5 Digitally Printed Materials That Will Take Store Design by Storm
Before I entered the retail merchandising industry I thought of large format printing as only outdoor banners and billboards. It turns out I was wrong. Over the past few years the use of print in retail interior design and decoration is a growing trend with a lot of potential.
The evolution in digital printing techniques, such as UV or dye sublimation, have made possible to achieve high quality printing on a number of different materials, ranging from fabric to concrete. Nowadays 26% of printing houses regularly produce some kind of interior applications and this figure is expected to grow 68% in the next two years. Of all printed interior applications sold today most are wallpapers and that’s only a very small part of what can be done with print. Here’s a list of interesting materials that can be printed on and their potential for retail fitters.
The first one isn’t a surprise. Printed fabric is already widely used. Polyester banners are in the process of becoming a standard in visual merchandising due to their advantages when compared to other types of banners. Without getting into too much technical details, when polyester is dye sublimated, the ink becomes part of the fabric giving the image amazing resolution, colors, and durability. There are many ways of displaying fabric banners, but one of the best looking is a tensioned fabric frame. The print can be backlit with LEDs creating an even more extraordinary result. It can be very visually appealing since the frame can be almost invisible from the front and the fabric is tensioned so it remains perfectly stretched with no wrinkles.
Would you think of concrete as a printable material? It is printable! Well I’m not speaking about the same type of concrete used in buildings. It’s an MDF board covered with a concrete mix we developed to make it possible to UV print on. Its texture is just like concrete and it’s light enough to be transported easily. Concrete is a very interesting material for any interior designer. It’s rough and cool.
It’s also possible to print on thin steel plates using dye sublimation. Similarly to polyester fabric the ink is transferred to the substrate (material printed) so there is a very similar level of quality. They can be used to display artwork by simply hanging them on the wall. The panels can also cover a wall, serving as a background decoration. In this case we chose to print patterns resembling old metal to get rustic looks. Since the substrate is also a metal, the texture, glossiness, and overall feel of the material are ideal to replicate metallic surfaces.
Printing on wood is the oldest known form of printing. But the way we print on wood nowadays has changed substantially since then. We can get really nice effects UV printing on plywood. It can make an ordinary table look amazing at an affordable price. On top of that, plywood is a very versatile material. There are a great numbers of interesting things that can be done by combining the workability of plywood with printing.
It’s also possible to dye sublimate on ceramic tiles. Similarly to steel and fabric, mentioned previously, the ink goes into the substrate so the tiles can still be used in environments where they are exposed to shock or water (e.g. floors or walls). The most inexpensive tile can become a piece of art once printed. So there we go again combining a cost-effective solution with a great result. The graphic printed on the tiles can also resemble stone or marble which is another very interesting application.
To sum up, large-format printing is far from just being outdoor banners and billboards. The role of print in interior visual merchandising is growing and has a huge potential. All of the materials mentioned above can be printed on with high quality. This allows to acquire looks that are limited only by graphic design, which is very attractive for interior designers and especially for retail brands. Using print in store design enables individualised solutions that can be mass produced and at the same time provide flexibility in changes of the store’s environment.
The fun part is the large number of ways these application can be used for branding and store design. It only depends from the creativity of graphic designers and visual merchandisers to use the capacities of print the the fullest.