5 Digital Printing Trends Every PSP Needs to Watch in 2019

While we don’t actually own a crystal ball, we did take a peek into the future to see what’s in store for wide-format printing in 2019. The segment will definitely continue to see growth, with banners, vehicle wraps, signage, wallcovering and window graphics rounding out the top five most profitable wide-format applications, according to a recent WhatTheyThink report.

The report outlined some key stats, including the fact that wide-format print is growing at a healthy 6.7% CAGR, jumping from $16.1 billion in 2012 to $22.3 billion in 2017. Nearly 3/4 of print providers say their wide-format print volumes have increased, while over 90% of print buyers say their volumes will hold steady or increase in the coming year.

So with all that potential, we took a look at some key activity that will help drive production and sales. Here are the top five trends every print service provider should keep an eye on as the new year kicks off:

Soft Signage Made Easier. Digital textile printing has been a hot topic for the past few years, but it’s far more than garment and apparel applications, especially for wide-format printers. Soft signage will continue to dominate, taking the place of rigid and heavy substrates for trade shows, high-end retail and backlit applications. Currently, only about 6% of textile products are produced digitally, according to an article in December 2018 edition of Printing News, but experts expect that number to get into double digits within a few years. Fabric manufacturers have been hard at work to develop textiles that run smoothly on wide-format options, such as latex and even aqueous printers. Also, SEG frames are essential for attractive soft signage displays, but have often required a lot of installation set-up, especially sewing the silicone edging onto the finished print. Now, with SignComp’s Front Load Soft Signage Frame, there’s no sewing necessary, especially when using a thick textile that works well with SignComp’s patented grip strips. It’s so easy to use that an employee in a retail shop can easily switch out seasonal messaging whenever needed. Check out this how-to video to learn more.

Sustainability Goes Mainstream. Get ready for a wave of printable media that offers sustainability characteristics that are either recyclable or made from recycled materials, such as the award-winning HP Recycled Satin Canvas, which uses 22 recycled water bottles for every square meter of canvas. These types of products will become increasingly important to your customer base, as many of them will demand more Earth-friendly options. Plus, you’re going to see more major corporate brands, like Kellogg and Kraft-Heinz vowing to use sustainable packaging that will be fully recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025. Our S-OneLP team is on the case to provide more sustainable packaging films to those printers, as well. In the textile arena, expect to see more natural fiber fabrics and improved pigment inks to accompany them.

Digital Décor Market Expands. As the typical “sign guy” has tip-toed into becoming an all-around décor expert with everything from photo reproductions to canvas wraps to wallcoverings, you can expect to see digitally printed décor options branch beyond retail and hospitality settings and expand into residential offerings. As print providers become more adept at printing décor materials and the materials themselves become easier to handle (think: LexJet Print-N-Stick Fabric for wall murals), the opportunities are going to explode, while consumers catch wind of all the possibilities to customize their homes. And not just on the walls — windows become prime real estate for digital décor displays, as do the floors … and let’s not forget the ceilings.

Ecommerce Gains (Even More) Traction. If you’ve been ecommerce shy with your business so far, 2019 may be the year you finally embrace its possibilities. Offering customers the ability to upload their artwork that you fulfill in a variety of print products gives you a huge advantage over your competition. But if you’re wary of starting ecommerce options on your own, consider the possibility of offering fulfillment services to a number of up-and-coming art houses that are partnering with artists to use their original art to create everything from wall tapestries to canvas wraps to notebooks to t-shirts. A few big online names you may have heard of — Ikonick, Society6, Art.com … yeah, they’re all using digital wide-format services. Go grab those opportunities!

Digital Print for All Surfaces. A few years ago while at SGIA Expo, it became apparent that the new directive seemed to be: Print Everything! And while that was supported by a wide variety of print technologies, today, we’d edit it to say: Print Everything with Digital!  We’re seeing every surface covered with printed media, and more and more of those materials are digital wide-format compatible, such as LexJet Sunset Textured Fine Art Paper 310g used to create lamp shades. The key to printing to more surfaces is a wide variety of versatile, all-in-one substrates, such as LexJet Flex Tek, available for aqueous or solvent print technology, and can be used for hanging banners, roll-up banners or even canvas wraps.

Stay tuned throughout the year to discover even more new and innovative products and exciting application opportunities to help you grow your business well into 2020 and beyond!

 

Behind the Scenes with the Undercover Boss, FASTSIGNS’ CEO Catherine Monson

CBS reality show Undercover Boss covers Fastsigns
FASTSIGNS CEO Catherine Monson as "Louise Steely," and Gary, a Culver City FASTSIGNS employee, apply graphics during the filming of Undercover Boss, which aired on CBS last Friday. Photo courtesy Studio Lambert.

Reality is not always as it seems, especially reality television. Just ask FASTSIGNS CEO Catherine Monson, who was recently immersed in the unreal world of reality television. Monson and several FASTSIGNS locations were featured on Undercover Boss, which aired this past Friday, May 4, on CBS.

When hours of raw footage are condensed into about 45 minutes of air time, distortion is inevitable. Surprisingly, however, this particular episode of Undercover Boss was relatively accurate, according to Monson.

“I was disappointed by some of the things they left out, and I felt they overemphasized the emotional aspects, but that’s what makes for compelling television,” says Monson. “When they first approached us about being involved with the show, we weighed the pros and cons and how it could possibly affect the brand. We decided the pros outweighed the cons, and that was certainly the case.”

In case you didn’t catch the show Friday night, Monson disguised herself and went to work in the trenches at four FASTSIGNS locations: St. Louis, Austin, Culver City (Calif.), and Phoenix. Each contact at the location was told that they were filming a reality show called Second Chances, and Monson’s “character” was the subject, so it was kind of a show within a show.

