General

This category contains the information that doesn't fit into the other categories.

  • Considering buying a Pop-Up Trade Show Display? Try Fabric

    by Bryan Kilpatrick

    Pop-up displays can make the most out of what is usually limited trade show booth space. With the most popular versions measuring 8-10 feet wide, there’s plenty of room to show event attendees what your brand is all about—particularly when factoring in the high image quality that the material used for the graphics allows.

    There are, however, a couple of drawbacks to these types of traditional trade show displays that either don’t exist or aren’t nearly as prevalent in their fabric versions. Here are a few differences:

    Consistency in presentation

    Traditional pop-up trade show displays are usually made up of several different panels that, if done right, combine to form one seamless image. But several factors—hardware failure, issues with the attachments to the graphics, incorrect assembly, et cetera—can affect just how seamless the graphic appears. Because most fabric is lightweight, a full graphic without any seams is easily achievable because it can be folded up and packaged without permanent creasing. That isn’t a possibility with traditional trade show material.

    Ease of setup

    A trade show display with multiple panels takes a lot more time to set up than one seamless graphic. Additionally, getting the panels to line up properly can be a chore, since it’s dependent on how accurately the supplementary pieces—such as magnets and hangers—are installed. A one-piece fabric graphic has to be finished effectively, as well, but it’s generally only a matter of a zipper on the bottom or a strip of velcro on each edge. In the case of pop-up displays, the frame can collapse and expand with the graphic (which, unless it’s a replacement graphic, is applied to the frame before it even reaches the customer) remaining in place, making for even easier setup and tear down. Plus, because fabric graphics tend to weigh less, what is often a multiple person job with traditional pop-up displays can—depending on size—be done solo.

    Material durability and washability

    As high in quality as our satin polyester trade show material is, it is prone to getting dirty—as is just about any material used for a display that is exposed to hundreds of people at dozens of events. That’s where fabric is handy. Our fabric graphics are, since the ink becomes part of the fabric during a printing process called dye sublimation, scratch resistant and machine washable. That means no more ordering replacement graphics because of dirt or damage to the ink, which can save hordes of money in the long run.

    Shipping cost and efficiency

    The aforementioned lightweight and flexible nature of fabric graphics definitely comes into play when transporting a trade show display. Fabric takes up such little space that additional items can be added to the carrying case, reducing shipping costs and opportunities for damage. Plus, there is an eco-friendly component here; a lighter, more compact material such as fabric is much easier to haul from show to show than traditional trade show material, limiting the carbon footprint that’s an unfortunate side effect of shipping.

  • Understanding the true impact of the tariff increases

    by Bryan Kilpatrick

    Tariffs are an unfortunate part of business for companies who import products from outside of the United States. In an attempt to drive companies to buy within the confines of the U.S., the government within the past year has imposed two sets of tariffs—first 10 percent and then, most recently, 25 percent—on certain goods manufactured in and shipped from China. These increases seemingly leave a lot of room for interpretation and many companies use that ambiguity to, quite frankly, take advantage of their customers. 

    Unfortunately, we’re seeing that last part manifest itself within our own industry in a few different ways. One is that some companies are taking the 25 percent tariff and adding it to their retail price. For example, if a company was charging $100 for a banner stand prior to the tariff increase, they’ll now be charging $125. The issue with that is the company is only paying, say, $30 for that stand to be manufactured and shipped to the U.S., which means the tariff on it should only be $7.50 (25 percent of $30). So, they’ll be profiting $17.50 per stand at the expense of their customers behind the guise of a 25 percent tariff that is certainly very real but, in this case, unnecessarily applied to the retail price, which should now be only $107.50 if they were capturing the tariff correctly.

    Another thing we’ve seen is companies applying the tariff increase in an all-encompassing manner that includes products not even manufactured in China. One company has blanketed 25 percent increases on all of its products, even ones that come from Korea, and those aren’t affected by the tariffs. Another insists that its graphics, which are printed domestically, are affected by the tariff and thus have become more expensive.

    At Power Graphics, we don’t believe in passing unnecessary costs on to our customers. When the 10 percent tariff was announced, we absorbed the added costs on our line of products. While that isn’t feasible with the 25 percent tariff, we’ve ensured that our prices will only be adjusted to reflect the additional costs we’ll incur. Plus, we’ve added a built-in feature to the back end of our website that will automatically adjust prices back down if/when the tariff increase is recalled.

