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Let's Go to the Mall

Backlit Signage Sparkles in Retail

By Melissa Donovan

Eye-popping backlit signage is prominent in shopping malls across the U.S. According to a 2006 report by Forrester Consulting entitled Building Marketing Experiences, almost half of U.S. consumers live within ten miles of a mall. Nearly three-quarters visit and 60 percent purchase at shopping malls at least once every three months.

This study was conducted specifically for Simon Property Group, Inc. owner of Simon Malls, which in 2006 accounted for 2.2 billion shopping visits annually across its properties. As of 2009, the real estate company owns or has interest in 385 properties across the U.S.

The number of people who visit malls each year is impressive, even in a soft economy. Expressive signage is a sure way to capture the attention of even the busiest shopper. Backlit signage stands out from traditional vinyl banners and views well in almost any space from any distance.

Constant Demand
PROLAB Digital Imaging’s (PDi) origins are in conventional commercial photo lab production, dating back to 1989. In 1993 the shop became involved with large format digital output and is currently located in a 15,000 square foot building next to LAX airport. With 17 employees on staff PDi serves customers in Canada, Europe, the Middle East, South America, and the U.S. “Our clients rely on us as a one stop digital imaging provider. 98 percent of their needs are met in-house,” explains Joseph Hill, VP sales and operations, PDi.

About ten percent of PDi’s business is wide format backlit, an application offered since the shop first opened its doors 20 years ago. Hill says the demand for backlit graphics remains constant. He attributes backlit’s popularity to its ability to grab the attention of the consumer. “It is impossible to ignore the eye-catching images on display. The bottom line is impressions per view and backlit signage possesses the greatest impact on conventional two-dimensional graphics,” he shares.

Light Tools
A backlit sign can be created in one of two ways. A printed graphic is placed in a light box and light is generated from within the box. Or a display panel illuminates a graphic from behind. Another type of sign similar to backlit is frontlit, which PDi also offers. Frontlit signage involves lights in front of the graphic that flood the image.

At PDi, various hardware and media plays a role in completing customers’ backlit and frontlit signage requests. The shop employs more than one printer to meet the demand.

Their LightJet 430 from Oce North America provides the highest quality, continuous tone backlit print according to Hill. Fujifilm U.S.A., Inc.’s Fujitrans Crystal Archive or FujiClear Crystal Archive display material is used in conjunction with the printer.

For applications requiring both frontlit and backlit signage the shop uses a Hewlett-Packard (HP) Designjet 5500, which utilizes pigmented UV water-based ink. Due to the ink type, projects printed on the HP Designjet 5500 are adequate for outdoor use. If a UV overlaminate is used, prints last longer than a year.

High-End Marketing
Neutrogena Cosmetics is a repeat customer of PDi’s. According to Hill, “Neutrogena demands the highest quality products to represent their cosmetic line and uses our services to achieve their goal.” It took seven days for the shop to create graphics for five mall kiosks, which each held 15 backlit prints. The Oce LightJet 430 printer was used to print onto Duratrans film face, which was then mounted to clear plexiglas. The backlit panels were 24x36 and 16x20 inches in size. Hill notes that color was a challenge, it was critical the graphics matched previously printed brochures.

Retail sectors are one popular location for the backlit signs PDi creates. The shop also has clients requesting this type of signage in the entertainment, trade show, and airport industries.

A prepress print broker for a major movie studio contacted PDi to produce graphics that would eventually depict the James Bond movie franchise. 100 27x40-inch panels were produced using the Oce LightJet and Duratrans film mounted to clear plexiglas in four days. The result was a huge mosaic, displayed in a popular Los Angeles, CA galleria for the past year.

Talk it Through
Backlit signage is an excellent way to advertise any product or service. Based on studies conducted by Simon Malls and as evident in PDi’s many repeat customers, this application is a fit for just about anywhere, but certainly is experiencing great success in malls across the U.S.

Oct2009, Digital Output

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