only the elements of design but also the physical requirements of printing and diecutting, and maybe even the elements of physics.

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