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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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Large Format Printing: Complexities of Standee Design

I just spent five hours with my fiancee installing the new Despicable Me 2 standee in a local theater. Close observation of this “whack-a mole” game, which is the size of a small car, provides an education in everything from marketing theory to multi-level lamination, pattern gluing, and intricate folding and diecutting. If you are alert, you can learn a lot about custom printing while assembling a standee.

The Despicable Me 2 Standee at a Glance

The upper half of the Despicable Me 2 standee is a three dimensional number “2” with a sloping front that ends in a “whack-a mole” game at the front of the standee base. Six Despicable Me “minions” (three in the front row and three in the back) give moviegoers an opportunity to vent their frustration with a rubber mallet. Whenever any minion’s head has been struck, a spring assembly and leaf switch trigger a voice box that calls the moviegoer names (I must have been called a wimp 100 times while installing and adjusting the mechanism last night).

Three-Dimensional Letters

From the point of view of custom printing, diecutting, folding, and assembly, the huge “2” is intricate and challenging. The face of the “2” is a bright orange printed offset litho press sheet laminated to Fome-Cor (a display signage mounting board made with foam in the middle and paper and clay coating on either side—like a sandwich). At the bottom of the “2” are six holes through which the six heads of the minions extend like moles in a “whack-a-mole” game.

The diecut face of the “2” sits at an angle of about 70 degrees, sloping downward from more than a seven foot height toward the minions at the participant’s waist level.

To give a three-dimensional look to the numeral requires multiple white sheets of chipboard diecut at a gradually sloping angle and traveling all the way around the face of the “2.” Although the white chipboard is flexible, it still has to be folded around the intricate perimeter of the numeral.

To make this happen, the white cardboard is scored every two inches, and attached to the face of the “2” with tabs and slots (every two inches). These side walls of the extruded numeral “2” then extend vertically to the bottom pedestal, which is a three-dimensional rectangular solid. So, essentially, the large format print standee is a 3D numeral “2” sitting on a larger base with a whack-a-mole game in the front.

While assembling the “2,” I thought about how circles are created in PostScript and how similar this is to the sides of the standee “2.” The curves were essentially short line segments. They were small enough, though, to create the illusion of a curve.

If you research PostScript and “flatness” settings, you will see that in creating complex PostScript curves you use either more, or fewer, line segments to simulate the curves. Shorter line segments in PostScript create a more fluid curve (but take longer to print), while longer line segments give a more angular look to curves (but print more quickly).

I also saw a similarity between the three dimensional “2” and the channel letters in signs on the sides of buildings. These lit-up display signs also have both a front face and sides or edges that give them a sense of depth.

Using Fome-Cor for Rigidity

I noticed that using the Fome-Cor for the face of the “2” gave the structure its rigidity. Both chipboard and corrugated board would have bent or collapsed under the weight of the 3D “2.” Only Fome-Cor could hold its dimensional stability over such a large area.

Gluing Options

I noticed that pattern gluing (hot melt glue) had been used to attach a diecut, corrugated board structure under the Fome-Cor “2.” Glue had also been used to affix six banks of LED lights to three yokes that surrounded the holes through which the minion’s heads protruded. (A computer chip with a battery assembly regulated the flashing of these lights.)

Glue (or, rather, a lamination adhesive) also attached all 4-color printed offset paper to the corrugated board of the standee structure.

Interactivity and “Gamification”

Inside the cardboard base structure I built a mechanical unit on a wood base. It was composed of six interlocking PVC pipes, springs, washers, and molded fiberglass minion heads (Despicable Me characters). Batteries, wires, and an electronic voice box all worked together to insult the moviegoer smashing the heads of the minions in this Despicable Me “whack-a-mole” game.

I thought about “interactivity,” as described in marketing books and trade journals. I thought about how involvement in the game might presumably interest the moviegoer in paying to see Despicable Me 2. I had also read a lot in the trade journals about the effects of “gamification,” and I could see how the “game” of “whack-a-mole” might improve the promotional effectiveness of this standee.

Cost vs. Payoff

It all comes down to cost and payoff. This standee cost a lot to design, print, diecut, and deliver to theaters across the country. Shipping costs alone must have been very high, since the box containing all the standee pieces weighed more than 80 pounds. Then there was the cost of installation/assembly. At some point, someone in marketing had to explain why this standee would be more effective than a large banner or flat-card easel.

What You Can Learn

Here are some thoughts to consider in your own design and custom printing work.

Think about cost and payoff of your design. Are you producing a marketing item that will knock the prospect over? Will it be truly memorable?

Also, think about all the physical requirements of your product, if you’re making a point-of-purchase display or designing packaging or another large format printing piece. It has to be more than just a pretty design on paper. It has to obey the laws of physics and not collapse upon its own weight. In short, it has to “work” as well as look good.

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