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Retail Graphics: Telling a Brand Story

In the world of retail signage, imaging companies are tasked with one critical mission: building name recognition for their customers. Here are three such companies, located in diverse areas of the US and providing different types of retail signage, yet all sharing common intent: taking on the challenge of creating unique, recognition-building retail signage for their customers.

Inwindow Outdoor

Headquartered in New York City, Inwindow Outdoor specializes in creating storefront and mall advertising. The company’s oversized custom storescapes, sometimes print, sometimes digital, are installed in vacant retail spaces, resembling billboards in stature but designed to be viewed at eye level.

“We take that vacancy, which could be a sad and depressing space, and bring vitality and energy to the location by putting in these very large scale ads,” says Steve Birnhak, CEO. “Each has its own unique design. When you are walking down the street and see one, it is kind of a nice surprise.”

The ads are placed in high-traffic retail areas or in malls. To that end, Inwindow Outdoor has relationships established with landlords across the country, as well as mall developers, to outfit their vacant retail spaces with the ads.

The storefront ads can be as large as a city block; rarely are they smaller than 15 feet. “The ads are cool, they are impactful,” says Birnhak. “It’s at ground level where people are out walking about. When you think about something that is up close and fairly large it has a deeper impact; it’s the difference between watching something on a small television screen or seeing it displayed on top of a building—there’s a huge difference.”

Established in 2002, Inwindow Outdoor has created more than 1,000 installations throughout the country, for a cross-section of industries, including automotive, electronics, consumer products, entertainment companies, and beverages. Clients have included the likes of 20th Century Fox, Columbia Pictures, Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Levi’s, Delta Airlines, and Samsung. Like billboards, the storefront ads are not permanent.

Inwindow Outdoor is also moving beyond print, and creating programs that include augmented reality, 3D, audio, video, gesture recognition, Wi-fi/Bluetooth, SMS, and touchscreen technologies.

Its newest platform, Cubes, are large, free-standing structures that are wrapped on all sides, designed so consumers can see the brand’s campaign from all directions. Each Cube is dedicated to one brand. Cubes promote interactivity—video screens, audio, touchscreen—and are created for use in high-traffic venues such as stadiums, malls, entertainment centers, and other public spaces.

PVS In-Store Graphics

PVS In-Store Graphics in Portland, OR, manufactures 2D and 3D temporary and semi-perm point-of-purchase solutions. “We specialize in solutions for our clients,” says Kelsey Birsa, project manager for the 22-year old company. “We take out clients’ ideas and design and figure out how to make it work.“

PVS produces a lot of work for sportswear companies. “We can basically print on anything,” says Birsa.

In addition to creating large-format screen printing and digital output, such as in-store signage, using VUTEk, Oce LightJet, Roland, HP, Colorspan and Mimaki printers, PVS In-Store also creates three-dimensional fabrications and structures.

One recent project for a sports clothing company involved creating a “huge spinning contraption, sort of like a life-size kaleidoscope,” explains Birsa. “We were trying to convey something active and youthful; all of the moving parts fit together."

For 3D projects, like the kaleidoscope, prototypes are created prior to actual construction within a week of the start date. In the final round after the approvals and changes it takes us about two weeks.

“We are really trying to create unique things so they stand out and offer instant brand recognition; we do things that aren’t really possible with other companies,” says Birsa. “It’s part of the company culture; we think everything is possible. We don’t see restrictions; we figure out how to make something possible, instead of thinking of a project as impossible.”

To help one major client, an athletic shoe manufacturer, promote the launch of a new shoe, PVS created custom store graphics for 45 locations. The graphics included printed and assembled backdrops, vinyl window clings, shoe displays, printed and cut acrylics in the shape of the shoe, some of which needed to be backlit. The project turnaround was 10 days.

The project required PVS to run its VUTEk GS3250LX LED printer in 10-12 hour shifts for several days straight, printing about 180 sheets of foam-board, 60 or 70 sheets of PVC board, six or seven rolls of vinyl, plus four rolls of clear vinyl, and about 30 five-foot acrylic shoe displays.

Of the 30 shoe graphics created, 25 were backlit—hand built with LED strip lights and a 12-volt power supply. This kind of backlighting to special effect is a specialty of PVS; in this case, we “created a glowing look in 3D, which really made it pop,” says Birsa.

Signs Now Bradenton

Signs Now Bradenton, one of two franchises in Florida owned by Brian and Debbie Lamb—the other is in Sarasota—is a working example of how to build an imaging business.

The Lambs—who bought the 28-year old operation three years ago—focus on repeat customers. “We supply everything, from name badges to magnets to monument signage and vehicle wraps,” says Brian Lamb. “While we accommodate the walk-in who wants boat lettering, our market focus is business customers.”

Five months ago Signs Now merged with Bradenton-based Allegra Printing, allowing the two firms to offer a broader product line. “Now, in addition to signs, we offer that repeat customer a full line of printed materials, including business cards, brochures, mailings and publications,” says Lamb. “We combined the operations in one location in Bradenton; the Sarasota location is basically a sales and design center.”

The imaging side produces a lot of work for local businesses, everything from air conditioning concerns to landscapers, carpet stores, producing signage as well as car decals and magnets and vehicle wraps.

Signs Now Bradenton’s largest retail account is Fit2Run, a Florida-based, high-end running equipment store that sells running apparel and food products. In the 2-1/2 years SNB has worked with them, Fit2Run has grown from three stores to seven.

“We do all the graphics and store signage, from soup to nuts, produced on HP latex and solvent printers: small labels to complete wall murals, to their merchandising signs,” says Lamb. “When we help open a store, it is two-to-three day installation. We travel to the cities to do the installation."

SNB backs up these initial installations with graphic support for the local Fit2Run store’s community involvement. The local stores organize running seminars and other events for the local community. “We provide posters, any signage needed for the seminars and running events, banners, mile markers,” says Lamb.

“Our part is allowing them to get their name out there in the community, building name recognition. It’s a combination of producing a quality job on graphics, but also having a consistency in what you provide to them.”

One of the core operating philosophies of SNB is building a relationship with the repeat customer, founded on trust.

“We want our customers to know they can depend on us, that we have the expertise to work with them on the project.”

That not only includes turning around work in a pinch when necessary, but also making sure that the project is something that is achievable and worth the money the customer is spending.

“You can’t just drive for the high end dollar value all the time,” says Lamb. “You are working with customers for the long haul. If a customer has a project in mind that will cost thousands of dollars, and I don’t think it is worth it, that they can accomplish the same thing with the same pizazz for $500, then I tell them. We make sure we add value to the relationship, not just to the transaction, but to the relationship.”