Wed, Jul

Think Big, Act Smart

Think Big, Act Smart

Why Image Reports is calling on you to get involved in a new initiative designed to push the boundaries of wide-format print.

Got big ideas about how to optimise your large-format print kit? Bet they include the production of higher-margin niche products, after all you have the kit and the know-how to produce myriad new applications. But how to ramp up demand, that’s the crux of course – you can spend as much R&D time as you like in coming up with fantastic offerings but to create a demand you have to be able to explain to potential customers what it is you’re offering and excite them about the possibilities.
OK, some of your existing customers might buy into new services, but the real money will come when the wider creative community wakes up to the huge potential of large-format in all its possible product guises. Unfortunately, there are plenty of stories about wasted sales and marketing strategies to know that it’s not always that easy to get a foot in the right doors, never mind access the right people. The problem is ‘print’ has a stigma attached to it, automatically labelled a ‘production’ process rather than ‘creative’ one by many of those in the design space that are so crucial to the development and continued growth of the sector. Educating those involved in all forms of design and decoration about the creative possibilities is what will ultimately push the boundaries of wide-format print and generate new business - which is why Image Reports is launching Think Big.

This new initiative has a number of objectives:
* The transfer of knowledge on wide-format print capabilities to the wider creative community to stimulate new opportunities
* To promote a symbiotic relationship between the design and print sectors for the development of new business
* To act as an educational repository of wide-format print information for use by creatives and printers alike
* To create an online community
Image Reports has been working closely with Jon Baker, director of NES Solutions, and Belinda Holden, an independent built environment art consultant, to devise a forum that will, over time, grow to meet the Think Big objectives and include input from across the print and creative communities.
One of the first Think Big initiatives involves artist Sarah Sabin who will be using NES Solutions’ UV direct-to-media large-format inkjet printing processes, in conjunction with materials perhaps not normally associated with printing, to investigate new possibilities. The intention is to expand this ‘Test Lab’ scenario to other printers and creatives. The investigations will be covered in Image Reports which has introduced a Think Big section to its website.
Speaking about his reasons for getting involved in Think Big, Baker explained: “For NES it’s all about diversification within the confines of traditional market sectors and from that diversification we then develop a niche, which we hope then becomes a market sector in its own right. This is pretty much how it worked for us with the development of graphical building cladding.
“Educating the wider market about possibilities of large-format is now fundamental to my role and to NES. For example, we have been working on three-dimensional print projects for over four years and have an excellent understanding of the technical aspects and the recourses required to undertake this type of work. However, we have developed this niche almost single handed and are keen to work further and closer with material manufactures, suppliers and creatives to further its development. It is therefore of great interest to me to be at the forefront of anything that furthers diversity and creativity in wide-format printing and we are excited about Think Big, a forum that is proposing to involve architects, designers and artists as well as printers, manufacturers and fabricators. It should have a very real impact upon the printing landscape and, if used correctly, can only increase the awareness and understating of all the techniques available. That can only be a good thing for the whole industry and should result in some fantastic projects being undertaken.”
The Think Big forum was introduced at Fespa Digital where Image Reports hosted the Digital Debate with the theme: ‘What are the challenges facing us today and what do we need to do to move forward?’ the overriding message from which was a need to work more closely with creatives to stimulate a wider marketplace for the print we can produce. Think Big intends to be a conduit to that.

Building bridges

Belinda Holden in an independent built environment art consultant who works with architects, interior designers, council departments etc. and acts as an interface between these design and management teams and the print sector to explore the evolving range of graphics possibilities for public locations. The following is her take on the symbiotic relationship that can develop between the creative and print communities.
“My introduction to printmaking began in art college when I specialised in printmaking as part of my graphics degree in Leeds. This however was long before digital printing and our idea of large format involved a road roller and 6 x 4 panels! My present incarnation as a built environment arts consultant has now led me back to the world of print, albeit in new forms. I work with large interdisciplinary design teams, often working on landmark public buildings such as schools, hospitals and libraries. Within these, part of my role is to identify at the early stages, opportunities for artists and designers to contribute to the design and spaces being developed. Over time we have sought to embed the artists’ work deeper into the fabric of the building, considering all surfaces, elements, fixtures and fittings of the final building.
“When it comes to buildings I, and those I work with, can’t help but ‘think big’ and in terms of using print we have so far commissioned digital glazing, external murals, bespoke wallpaper, carpet and upholstery and are in the process of exploring printed rainscreen cladding. When once all we could consider was silkscreen, intaglio or litho, where production costs for bespoke projects were beyond the realistic budget, we have through digital printing been able to realise some fantastic work. This has only been possible because we have worked with some great printers to find the right solutions and worked together through the problem solving to realise the outcome.
“Consistent issues for us have always been lifecycle, UV integrity, scale and installation; once we can start working through these with the printers we can usually arrive at the solution.
“The earliest large-format digital commissions were very straightforward; works on canvas and/or paper mounted onto aluminium. It was by playing with the widths and lengths that allowed us to really fill large atrium and office spaces.
“Working with the curtain walling of buildings has also been made more accessible through digital print onto film where once we used silkscreen or, at a push, cut vinyl - one at huge cost the other being problematic with detail and intricate installation. We have used this on several projects with the one illustrated from Chalkhill, a children and adolescent mental health hospital. An optically clear film with fairly transparent colours was used to allow for good vision and to alleviate any possible solar heat gain on the glazed units. The prints are the full size of each glazing panel and have withstood any attempts from idle picking at the edges. In terms of lifespan we agreed with the client that its expectancy was for at least ten years after which the client will either strip it or commission a new work leading to a revitalised space.
“Chalkhill as a whole utilised a number of large-format digital applications. A first for us was using digitally printed carpet from EGE Carpets, which was fantastic as it allowed for the creation of very bespoke interior treatments which went on to include the upholstery, wallpaper and in the cafe even the cups and saucers!
“On a recent project in Essex we were rescued by the printer as a client had posed the challenge of creating a series of external wall hung artworks to fill a space 1.5 x 8m. It was whilst liaising with the printer on the large internal lightbox that discussion led to other projects and a variety of plausible options were arrived at that gave the artist great design flexibility and the end client a robust yet aesthetic solution.
“Large-format wallpaper has been something we have consistently used in recent times, always going down well with the end clients. It has been important to use a variety of textures and surface finishes adding to the quality of the final work and interior. The last two buildings we were involved with used floor to ceiling and wallpaper elements as part of the signage, identity and wayfinding solutions. This worked particularly well as a solution to introducing artwork and breaking up long corridors in the clinical environment where anti-bug and cleaning regimes have almost precluded the hanging of traditional framed artworks.
“Over the past ten years artists, designers and architects visions have stopped being restricted by the lack of technology and associated exorbitant costs in realising their visions. Many would really love to print onto rainscreen cladding, precast concrete modular panels, vinyl flooring, fencing - literally to print a building!
“I have had the privilege of working with a number of printers who really enjoy working creatively, who will explore the capabilities of their team and technology, who push the boundaries of what is possible and open up new opportunities and applications. Together we want to go on exploring materials, substrates and applications; what can we print on next that is part of the fabric of the building and still have a substantial life expectancy? I understand the challenge this brings to the market where large-format print is often used for advertising or events with temporary life spans.
“But there are always bright sparks out there who just need the question to be asked…what are you trying to achieve and how big do you want to go?”

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