Soft Signage Ushers in a New Age of Digital Print
More Than Just the Sense of Sight is Affected with Fabric
by Melissa Tetreault
Part 1 of a 6-part Series
Europe and Asia are very familiar with fabric and soft signage and have enjoyed its success for some time now. Culturally, fabric is a widely accepted signage medium overseas. Additionally, many papers—such as photo and dye-based—that are domestically available to us are not available in Europe and Asia, making it cheaper for them to print on fabric.
Soft signage has finally made the journey to the Americas, however, and is rapidly becoming popular. Chuck Sharp, president, TexPress Inc., believes that fabric sales have gone up at least 50 percent between this year’s SGIA and last year’s ISA shows. Such a large adoption rate in a small amount of time, especially compared to the adoption rates of many other technologies, may leave room for skepticism but Sharp believes that Europe and Asia’s involvement in fabrics may have a hand in this. He explains, "I think it is because the technology as a whole isn’t that new, it was practiced in Europe and Asia for awhile and they worked out a lot of bugs. We aren’t seeing a raw technology evolution."
With all of the pesky wrinkles ironed out, what we are left with is an incredibly versatile and flexible—literally and figuratively—new media with many benefits.
Shipping and Handling
"Print it, literally fold it up, ship it, there is no other substrate today used in signage that I know of that allows you do that," says Gary Turner, business development manager for DuPont Artistri. He lays the attractiveness of fabric signage right out on the table, "Textile printing delivers real advantages to the printer and their clients." The fact that you can physically fold this signage and not have to worry about it being damaged en route, like the normal bumps or dents that a rigid sign or vinyl may receive, is practically reason enough to convert the entire signage community to fabric.
The time and cost advantage versus other media is huge. Sharp gives the example of trade show displays that are done last minute: "If you are going to do something on solid board, your shipping costs and the aggravation factor is astronomical. Whereas fabric signage can be rolled up, hand carried with a person on an airplane or sent in a FedEx tube—no problem."
Versatility and Flexibility
Once your printed fabric arrives at its destination another attractive benefit arises, the display and advertising options become endless. Fabric can be draped around tables; fashioned over wire to create 3D shapes, lain on the floor, be sewn into pillows, drapes, curtains, cushions, and more.
In the display sense all the restrictions people were faced with before are thrown out the window and new, eye-catching options develop, such as a technique called pillowcasing. The newly printed fabric acts as a slipcover for any backboard or frame. You simply sew the fabric around its perimeter and place a zipper into it, then settle it over the frame. Ideally, the simplicity that comes with pillowcasing allows you to assemble your display repeatedly.
Another advantage to using fabric is that there is no glare off of the substance. Turner comments, "You will always get pure, rich colors when you light fabric from the front and with some newly developed fabrics, from the rear back lighting applications. If you light vinyl or a rigid substrate you sometimes have to worry about glare. As a viewer if you see something attractive with a glare, are you going to spend anytime looking at it? I doubt it." Advertisers and their customers alike all want a display that attracts the customer’s eye, not harm it. "You want people to interact with your medium. Enjoy it with another sense such as touch rather then just seeing it," Turner explains. "One of the first things many viewers do when they see a beautiful image printed on a textile is to touch it. What a great way to encourage your audience to interact with your message," Turner concludes.
But what is it exactly that pushes the customer to walk up and literally touch your display? Richard Codos, executive director, North American Development of Leggett & Platt Digital Technologies, believes it is due to the natural look of the fabric. He shares, "Fabric provides a richer, more natural look in a variety of indoor and outdoor applications. This is particularly true in comparison to vinyl which, alternatively, has a plastic, artificial appearance."
As an advertiser you want your customers interacting with the product. Soft signage does this by acting as an interactive tool that provides ample display opportunities, is soft in texture, and thanks to its pliable nature is easy to transport.