    However, since we offer products from a wide range of manufacturers, the actual amount added to the wholesale and retail prices of those items due to the tariff increase may appear to be inconsistent. This is because each manufacturer is passing on anywhere from a portion of the increase to an amount that, as explained above, goes beyond the actual tariff cost. As a result, you may see a $100 product with $10 in added tariff costs from one manufacturer and a similarly priced product with $20 tacked on from another. Just know that this isn’t a mistake, and that it’s actually an example of the kind of practices explained above.

    The tariffs and all of the effects associated with them are complicated and difficult enough as it is, so the last thing a business should do is compound the situation by asking for even more money from their customers. We hope this brief article gives you enough information to know what to watch for when shopping for display products and graphics in a post-tariff economy and make the most financially sound decision possible.

  • What to Watch For When Distinguishing Trade Show Display Fabric Quality

    by Bryan Kilpatrick

    Fabric trade show displays have become all the rage because of the relative ease of setting up the display hardware and, perhaps more importantly, the beneficial characteristics of the graphic itself. Fabric, as opposed to vinyl and other banner materials, is usually a strong combination of wrinkle resistant, lightweight, and washable. Additionally, the material allows for a large graphic to be contained within a single piece, eliminating the need for multiple panels and creating a seamless display.

    However, seeing the term “fabric” associated with a trade show display graphic shouldn’t always automatically trigger one to assume “quality.” Many trade show display manufacturers and print shops cut corners in key areas in order to lower costs. Sure, that kind of approach can make trade show fabric displays fit into almost any budget, but it can also cancel out any sort of benefit that choosing fabric would provide in the first place.

    Several factors can affect the quality of an entire fabric trade show display, such as the caliber of materials used to manufacture the hardware. But, since we’re focusing on the fabric graphic itself, here are a couple of things to look for when attempting to differentiate the quality of the graphic:

    Ink application

    Dye-sublimation printing—a process during which the ink becomes part of the fabric—offers the best combination of durability (since the ink can’t be scratched) and color quality, since PMS color matching tends to be easier with that method of production. But there’s more to it than that; the level of effort implemented by a manufacturer or print shop—even before the printing process ever starts—can play a huge part in the overall constitution of the graphic. Color profiling each of the different types of fabric, for instance, ensures proper color accuracy and ink density during printing. And testing fabrics from different manufacturers, even if the materials are marketed as being the same, can yield results that make all of the difference.

    In short, putting in the proper leg work ahead of time can take an ordinary dye-sublimated print and make it absolutely vibrant.

    Finishing

    How are the pole pockets, velcro, or SEG edging on your graphic sewn? Are the edges fraying? How many rows of stitching produce the best look and provide the most stability on the seams? These are all things that you should have in mind when choosing where to buy your fabric display graphic. Some companies, instead of sewing integral parts of the graphic, use adhesive SEG which can compromise the stability of the fabric. Not all manufacturers and print shops use top-of-the-line cutting processes—such as a laser—that ensure sealed edges. And many times, high-volume production facilities use sewing apparatuses that aren’t exactly thorough in terms of both strength and accuracy. This is often the case when ordering from overseas sources, as opposed to a more controlled domestic approach that includes on-site hand sewing and a greater ability to customize.

    Paying attention to how fabric display graphics are finished is paramount because, with fabric display hardware (especially higher-end types and models), even a fraction of a inch—or something seemingly as minor as the quality of a zipper—can make a world of difference.

    Have more questions about fabric display graphics? Contact a Power Graphics representative for additional information on how to choose the right fit for your timeline and budget.

  • Catching Up On What's New From The Past Year

    In the past year, there were lots of changes occurring in the industry and many new products were introduced, and we did a terrible job of keeping our customers up-to-date on all of it, so this blog is an attempt to get caught up.

    The Latest Equipment

    As always, we continued to update our printing and finishing equipment to stay on the cutting edge of the industry and to be able to provide the best quality, timeliness and value to our customers. In the past year we added new printing equipment for fine art printing to make sure we're always offering the best quality and longevity, as well as expanding our fabric printing and finishing capabilities to meet the demands of that market. We are now able to laser cut our fabric prints so the edges are sealed and won't fray while being trimmed quickly and accurately. We also added an additional fabric printer to increase the amount of printing we can complete each day, as well as new high end sewing equipment that makes it easier for us to achieve the quality we demand in less time. All of this helps speed up the printing and finishing processes so we can continue to improve the turnaround time on these displays without sacrificing quality. Everyone wants great quality, and we want to be able to offer that to as many customers as possible, even those with a tight deadline.

