Industry Insights: That Last Step is a Doozy!

For most in the wide-format graphics business, a successful job has many contributing factors. It begins with a creative idea, continues with an intricate series of production steps and ends with a quality installation. Throughout the process there are many opportunities for the success of the project to be enhanced or compromised. With all the variables in the process, successful graphics producers are realizing that including the installer in the planning process pays dividends more often than not.

The SGIA community is benefiting from an expanding marketplace because the diversity of available materials allows us to apply graphics to more things. If it stands still long enough, we can either print on it or wrap it. We have more options for media and inks sets than ever before. And we are fortunate to have customers pushing the creative boundaries using applied graphics. But with this expanding market comes the critical need for matching materials to the job and installation expertise. The installer has a wealth of information that can help the graphics producer ensure that “onsite” considerations will be addressed in the planning stages and that the investment in production will be rewarded with a quality installation.

From the Truth not Fiction Archives, here are a couple of “don’t let this happen to you” stories:


Temporary is a Relative Term

The job consisted of a series of 5 x 10-foot graphics to be applied to large stainless steel columns on each floor of an office building. This was a temporary install for a grand opening the next morning and the graphics would be removed in a matter of days.

There are readily available materials ideally suited to this task. They install without problems, stay put, and uninstall easily and cleanly, without leaving a trace that the graphic was ever there. But use the wrong materials and the results can be quite different.

The installer was not included in the planning of this job. He had asked for details when he quoted the install, but they weren’t provided. As is often the case, he quoted with the assumption that the correct materials were being used. When he arrived onsite the night before the grand opening the installer learned of the stainless steel surface, as well as the vinyl and ink system used.

Once the installer saw the material, he knew it was the wrong ink and vinyl for the task. To verify his suspicion, he contacted the vinyl manufacturer and asked about using this material on stainless steel. The manufacturer confirmed his suspicion that the vinyl is not intended for that surface and should not be used. The installer contacted the graphics producer and explained that the graphics could be installed, but getting them off would be another story. The vinyl will stick aggressively to the steel and it will break into small pieces when you try to remove it. It’s the wrong product for this surface.

The open house was the next morning so there was no time to recreate the graphics on the right material. It could have easily ended in a massive finger-pointing match with all parties losing income. In this case, however, the installer saw a solution. It was less than perfect, but it was a solution. There were recesses on the wall above and below the position of the graphic. The installer took the time to pre-cut the graphic panels and painstakingly used double sided tape and clear packing tape to mount the vinyl—carrier sheet intact—on each of the stainless steel walls. He used the recesses in the columns to hide the tape holding the graphics in place.

If the graphics had been installed using the applied adhesive, the cost of removing the graphics would have been several times the cost of the entire production. But, thanks to a last-minute creative solution, the grand opening was a success. This made the customer happy, and in turn, made the graphics producer happy, which made the installer happy! (Well, annoyed actually, but we’ll call it happy.)

Don’t Get Your Nose Out of Joint

The job was applying a large graphic to both sides of a small bus. As standard operating procedure, this installer provides customers with photo surveys of the vehicles to be wrapped. Using the surveys, any areas that might affect the end product are highlighted so that the designers can consider these issues as they prepare the graphics. The surveys are also very important when the same graphic is being applied to different vehicles, such as vans from different manufacturers. And yes, as you suspected, the images for this job were created without surveys or installer input.

The installers arrived onsite and sized up the task at hand. The materials were correct for the application; however there was no bleed or extra graphic to allow for shifting the image to avoid challenge areas. The graphics were provided exactly to size.

When the graphics were temporarily positioned, the installer saw a definite problem. He contacted the graphic producer to explain the situation. The instruction was to proceed since there was no time for reprinting.

The graphic on the sides of the bus was a larger-than-life size image of three smiling faces. The two-dimensional aspect of the image was severely disrupted by one person’s nose landing right on an extended door handle. This added dimensionality had a definite Wicked Witch of the West effect, and it certainly added to the experience of opening the van door.

You’ll be pleased to know that the graphic producer in this story has become a regular client of the installer, and since this installation, they’ve never started a project without an installation survey.


Happy Endings Start with Well Planned Beginnings

By including a professional installer in the pre-production phase, the specific characteristics of the install will be addressed and your chances of a smooth project are greatly enhanced. The installer will bring a series of considerations to the table that may influence material selection, establish pre-install requirements or define install procedures. You and your customer will have a much better understanding of the complete process. And in today’s competitive marketplace, presenting the complete solution is the benchmark of professionalism.

SGIA is a connection point for PSPs and installers. SGIA is home to the Professional Decal Application Alliance (PDAA), a group of certified professional installers capable of providing the support you need throughout the process. PDAA members are experienced at applying a wide range of materials to an even wider range of surfaces. They are stakeholders who see your success as their success. Make sure to include a PDAA Master Certified Installer in your project development. SGIA’s Find an Installer online search tool is a way to connect with PDAA Master Certified Installers in your area. You can also utilize the PDAA Graphics Installation Bid Creator, an online tool that allows you to submit job bids to multiple installers.