Conducting the Wrap
Harmonizing a Successful Wrap Project Requires Attention to Details, Big and Small.
by Thomas Franklin
3 of a 4 Part Series
Successfully executing a building wrap project is a little bit like conducting a symphony orchestra. With so many players involved, everyone needs to be reading off the same sheet of music, at the same time, to make beautiful music. That’s probably why so many conductors have such crazed hair and wild eyes. Printers may be better groomed, but the pace of a building wrap project is no less frenetic and the coordination no less complex.
To pull off a successful—and profitable—building wrap project, marketing, design, deadlines, permitting, printing, finishing, and installation all need to harmonize.
The best possible advertisement for your building wraps business is your building wraps business. Sounds redundant, but according to Gary Lucke, owner of a Fast Signs franchise in St. Petersburg, FL, a successful job proves to clients that your business can be counted on again for future projects.
"We live on word-of-mouth, one good job leads to another," seconds Eric Rosencrantz, CEO, EMR Graphics.
That self-reinforcing success, however, also makes it a difficult business to break into, says Tom Wilhelm, president, GP Color & Imaging. "You can’t start off in grand format printing trying to tackle wraps, you’ll fail miserably. There’s just too much that goes with it. You have to build your capabilities up to it."
Deadlines & Design
While tight deadlines are universal in the business, deadlines are particularly acute for producers of building wraps given the size and complexity of the printing, assembly, and installation. One of the greatest impediments is the graphic file.
"If there’s one thing that usually holds us up it’s the file," Wilhelm states. Usually, a third party creative team has difficulty matching the contours of the building.
While established structures sold by media companies tend to have templates to keep designers within the designated dimensions of the building, other surfaces may not.
"We typically see files that are not properly matched to the dimensions of the building, or that don’t take into account some unique aspect of the building’s design," Wilhelm says.
"We take pictures of the structure to first ensure that it’s a surface we can handle," Rosencrantz says. "We have to determine the exact nature of the surface. Then we do a site inspection. After that, we create a custom template for our designers [or third party designers] to work with," he says. The design stage is usually where a project can live or die. "Everyone wants to get in as much text as possible, but if it’s not properly aligned within the dimensions of the building, you’re going to have big problems," he continues.
"You have to get the installers and the designers talking to one another, so everyone knows what will or won’t work," Wilhelm says.
In many cases, securing the required permits is handled by the media company that owns the space to be wrapped, but it never hurts to ensure someone has their eye on the local officialdom. "They can be the graphics Gestapo," jokes Wilhelm. In Hollywood where Wilhelm’s firm operates, the regulations are finely grained in their detail—specifying the precise height of the lettering, the proportion of words to images, and other intricate details of a project. Running afoul of these regulations, Wilhelm explains, means wasted time and materials.
Many building wraps are placed on structures—stadiums, commercial properties—already zoned for displaying advertisements. Others, especially construction sites, may not be and will require some research as to what’s permitted.
Printing & Finishing
While wraps may not have the dpi requirements of POP or other graphics, they’ll still consume many printing hours. Not only that, but they require significant space to be laid out and proofed by the printer. "Most computers can’t handle the full sized wrap file to view for proofing," Rosencrantz says. "We give them a swatch proof to show them what it looks like at the dpi we’ll be printing at."
"Anyone who wraps vehicles knows that the cutting and the finishing takes all the time," Lucke states. Given the relatively short duration of most wraps—30 to 60 days—they typically don’t require laminating. But assembling the graphics for shipping is quite important, because the install team at the site needs to be able to get up and running quickly, Rosencrantz says. "We ship a kit, with everything laid out plainly."
Getting it to the installers in a fashion they can handle is crucial, Wilhelm says, "You’re going to have people hanging off the side a building, so everything needs to be packaged right."