    Display Trends

    There was a noticeable movement on the part of some of the larger display manufacturers to make their products cheaper. Knowing what kind of markup these companies take on their products, there is definitely room for them to reduce their prices, but instead they are cutting costs by cutting corners to make the products themselves lower quality. We've always believed that there should be products at all quality levels on the market so customers can choose the products that fit their needs and budget. However, what's been happening in many cases is that the quality of existing products has been sacrificed in order to make the cost lower, and that seems like a huge mistake. I think we've all experienced this type of quality erosion, whether it's a consumer product, a restaurant or even a candy bar, where over time the quality declines, the portions get smaller for the same price, or some other change happens to take a product we liked and make it worse. Usually this is being done to squeeze out more profits for the company or to offset a potential cost increase to the end user. For whatever reason, it seems a mistake but we can only control the quality and pricing of our own products, and not those of the other manufacturers we sell. The best we can do it keep our customers up date on the changes so they can make informed decisions when they choose a product.

    With our own products, if we think we need a lower priced option to offer our customers, we'll introduce a new lower priced product instead of trashing a better product to make it cheap. That's the reason we originally introduced our Budget Roll Up banner stands many years ago, so we'd have a less expensive product for customers who needed that. We didn't make our better stand lower quality to compete with cheaper stands on price, and we didn't try pass off cheap stands as something better. It's sad to see some of the products that have been on the market for years decline in quality to save a few dollars when there are already plenty of lower priced products to fill that need. You can be sure our display products, like the QuickSilver and Expo Pro won't suffer the same fate and if anything we are always working to improve their quality, not reduce it.

    Another unfortunate trend has been for some of these same companies to eliminate some of their best products from the market. We've seen sizes and models of stands and displays discontinued and we're told it's because they don't sell as well as the cheap products. This has always seemed like a ridiculous argument to make, since cheaper products are always going to outsell expensive products. Hyundai sells almost twice as many cars in the US as Mercedes Benz, yet both companies are very successful. We think there is a need for high quality products on the market, and for sizes other than the ones that sell in the greatest quantities so we'll continue to fight that type of thinking and offer the best selection of sizes and prices we can.

    One notable exception to these trends has been Expolinc. Their excellent Roll Up Classic and Roll Up Professional banner stands are still going strong and they've made no attempt to reduce the high quality construction of these professional level products, or to eliminate any of the range of sizes they offer. While we haven't had them available on our website before, they also make what is considered to be the highest quality pop up display that is the easiest to set up, but we're in the process of correcting that so these displays can be purchased on our website. Their Fabric System display is also one of the easiest to set up and they are about to introduce a new SEG fabric display that, you guessed it, will be the easiest one to set up on the market. We love their constant innovation, attention to detail and how they keep the end user in mind when they create these products, so we're excited to continue to be a partner and to offer their products.

    New Printing Materials

    We probably removed more printing materials than we added over the past year. There were a lot of products that were discontinued by their manufacturers that caused us to scramble, because for some reason none of these companies give any kind of advanced notice when they do this. In most cases we were able to find replacement products, but that's not always the case so we've had to remove some of them from our site when we couldn't find a suitable alternative.

    For fine art printing we added a new metallic canvas. Metallic prints offer a unique look that seems especially well suited to black and white images, but also adds a different dimension to color images. This is mostly used for photography, but could add a different element to fine art prints as well.

    Many of the new materials we added were fabrics. It seems most of the movement in the fabric market is to cheaper and cheaper materials, which is no surprise since that's what happens in every segment. There is so much fabric printing being done in China at a ridiculously low cost that it's making people scramble to match those prices by lowering the quality of both the printing and the materials. In a lot of cases the Chinese have opened warehouses in the US to store the displays and when they get an order it's printed in China and shipped overnight to the US, so it looks like it's produced here. We've never tried to compete with Chinese printing on price and continue to use quality fabrics and strive for the very best quality possible while offering them at a fair price. It's hard to explain to customers who are price shopping why some of our prints are more expensive than what would appear to be the same thing from a different company, because until you can see them together whatever we say just sounds like a sales pitch. But, we've had some of these prints from other companies, and it's what we used to offer before we did the printing ourselves, and it's what caused us to bring dye sub fabric printing in-house in the first place. The constantly falling quality and inconsistent color is not what we wanted to offer our customers, so now we do almost everything in-house. The extra equipment we've added, that was discussed above, was so we could try to speed up our production time and to keep from falling behind or missing deadlines if a printer went down, and to be able to handle large or rush orders without causing delays for other customers.

    So while we've resisted the efforts to get us to switch to cheaper fabrics, we constantly evaluate new options, because if something less expensive does come along that's just as good, we'll always take advantage of the opportunity to offer lower prices to our customers. It's not surprising that cheaper options are rarely as good or better, but it does happen so we keep looking and testing just in case.

