sign and digital roundup

Creativity is the lifeblood of the sign and digital industry – and never more so than this year, as innovations in textile and interior décor repaint the visual landscape. The theme of this year’s show, ‘Creativity brought to life’, celebrated the incredible work the industry does, the ideas that shape our visual landscape and the technology that makes them possible.

As usual the wide format sector was very upbeat with some innovative and creative ideas and applications. Sign and Digital had a great mix of educational and practical seminars as well as a busy show floor.

Mary Portas, champion of the small retailer, was there as special guest speaker on the opening day saying “ the merging of digital and traditional manufacturing techniques is now more important than ever before. I look forward to helping small business owners who are looking to explore ways of getting ahead of their competitors”

cate trotter’s (head of trends at insider trends) view on why signage and wayfinding matter in the context of brand experience

One reason why signage is so important is the role that it plays in brand identity. Your in-store signage should be in keeping with the rest of your brand marketing in terms of fonts, colour schemes and messaging. Customers shouldn’t be confused about what space they’re in, but instantly recognise your brand from your use of signage. Exterior signage is also how you attract passing shoppers into your space. For some this will be their
first introduction to your brand, so it’s important to get your signage right to ensure you’re communicating what you’re all about. You should think of your in-store signage and wayfinding in the same way that you think of your e-commerce site. You know how important is for people to be able to quickly and easily navigate the pages, or that they’ll quickly become frustrated and go elsewhere.

The same principle applies to the store. In addition, many customers like to self-serve when in-store. These days, shoppers have often done their research online in advance. In this case effective in-store signage helps them to quickly navigate to the products they want. It also means that customers don’t always have to find a member of staff for help, which can be difficult during busy periods. Increasingly retail stores are no longer designed in a  fixed way. Often product ranges, promotions or even the whole store layout regularly change. As such, effective signage is vital to ensure that customers can still find everything they want. Thinking about your signage as part of the overall store design can also help to flag up any pitfalls with the layout, which can streamline the overall in-store experience. In today’s omni-channel retail world, customers want to be able to shop with your brand through any number of channels and have the same, frictionless experience each time. Effective in-store signage and wayfinding is an important aspect of this. Get it wrong in the store and you may find that it impacts your brand positioning elsewhere.

practical sessions

Antalis Décor live had some fascinating sessions designed to illustrate practical ideas and applications for all types of digital décor from vinyl, wallcovering and magnetic substrates. These sessions covered all aspects of use and application as well as practical hints and tips on installation.

The adobe theatre programme covered a range of practical sessions from Adobe Bridge creative cloud’s unsung hero, totally managed colour control, making the impossible possible with Photoshop and Indesign. CorelDraw had similar practical sessions covering their graphic suite.

wide format digital textile printing

The textile industry is one of the world’s largest industries, representing some 30 billion square meters of material volume on a worldwide annual basis, with screenprinting the initial choice for the high-volume production of printed fabrics. Initially, digital inkjet printing was used by textile screen printers to produce prototypes and one-offs, as the time and cost of producing screens made inkjet a more cost effective solution, and as such digital printing for textiles today still only represents 2% of the overall global printed textile market.

However, with the advent of more efficient and more economical production equipment, and materials manufacturers taking giant strides with the development of new polyester based fabrics that replicate the look and feel of natural fibres, digital printing is beginning to take a foothold in the traditional textile printing industry. It is also rapidly gaining in popularity with sign makers and commercial printing companies looking to add additional services and revenue to their business with soft signage (digitally printed fabric signage).

There are a variety of short-run textile applications that are ideally suited to digital production from market sectors such as interior décor, soft furnishings, and apparel printing for t-shirts, workwear and synthetic high-tech sportswear, while consumer demand for more personalised bespoke items continues to grow apace. In the fashion world quick turnaround has become an increasing priority as designers look towards multiple mini-seasons and this suits inkjet production with its reduced set-up times and print-on-demand delivery models. This is supported by the growing availability of online sales of digitally printed bespoke clothing, and interior decorators are commonly using customised fabrics to create new household ‘fashion’ décor items.

