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What’s ahead for graphics?

Courtesy of Hargrove

The world of graphics and signage is in a perpetual state of change as it collectively works to meet client demands for products that increase the “wow” factor, reduce costs and speed up the production process.

Tracking industry trends plays a huge role in the day-to-day activities at Hargrove Inc., a tradeshow, exhibit and event company near downtown Washington, D.C. The team at Hargrove tracks innovations by attending tradeshows and collaborating closely with suppliers to make sure the 1.5 million square feet of graphics produced every year for clients is made with the latest printing and finishing techniques.

But why should show and exhibit managers care about trends?

“Our clients’ budgets are tight, turnarounds are short and expectations for innovation are high. The evolution of the graphics industry presents an opportunity to address all three challenges,” said Patricia Coleman, director of exhibit sales, Hargrove.

Right now, there are three trends to watch in the graphics industry.

1. Dye-sublimation
ECN 032014_FTR_Evol of Graphics 001Although not a brand new technique, dye-sublimation is becoming a more popular tool for tradeshows and exhibits.

Dye-sublimation printers use heat in a variety of ways to bond ink to fabrics or carpet. The process makes the use of fabrics increasingly more viable in terms of size, cost to produce and install as well as turnaround times. What’s more, the fabric is often wrinkle-resistant, and the graphics can be folded or rolled up—show or exhibit managers can understand the significance of this benefit immediately as an opportunity to reduce shipping costs.

“Because of how flexible and cost-effective dye-sublimation is, I believe we’re going to see a vast expansion of its use in the coming years that will make it the go-to graphics technique,” said Fred Strickland, executive director of procurement and product development, Hargrove.

2. SEG-Compatible Extrusion Systems
A standard in the exhibit and tradeshow industry, aluminum extrusion is a staple that is continuously being updated and adapted. This ongoing evolution has encouraged the product development of Silicon Edge Graphics (SEG)-friendly framing systems, offered in a range of profiles.

ECN 032014_FTR_Evol of Graphics 004

The companies that make these systems have developed solutions that make the product more efficient – for both the client and contractor. The framing systems that hold the SEG are easier to assemble, require less finishing work than “pillow case” products, don’t require custom tools and can come in smaller pieces that are less expensive to ship. Show floors will soon be full of SEG-compatible extrusion systems.

3. Backlit Graphics
Backlit graphics of the past were expensive when used for temporary environments, such as a tradeshow or exhibit. Called translites as the generic term (or more commonly called Duratrans), these graphics are produced by printing a photograph onto what is really a large film strip.

ECN 032014_FTR_Evol of Graphics 003LED lighting is a new, more cost-effective way to project graphics. LED lighting systems come in strips and can attach to the extrusion systems. They are less likely to produce hot spots the way fluorescents can, are less expensive and more flexible.

The evolution taking place in the graphics industry is much like moving from a flip phone to a smartphone. It’s not that any of the techniques—dye-sub, extrusions or backlit graphics—are brand new. It’s that their continued improvements address real concerns facing industry professionals – tight budgets, short turnarounds and high expectations.

“Clients should know there are huge advancements occurring right now in every area of the industry, including substrates (or materials), inks, equipment and software,” said Rush Zbir, director of graphics departments, Hargrove.

Dye-sub graphics offer the flexibility that today’s exhibit and tradeshow managers require. Add in the newer extrusion systems, as well as LED lighting, and a world of opportunities presents itself.

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