Big Picture - January/February 2015 - (Page 16)
Printing for interior décor is a double bind: Do it poorly, and
you've proven to your detractors that print is never going to
measure up. Do it well, and it vanishes into the environment.
In other words, a great print, whether it yields a branded drum
light, a funky wallcovering, or a one-of-a-kind wall graphic,
works best when it blends into a branded environment. The,
"Wow, that's digitally printed?!" moment is largely a myth,
unless you're talking shop with designers or PSPs.
There is so much visual noise in stores, commercial
spaces, and hospitality venues, that designers are increasingly talking about curating (read: paring down) merchandise, rather than the "stack 'em high, let 'em ﬂy" mentality.
Signage is still a must, of course, but now subtlety is key.
How can you work in a red, swooping logo without stamping it
on T-shirted employees? How can you convey that a brand
represents playful vibrancy, reﬁned athleticism, or youthful
To create restful, magnetic interiors, designers are
increasingly turning to digital printing for everything from
glass facades to drum lights to mural walls. This means
printers are doing jobs they couldn't have imagined just a
few years ago. It also means they're tasked with working
with a new client base: architects and designers. The initial
investments can be steep, but few players in this market
and a growing demand for specialized techniques and
materials also offer rich rewards to those who have the skills
to win them.
The competition is also ﬁerce: Several ﬁrms we contacted
for this piece opted not to discuss their work, citing concerns
over the competitive nature of this ﬁeld and proprietary
techniques. Clearly, for those who master the skills, there is
money to be made.
AN EXPLOSION OF GROWTH
According to Josette O'Neil, an account manager at Chicago's
Cushing print shop, demand for interior installations is
booming: "Three years ago, we did maybe 20 installations in a
year doing display graphics," she says. "The following year, it
was 200." And the growth is coming not just from traditional
customers, but also a range of applications from healthcare,
educational, and retail spaces to corporations weaving
company culture into lobbies, hallways, and workspaces.
And though the techniques may be high-tech for printers,
they can be low-tech replacements for digital signage for
design ﬁrm clients who simply don't have the resources to
update content. "One wall with a great scene, and you
immediately pull people in," says Joan Insel, a design
strategist for Callison. "With vinyl, once it's up there, you have
it, and you can change it relatively inexpensively." To wit, the
Seattle-based design ﬁrm recently used photographs commissioned by Sterling Bank to install a double-height, oversized
graphic of trees in a rebranded space in Portland, Oregon.
So, what's the key to success? According to Felipe Araujo
of Egue y Seta, a Barcelonan design ﬁrm, it's an understanding
of new, shorter cycles of renovation and the demand for
low-cost, durable materials that can replace more traditional
stone or wood. "We think the key factor is creativity," he says.
"Today, printing goes farther than imitation, interpreting, and
exploiting the expressive forms of different materials in
different ways." The steps behind success, however, are not
only exploiting these differences, but also selling them to
designers and architects. Printers, with low-cost, durable
materials that meet client needs, have an advantage over
suppliers of wood, metal, etc., if only they can get themselves
in front of design ﬁrms and pitch it well.
UNStudio and glass
processor Glas &
and more than
2000 panels of
white and bent
glass to create this
soaring graphic at
the luxury Hanjie
Wanda Square mall
in Wuhan, China.
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Big Picture - January/February 2015
Big Picture - January/February 2015