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Materials Create the Event Experience
By Eileen Fritsch
Accordingly, as an event design expert at event management service provider Omnience notes, "Event design isn't just about décor, but about shaping attendees' attention, comfort, impressions and experience."
All Events Need Graphics
Depending on the size, type, location and duration of the event, your shop may be asked to produce a combination of indoor and outdoor signs, welcome banners, banner-stand graphics, registration area and podium graphics, or custom draping, tablecloths, light-fixture covers, stage props, dancefloor graphics, and murals that convert a bland meeting space into a branded or themed setting.
Event stage design matters because the stage is the one place where attendees focus their attention for a given amount of time.
Organizers of outdoor events need mesh backdrops and fencing materials that can handle windy days and speaker covers that don't interfere with acoustic clarity. They also use branded pop-up and canopy tents, flags, and graphics-wrapped fences and crowd-control barriers.
Hundreds of different flexible, rigid and adhesive graphic materials can be printed for events. Some graphics will be used only for the duration of the event, while others will be designed for compact storage, cost-effective shipping and re-use at future events. This quick overview shows how different categories are evolving.
The development of UV-curable, eco-solvent, solvent, latex, dye-sub transfer and direct disperse inks enabled graphics producers to skip the lamination step and empowered designers to custom-decorate many flexible materials and rigid boards.
Some fabrics are designed to meet flame-retardant codes for indoor exhibitions. Mesh fabrics allow winds to blow through graphics used for outdoor stage backdrops and fences.
To see the huge range of fabrics available for event graphics, visit the websites of companies such as Ultraflex, Top Value Fabrics and Fisher Textiles.
Fisher Textiles' line of eco-friendly fabrics uses REPREVE® recycled polyester in varying amounts. REPREVE yarn is made from post-consumer plastics and post-industrial waste, and fabrics using it are available for exhibit graphics, roll-up banner stands, table covers, street pole banners, tension displays, geometric stretch displays, silicone-edge graphics, photographic backdrops, canopy tents and awnings.
SENFA, the technical textiles division of the Charguers Group of France, makes coated Decoprint textiles, including the Sublimis line of lighter-weight backlit display fabrics and eco-friendly Alterra textiles made with fibers from recycled PET plastic bottles.
Vinyl and Vinyl Mesh Banners
While budget-conscious buyers of event graphics still choose graphic foamboards made with polyethylene (PE), polystyrene (PS) or PVC, many brands are seeking paper-based boards that can be easily recycled. Lightweight, durable, rigid paper-based boards such as Re-board, Falconboard, and ConVerd™ board have engineered fluted cores and come in a variety of thicknesses. Katz Display Board has a paper surface and solid wood-pulp core that resists warping due to temperature and humidity changes. Some paper-based boards can be printed on both sides for hanging signs or digitally cut and/or folded to create three-dimensional or structural displays.
For large window graphics, event producers choose perforated window films with removable adhesives. Adhesive-free static-cling vinyls can be used on smaller glass surfaces.
Specialty adhesive materials are available to decorate exterior walls, streets and sidewalks, and carpets at event venues. For example, the Alumigraphics line of self-adhesive materials for indoor or outdoor use is made from aluminum and contains no PVC or hazardous ingredients. You can recycle the graphics along with other aluminum products.
TexWalk® by Jessup Manufacturing is a printable matte floor-graphic material with a repositionable adhesive. Indoor, temporary graphics can be applied to carpet, tile or wood floors as well as trade show exhibits, untreated stone, PVC and painted surfaces.
Brand Experience Agencies Are Getting Involved
For example, the EYELEVEL retail experience design firm is partnering with Noble Environmental Technologies to co-create waste-free, fully recyclable point-of-purchase and point-of-sales displays, cabinets, signage, luxury packaging and merchandise materials.
Noble Environmental 's ECOR technology is a waste-to-product manufacturing process for making high-performance, sustainable and healthy materials that can be used to design buildings and products to enable a circular economy. ECOR panels are made of 100% recycled cellulose fibers and are free of toxins and VOCs. Retailers such as Patagonia are using sturdy ECOR panels with Fiber Alloy™ technology to replace MDF and particle board used in trade show booths, fixtures, cabinets, furniture, displays and signage. This fall, Noble Environmental Technologies (a Gold Patron of the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership) plans to introduce lighter-weight, printable ECOR panels that can be cut with popular digital cutting machines and used for temporary signage.
Derek McSpadden, President and Global Chief Operations Officer for Noble Environmental Technologies, says the company has been talking to brands, retailers and design firms to extend the conversation about sustainability. "We want to help brands find new ways to do more of what they are already doing and change materials to increase their sustainability footprint," he says. "If we can cut back on the use of foam, or create a self-ban on foam for temporary signage, we could start changing the world."
He expects new ECOR products for temporary signage to be more competitively priced with commonly used foamboards. Visit the ECOR website (ecorglobal.com) for details about when the new products will be available in the U.S.
Another creative group experimenting with recyclable display materials is Our Paper Life, a cardboard design and fabrication company in Toronto. They use different types and thicknesses of cardboard to make trade show displays and props for experiential marketing installations. Our Paper Life promotes their cardboard booths as a way for small-to mid-sized businesses to create custom booths. Their booth designs can include display tables, walls and dimensional elements and lettering. All booth elements are re-usable and recyclable.
Printed Graphics Are Just Part of Event Communications
Image Options President Brian Hite says graphic producers must understand the full scope of the client's needs. "Most events we do exist simultaneously in convention centers, hotels and outdoor spaces," he said. Plus, the amount of content delivered during events is exploding as event organizers create mobile apps, run contests and communicate via social media. Event planners are incorporating more video screens and live entertainment and controlling the flow of attendee traffic to ensure exposure to specific messaging.
Event graphics companies must be willing to work as partners with providers of other services, Hite says, because, "It is all about creating the environment and the experience." He notes that choosing the right graphics material is often not as important as choosing the right application of visual messaging for each area of an event venue.
"Our focus is on using recycled content substrates and substrates that can be repurposed, reused, recycled or composted," he said. This means using polyester and cotton fabric blends, paper-based boards, adhesive-backed wall mural fabrics and aluminum adhesive films for outdoor floors and walls.
Even if a PSP never serves major conferences and multi-site events, the same client that asks them to print marketing collateral may also want banner-stand graphics for a local show or event. By learning more about the many available printable materials, the PSP can show them even more options for event graphics.
No matter what mix of print technologies a print shop uses, PSPs who head to PRINTING United in Dallas (October 23 - 25) will meet plenty of suppliers who can recommend specific materials for any type of event graphics clients might request.
Eileen Fritsch is a freelance writer based near Cincinnati, Ohio. A founding editor of Big Picture magazine, she has covered the evolution of large-format digital printing for more than 20 years. She has written about many different markets for digital printing, including textiles, garments, interior décor, architectural glass, retailing, professional photography, art and packaging. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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