turn a bland office into an inspiring space

Whether you love your job or loathe it, the likelihood is you’ll spend up to 90,000 hours at work over your lifetime. Thankfully, workplace wellbeing is fast moving to the top of the agenda, and businesses are increasingly investing time and money in turning bland spaces into stimulating environments that encourage staff to be positive, productive, and stick around for the long term. Gurvinder Khurana, Director and Co-Founder of design agency align, says: “Creating an inspiring workspace is all about making sure people stay happy. After all, happy people are profitable people. “Digital print advances mean transforming an office space is far more cost effective than it used to be. There is a huge spectrum of graphics and signage available which, when used creatively, help people feel a part of the brand and take ownership of their role within the business. “We spend so much time in the workplace, it’s important our environment fosters a sense of belonging. From using printed wall graphics that contain subtle reference to corporate values to giant 3D letters, you can incorporate on-brand messages in a way that helps people feel contented within the space.”

WOW WITH A WALLCOVERING Thanks to technological developments, huge, seamless digitally printed wallcoverings are now relatively inexpensive. “Digital wall coverings can be great quality and add a massive impact for relatively low cost,” says Gurvinder. “For example, we’re currently looking at a supplier who can print a three metre graphic wallcovering in a single piece. If you get bored of it, it can be easily switched out.”

EMBRACE NATURE When it comes to the workplace, wellbeing is taking centre stage and should be a focus in any thought-out office design. Gurvinder suggests using a nature-themed wallcovering to create impact and promote employee health. Indeed, it’s thought that even images of nature can reduce stress. She says: “When it comes to printing on vinyl, the world is your oyster. We’ve just created a Crittall style folding wall in a large bank in the City. We designed and applied our own Impressionist-style artwork of fields dotted with bluebells, so when you look at the wall it gives the effect of looking out of a series of windows, onto a rural landscape.”

BE PLAYFUL WITH SIGNAGE From fluorescent style LED lighting, to a meeting room wall emblazoned with BE BOLD, signage can be both playful and encourage employees to live the brand. When align designed the workspace for tech experts Mendeley, they used signs with fair ground style lighting to great effect. “We found a company to make us big, lit-up signs, 1.5 metres high,” says Gurvinder. “They spelled out Eat Drink Code, and we used them to frame the break out area with the self-service coffee facilities. Psychology plays an important part when you’re designing workspaces – you want to make people feel happy and comfortable, while communicating the identity of the business. Don’t be afraid to add drama, as well as making a statement.”

GET CREATIVE Thanks to modern technology, it’s easy to transform stark glass partitions and meeting room windows. “You can have anything printed on a window fi lm,” explains Gurvinder. “We recently named a series of meeting rooms after Gainsborough’s masterpieces.

TRY THREE-DIMENSIONAL DÉCOR Windowless, box-like meeting rooms can be energy sapping and uninspiring, but Gurvinder suggests innovative ways to add impact. She says: “We use domestic wallpapers, then layer on graphics, such as on-brand words. Another approach is to apply a wallpaper,then spray paint interesting objects, such as an old telephone, in the same colour and mount them onto the wall. It creates a 3D effect, and stops the room being flat and plain. It also suggests a sense of home.”

vehicle wrapping

Vehicle wrapping is a process of transforming the colour and overall look of a vehicle by applying a vinyl film to the individual panels of the vehicle. This can be achieved with either digitally printed graphics or specially manufactured vinyls used to customise a vehicle to change its colour and enhance its appearance. Custom colour change wraps have grown in popularity in recent years and material manufacturers have responded with ever increasing ranges of colours, textures, and exotic finishes.

Any vehicle can be wrapped in decorative vinyl, from motorbikes, cars,vans, trucks, buses, boats and aeroplanes. Vehicle wrapping can also be used to enhance the resale value of a vehicle as the vinyl wraps help to protect paintwork against scratches, chips and grazes during use. In the last decade the market for vehicle wrapping has exploded, and according to research company Technavio, the global market for vehicle wrapping is set to grow by 5.3% per annum through to 2021. Without doubt advances in the films/ vinyls used and better methods of applying them to a vehicle have fostered that growth, as have the imaginative designs and options for textured, gloss and matt finishes.

3d printing

Massivit 3D were demonstrating the range of possibilities with 3D printing and showing how this could be effectively used for décor and retail applications.

There is no doubt that the sign and digital world has a lot of opportunities to offer the commercial printer who is looking to diversify their business for future growth. The upcoming FESPA show in Berlin is another great opportunity to check out what the wide format market has to offer.