During the episode we learned about the struggles and triumphs of not only Monson, but the people at the four locations at which she worked. Monson says the four locations were chosen after the production company scouted and scoured the FASTSIGNS franchise network for the most interesting stories.

I won’t spoil those stories for you here, in case you didn’t catch it when it aired, since you can see the full episode at http://www.cbs.com/shows/undercover_boss/video/. The show will no longer be available at the CBS website after May 21.

“It is unnerving to have two HD cameras on you ten hours a day. Yes, I was nervous, and people got to see that I can’t make a sign, and I made a bit of a fool of myself at times, but that’s okay, because I think it’s not only a great thing for our company, but also the industry as a whole. Not a lot of people know that a sign shop can do vehicle graphics and all kinds of different signs, all the way up to big outdoor installations,” says Monson. “When we were first allowed to let our franchises know about it, they were very excited. We advertise on FOX, CNN and MSNBC, but we can’t afford advertising time on CBS in prime time on Friday night, so the extra exposure was great for everyone. Our franchise partners did an amazing job putting up all kinds of graphics to promote the show. And because it’s such a unique show, some of our franchisees got a lot of coverage from local media. There were 125 viewing parties around the country where they invited customers to watch the show and do some of the things I did on the show, like weeding vinyl.”

Beyond the personal stories at the locations she visited undercover, Monson was able to identify three areas of improvement for FASTSIGNS corporate: E-mail marketing, training and eCommerce. Monson took the suggestions to heart and FASTSIGNS corporate has begun to implement them.

“We’ve made some good progress. Not only do we have an on-your-behalf email marketing program, we have a do-it-yourself marketing where the individual franchise can completely customize the template,” says Monson. “I really learned that we need to ensure that all of our information about marketing initiatives, programs and training reaches everyone at each franchise. Also, we are almost finished with our training curriculum on big outdoor installations, and we have eight locations using our eCommerce website, and plan to start rolling that out to more locations in the weeks ahead.”

Printing the History of Golf from Scotland to the U.S.

Printing historical golf photography

Photography and the modern game of golf developed around the same time. Coincidence? Probably, but it was a fortuitous coincidence since we’ve been left with at least some photographic history of those early years.

Preserving and printing historical golf photography
From the Masterworks Golf Collection: Old Tom Morris and S. Muir Ferguson, St. Andrews, 1891.

It’s likely that the largest and highest-quality collection of early golf photography is in the hands of Howard Schickler of Sarasota, Fla., who has been slowly building the collection for the past ten years.

An avid golfer since he was a teenager in New York City and later a collector and exhibitor of historical fine art photography, the two avocations will culminate in the launch of a website dedicated to golf’s history and the sale of museum-quality prints. The website’s launch is set to coincide with the British Open in late July.

Currently, you can see part of the collection at www.masterworksofgolf.com. We’ll update you here at the LexJet Blog when the new site, which will have a slightly different URL, is up and running.

“I started buying historical golf photography with a museum curator’s eye of building a collection that was museum quality and meaningful. What I decided to do from the beginning was only collect photos related to the major champions of golf. I also added golf courses of extraordinary quality by great photographers,” says Schickler. “I’m always in pursuit of the very earliest pieces which date mostly from the 1850s, but they’re extremely difficult to find. I’m able to count on one hand how many photos I have from the 1850s.”

Prints of historical golf photographySchickler was recently invited to exhibit some of his collection at a festival at St. Andrews in Scotland, the birthplace of modern golf. He chose 13 images to print for the festival, which were exhibited in two different venues. Schickler brought 26 prints (13 for each venue) to the festival. The images were printed by Schickler and his son, who’s studying digital photography at the Ringling College of Art and Design, at 13″ x 19″ on LexJet Sunset Hot Press Rag on Schickler’s Canon iPF8300.

“We originally tried five different papers, all of which we had experience with before. We weren’t sure if we wanted to go with fine art paper, fiber paper or a matte or gloss finish, so we would take one image and print it on the five different papers,” explains Schickler. “We found we were getting the best results from Sunset Hot Press Rag and Sunset Fibre Matte. We chose Hot Press Rag as our main paper because it really brings out the details of the images and provides the same feel as if they were printed in the 19th Century.”

The goal of each print is to stay as true to the original image as possible. Very little is done to the images, other than cleaning up a blemish here and there.

Prints of historical golf photos
From the Masterworks Golf collection: Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen at the US Open in 1922.

“For us, the important thing was to bring out the exact tones of the originals, which have some sort of sepia tone to various degrees,” says Schickler. “The new printers are great because they make it a lot easier to be faithful to the original tone of the image.”

Schickler left goodwill behind him after the event at St. Andrews, donating the prints to the festival organizers, all the while building relationships with venerable St. Andrews institutions, such as St. Andrews University, which houses more than 700,000 photographs in its library, many of which are from the early development of photography and modern golf.

The collection has been the proverbial (but literal) labor of love, and the website being developed right now will reflect that. In addition to an eCommerce component, which will feature a portfolio of about 60 historical images from a collection of over 1,000,  there will be blogs that focus on blending historical and contemporary golf (golf fashion then and now, golf courses then and now, and so forth), and a documentary video section.

“We plan to produce 18-24 video vignettes. Each one will tell the story of great golfer from the 1850s to the 1930s. Collectively, the videos will become an important documentary film on the history of golf, which has never been done before. And, we’ll go beyond Scottish golf to ladies golf in the UK and U.S., and American golf, which post-dates Scottish and UK golf by about 40 years,” explains Schickler. “We’re also planning to create an iPhone app that reproduces a historical golf timeline with content links to images and videos from our collection. I want the site to be an aggregation of interesting, high-quality, intellectually stimulating information about golf and its history.”