By Olivia Cahoon
Outdoor floor graphics provide décor and directional assistance for advertising, athletic events, retail, and short- and long-term events. Unlike indoor floor graphics, outdoor media withstands temperature changes, precipitation, UV glare, and increased human and vehicle traffic. Commonly applied to textured surfaces like concrete and asphalt, outdoor floor graphics incorporate safety concerns and anti-slip properties.
Above: Ritrama’s Floor Talker base vinyl film is complemented by an embossed overlaminating film with anti-slip properties.
Outdoor floor graphics communicate to customers, clients, visitors, and the workforce while withstanding high-traffic areas. Digitally printed floor graphics are customizable by shape, size, and color to attract pedestrians and offer versatility across industries including retail, public spaces, and schools.
“They are highly visible to pedestrian areas and offer a way to communicate a variety of messages like promotional, safety, and logistical directions,” offers Jessica Stone, marketing specialist, Ritrama Inc. Digitally printed outdoor floor graphics include two components—the print media and overlaminate—used independently or together.
Sidewalk graphics, a popular form of outdoor floor graphics, display advertising messages on asphalt, concrete, and brick. Strong adhesives adhere to porous surfaces with easy removal, anti-slip characteristics, UV protection, and abrasion resistance. They are applied near malls, concerts, sports venues, and special events like marathons and parades, comments Jonathon Gerlach, U.S. marketing manager, intermediate films, 3M Commercial Solutions.
“Outdoor floor graphics offer businesses and brand owners an opportunity to extend messaging and take advantage of unused real estate with areas of high pedestrian traffic,” explains Gerlach. In retail, they communicate short-term sales and upcoming events, especially in areas cluttered with advertisements and visual promotions. “Graphics placed outside of the store entrance may be the first thing a customer sees and thus the messaging could have a greater impact,” he suggests.
According to E. Tyler Reich, director of product development, Que Media Inc., companies pay a lot of money to make their advertisements obscure so people remember them. “This is because we are inundated with advertising everywhere we go, which desensitizes us to our surroundings. The placement of an advertisement in a non-traditional ad space helps to separate a company’s advertisement from the competition,” he continues.
Temporary safety messages are displayed as floor graphics for workers in construction and manufacturing. “It’s as simple as the fact that while people walk, they focus on the ground in front of them,” admits Kevin Beckerdite, product manager, surface protection and graphics, SWM International. Used for short and long term, floor graphics offer easy removal and directional assistance.
The safety instructions applied to the floor appear in factories, plants, and production facilities. “Floor graphics are used in manufacturing facilities to get workers to pay attention in potentially dangerous places,” says Jeff Stadelman, marketing manager, distributor products, Mactac Distributor Products. Pedestrians look down while walking, which results in an increasing number of vehicle and pedestrian accidents. So much so, Stadelman says many outdoor malls use floor graphics and directional signage at sidewalk and roadway intersections.
While floor media is available for indoor and outdoor use, outdoor-only products address unique ground surface challenges like dirt, debris, texture, and environmental elements.
Unlike outdoor surfaces, indoor floors are smoother with materials like wood, linoleum, tile, and finished concrete that require less costly standard adhesives. “Products designed and qualified for outdoor surfaces are highly engineered, which increases price,” explains Larry Delesio, graphic media business manager, DAF Products Inc.
Outdoor floor media and mounting adhesives are designed for difficult surfaces like concrete, carpet, or tile. To select media with proper adhesion strength, Brian Biegel, marketing communications specialist, D&K Group, advises print service providers (PSPs) to know the graphic’s intended location prior to installation. “Outdoor floor graphics are typically exposed to more UV light and adverse weather than an indoor graphic, anything placed outside must be able to withstand these conditions,” he continues.
In addition to graphic protection, weather-resistant floor media also protects pedestrians. Darren Speizer, VP, sales and marketing, Drytac, warns that media and overlaminates become slick with rain or snow and pose a fall risk—leaving business owners and PSPs responsible. Outdoor floor media with conformability properties mold and adhere to rough surfaces to prevent injury and damaged graphics.
To keep graphics and pedestrians safe, outdoor floor media requires durability in several forms. Shaun Jaycox, product manager, S-One Holdings Corporation, recommends PSPs consider floor media strong enough to withstand direct sunlight, ice, and human traffic. “Intense heat can turn a graphic into a soft ooze and ice can cause it to crack, chip, or flake,” he explains. Digitally printable media features temperature use ranges between -5 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
The graphic’s intended geographical region determines the type of durability required. According to Jaycox, some multipurpose products don’t hold up to application surface or location needs, especially outdoors. Outdoor floor materials should include weather-ability for light, moisture, temperature, and print surface based on the graphic’s location. To extend the graphic’s life and meet safety regulations, Jaycox recommends a protective laminate and bond adhesive.
Outdoor floor media can be used for indoor applications but is usually not preferred. “They have a price premium that makes it undesirable for the indoors as they can be twice the cost comparatively to indoor floor graphics,” shares Speizer. In addition to higher costs, outdoor media is designed with strong adhesives to keep graphics in place.
“Many outdoor products have aggressive adhesives that are removed with a pressure washer or heat gun and a blade,” says Mark Six, technical product manager, wide format solutions, The Mosaica Group. Most retail locations don’t use strong adhesives for indoor use because removal is messy and difficult, he believes.
