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Building Your Building Wrap Business

Unwrapping the Challenges and Opportunities

by Thomas Franklin

Not every firm can successfully produce and market building wraps. Behind those monster graphics lies a myriad of challenges, some routine, others daunting.

Take the routine first. How to actually market the product? Providers agree: donít market a product, sold by the square foot. Instead, package the tangible costs (the media, production time, assembly, and installation) with the intangible (experience, quality, service, and responsiveness) for a total package.

"We sell a solution," says Jon Zinsmeyer, president, The Big Print, LLC. Client hand-holding and a wealth of qualified staff have helped Zinsmeyer grow his business into a national provider of building wraps for some of the biggest brands in the country, including Microsoft and Ikea.

Then there are logistical hurdles. Printing on mesh requires a good deal of experience, says Josh Bevans, chief technical officer, Design to Print/dtpXpress. Itís not enough to configure your printer for dealing with the ink that passes through the mesh, itís knowing how to produce powerful colors despite the porous surface area. Since mesh typically surrenders about forty percent of its surface to pores to allow the wind to pass through, you need to compensate for the reduced printable area in your printerís RIP to ensure the highest quality colors, Bevans notes.

"You have to know your ink limiting, itís not about making the colors darker, but making them pop," he adds.

Wraps are typically produced in panels, which are later sewn and welded together to achieve their spectacular dimensions. As with any grand format finishing, space is a premium for both assembly and proofing. Zinsmeyer notes how it often takes eight people to simply accordion fold a wrap for shipping. The larger the wrap, the heavier it will be and the more manpower it will require to transport around the finishing floor.

After Point Imaging moved into larger digs in Illinois, the firm was finally able to proof their entire finished product against a light wall. "It really improved our quality control," says assistant marketing manager Marco Perez.

Perhaps the most daunting challenges associated with building wraps are those over which digital printers exercise the least control: Mother Nature and Uncle Sam. The former can be a menace not simply at installation, but during the life of the sign as well. The later typically conspires to thwart projects at the eleventh hour.

Most printers have their own personal horror stories about work that was completely printed and minutes from installation that was later nixed by a government official.

To the extent it can be controlled, ensuring that your clients understand the local zoning laws, have filed the necessary permits, and secured the necessary permissions from building owners or associations can go a long way toward eliminating potential bureaucratic hassles.

In the end however, the work is usually rewarding. Zinsmeyerís firm recently produced a 360-degree wrap for Ikea that shrouded the entire building. "It was awesome," he recalls. "I rented a helicopter to videotape it."

Part 4 of our Building Wrap series will profile actual building wrap projects.

May2006, Digital Output

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