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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: An Animatronic Dinosaur

My fiancee and I installed an animatronic standee tonight for Walking with Dinosaurs. The standee comprised an 8-foot by 10-foot by 3-foot box covered in printed foliage. At the center of the structure, a huge, three-dimensional dinosaur eye peered out of the flora. An internal motor made the eyeball shift back and forth in a natural—and perhaps slightly eerie—manner.

Why I Liked the Standee

This standee referenced an earlier standee of the dinosaur image. The initial standee had been a huge flatcard, essentially a large format print with an easel back. The design of the second standee was almost exactly the same, but in the first large format print the dinosaur’s eye had been rendered flat on the poster board. In contrast, the second standee enhanced the marketing theme of the first standee by adding dimension and movement.

In addition, I have always been a fan of standees that incorporate multiple media into their construction. The Walking with Dinosaurs standee makers went to great lengths to produce a realistic upper and lower eyelid and a striking eyeball using what appeared to be a thermoformed plastic resin. The surface of the eyelids had the rough texture of a dinosaur hide, while the eyeball itself was smooth and glass-like, reflecting its surroundings in its high gloss sheen.

Inside the cardboard structure that held the large eyeball (the attached eyelid and eyeball assembly was about as large as a flat panel television), a wooden scaffold supported both the exterior lid and interior eyeball while a motor and moving arm made the eyeball turn from side to side within the eyelid.

My fiancee and I attached a number of printed pieces of foliage to one another and to the outer standee box to create a forest scene, to give depth to the standee, and to cover the resin edges of the animatronic eye.

For me, what made this a memorable marketing piece was that beyond its three dimensions of length, width, and breadth (and it was a huge standee), the structure had a fourth dimension: movement.

In the past four years of installing standees, I have noticed that those structures that either invite a viewer into an environment (perhaps a chair and surrounding movie characters ready for a photo op) or engage the viewer with multiple sensory stimuli create a magical effect.

The physical composition of the Walking with Dinosaurs standee is primarily offset printed ink on paper, or pigment on plastic resin, but by bringing movement into the mix, the designer has created a marketing device that will startle the viewer and grab his or her attention. It looks like a huge creature is staring right back at them.

Why You Should Care

In a world where the role of custom printing is in flux, it is important for designers and marketers to recognize what makes a printed product valuable: that is, which qualities engage the viewer. In addition to color, photographic imagery, physical dimensions, typography, and the texture of multiple materials, movement and even sound will captivate the viewer.

However, because a large format printed construction such as an animatronic standee depends on the laws of physics as well as the aesthetics of design, it is important to consider the physical structure itself when you create a large promotional piece. In this case, a wooden scaffold supported a motor and moving resin eye. Someone had to create the physical as well as promotional elements of this device.

Therefore, as a designer of large format printed marketing items (whether they are point of purchase display cases for a product or a large format printed standee), it’s imperative to consider their operational requirements as well as their visual design.

Finally, it is wise to consider the effectiveness of repetition in both design and marketing. People get pleasure from recognizing one element of a marketing campaign that refers back to something they have already seen. If you do something once and then vary it slightly in successive images (or successive exposures to the same image), you will elicit recognition, reinforce a tone or theme, and invite a pleasurable response in the viewer.

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