To keep outdoor floor graphics in place, floor media should be short and thin. “People tend to drag their feet a lot so the more thick or tall a floor graphic is, it’s more likely someone will trip on the edge and help peel it from the floor,” adds Six. Digital media for outdoor applications typically ranges in thickness from four to 6.5 mil.
Floor graphics are applied in one- or two-step systems. A one-step system includes a durable vinyl media while two-step systems use a durable media and laminating film. Laminating films protect printed images from outdoor elements like weather and foot traffic.
PSPs prefer two-step systems for the added durability required in outdoor use. Although some media does have features like slip certification and UV protection, Cory Jones, associate product manager, wide format equipment and supplies, GBC & SEAL, believes the overall application is more durable with an overlaminate protecting traditional vinyl media.
Overlaminates for floor applications offer scruff and scratch resistance, transparency, and durability to withstand weathering. Before selecting an overlaminate, it’s important to know if it is intended for outdoor use. Indoor overlaminates offer resistance to dirt and durability for cleaning floors but don’t apply as well to concrete and asphalt like ceramic, marble, waxed vinyl, or wood floors.
“Two-step systems are really more desirable because they last longer and stay more vibrant and unscathed during the life of the advertisement,” explains Reich.
A one-step method can be efficient for short-term outdoor floor graphics, says Stadelman. “If the graphic is down for a week, some wear from foot traffic will occur but it’s minimal.” He recommends graphics used for more than three months include a slip-resistant laminating film for protection.
It’s important outdoor floor graphics prevent and protect consumers and pedestrians from falling or tripping. Property owners face high risks for inadequate flooring, which affects the PSP’s reputation as well. Anti-skid laminates offer added protection and walking friction.
Textured flooring surfaces with enough anti-skid properties don’t require an additional anti-skid laminate, offers Craig Campbell, market manager, graphic products, ORAFOL Americas. “PSPs should perform their due diligence and check with local municipalities to learn about specific regulations,” he suggests. For outdoor events, PSPs should verify insurance requirements with clients.
Testing procedures advance to improve durability and safety as new slip property risks are identified and better understood. “Anti-slip properties are even more important in exterior applications than in dry interior applications,” adheres Stadelman. It’s critical for media manufacturers, PSPs, and property owners to maintain new specifications and keep apprised of building code changes.
A Specialty Product
Considered a specialty product, floor graphics are found in locations like malls, schools, downtown areas, and zoos. With a presence in daily advertising and activities, floor graphics are becoming a popular means of advertising and décor.
Timothy Schoenbeck, wide format business development manager, Kernow North America, believes the everyday use of floor media should be a sign of how mainstream it has become. He offers, “you cannot go to a retail or grocery store and not come across some sort of floor graphic. Even now, seeing floor graphics in restaurants, sports venues, and even walking down the sidewalk is commonplace.”
Today, floor graphics offer more than retail advertising and special event décor. Schoenbeck says the newest trends and advancements in outdoor floor applications include three-dimensional characteristics, illusion graphics, directional signage, and marathon and 5K advertisements.
From a manufacturer’s standpoint, Campbell encounters floor graphics daily, however, the end user may not understand all the available opportunities that floor graphics offer. He sees it as an excellent method to increase the PSP’s value, educate clients, and find new business. “Advertising agencies and PSPs really see the value these graphics provide and the unlimited space to place an advertising message. This trend will likely put floor graphics as a must for any outdoor advertising campaign.”
Before offering outdoor floor graphics, PSPs should fully understand the project, customer expectations, and requirements to successfully install in an outdoor environment, recommends Bill Rothe, national sales manager, Better Life Technology LLC. He suggests PSPs consider longevity, performance, minimum and maximum temperatures, weatherability, and adhesive.
“Outdoor floor graphic material should be easy to apply, durable, easy to remove, and weather resistant,” adds Rothe. To ensure a compatible media is selected, PSPs can run test trials for durability and appearance.
Matt Buckley, director of business development, wide format, GPA, says PSPs should consider the durability level to meet the customer’s expectations—whether the project is short or long term, and the location to ensure it’s a clean, dry surface at the correct temperature. Installing floor graphics during or after poor weather conditions, like in rain or snow, interferes with the graphic’s installation and impairs durability. Floor graphics should remain durable, visual, and intact for the client’s requested time.
Vehicle safety is tested on floor graphics placed in vehicle traffic. According to Buckley, most outdoor floor graphics endure light traffic, but if a vehicle turns on the surface, it creates more torque, which damages the graphic and causes it to lift. Floor media should be durable and strong enough to withstand heavy items without distortion or adhesion loss.
Wet environments not only pose safety risks but also affect the graphic’s visibility. In wet environments, Kylie Schleicher, product manager, Ultraflex Systems, Inc., explains that clear products can cloud with precipitation and recommends an opaque product with a printable first surface and top coat. Clear products also risk clouding under heavy sunlight and work best with opaque products. “Some clear vinyl products can blush in sunlight so it’s better to have a solid product with first surface printing,” she adds.
Outdoor floor graphics effectively market limited time sales and upcoming events. Floor media for outdoor use features anti-slip properties and lamination to abide by safety regulations while protecting graphics from environmental elements, human traffic, and vehicles. Outdoor floor graphics provide strength and durability to create customizable floor décor.
Apr2018, Digital Output