    Some of that testing caused to find a new black backed fabric that's completely opaque for situations where that's important. We also use it as a reflector on the back side of backlit displays so it keeps the front of the display lit without light escaping the back. It's not required, but it makes our backlit displays a little bit better, and that's the kind of thing we're always looking to do.

    New Displays

    As always, we introduced many new display products over the past year. We added a 72" wide QuickSilver Pro retractable banner stand to the already wide range of sizes we offer for that model. There were very options at that size and customers were requesting more options, so we felt it was worth having the QuickSilver made in that size to fill a potential need.

    Fabric displays continue to grow in popularity and we introduced new options in almost every category. With the popular fabric pop up display, we now have two lines available to give our customers a choice of quality, the original Hopup display and the new Premium Fabric Popup line. We added more sizes to our tube frame fabric displays, so we now have a 6' straight wall since that was a size that many of our customers were requesting. We started producing the hardware for the Tube Frame Banner Stands ourselves so we could have better control over the sizes and quality, and in doing so, we added a new 31" model since that's a popular size for retractable banner stands as well. Soon we'll be adding an economy version of the Tube Frame Banner Stand displays for people who need a less expensive version for large volume purchases or have tight budget restrictions.

    Earlier in the year we introduced our Emporium fabric displays. These displays combine a fabric graphic with display elements such as shelves, hanging bars and iPad holders to allow customers who need to showcase various merchandise a compact, affordable and attractive display option. We also introduced the Simplicity fabric display. Like the name suggests, this is a simple fabric backdrop that's inexpensive and easy to set up. Another new, simple display is the Table Perch. It's an aluminum frame that attaches to a 6' or 8' table and is covered with a fabric pillowcase. It can be configured as just a header so the space under it is open for a person to stand behind the table without being blocked, or as a solid backdrop for situations where no one will be standing behind the table.

    We also added the Great Wall fabric displays. These are unique in that the aluminum frame that makes up this display is 20" deep for a very substantial appearance and excellent stability. The deep frame also allows for the addition of internal lighting to turn the Great Wall into a backlit display, which is one of the most popular options for displays today. In fact, we added quite a few backlit display options last year because of this. The smallest option is the Illuminator Backlit Banner Display, which holds a 29.4" x 76.75" fabric graphic, so it's basically a backlit banner stand. It's inexpensive, easy to set up and can fit into small spaces so it's great for a wide range of uses where the extra attention-getting power of a backlit display is needed.

    The Lumos and Backlit Embrace displays are illuminated SEG pop up display hybrids that are very similar, but with enough differences that we decided to offer both. The Lumos is less expensive and used primarily as a single sided display, where the Embrace is a more premium product that is designed to be either single or double sided. They are both easy to set up and come in a range of shapes and size. The Lumos has curtain lights that face forward to directly light the graphic, but it relies on light reflected from the front to light up the back. This works, but the graphic on the back side isn't lit with the same amount of light, where the Embrace is edge lit so the light is consistent on both the front and back.

    The WaveLight line of displays are some of our favorites. The main displays in this line up are illuminated tube frame displays. They use an extra thick tubing to make up the frame that allows enough space for curtain lights that make these displays the easiest backlit displays to set up, and also the brightest. They're only for single sided use, though, so for a double sided backlit display you'd have to look at one of our other option. In addition to the backlit tube frame walls, there are also backlit inflatable counters. These are very unique products that have an inner inflatable core that provides the structure to the podium and allows it to collapse to small, lightweight size that's easy to transport. Once inflated, a stretch fabric graphic that attaches to the top and bottom of the counter makes up the exterior surface of the counter and perimeter LED lights at the bottom provide the illumination. There's even an option to add USB charging ports in the counter top to give a place to power a table presentation, or to give your customers a place to recharge their phones while you have an opportunity to tell them about your products or services. All lightweight portable counters have some amount of wobble to them, compared with larger, heavier counters, and that's always been the trade off with these kinds of displays. In that regard, the inflatable WaveLight counters are the most stable we've seen when they're properly inflated. In the near future we'll have more inflatable products from the same manufacturer including towers, walls and a unique inflatable bench to provide a compact seating option with a stretch fabric surface that gives you an additional place for branding.

    We also added some Trade Show Kits that combine several elements such as a back wall, case and counter, or banner stands with a table cover and a table top display. We'll be adding more because customers seem to like them, both because they offer some additional discounts and because they provide some ideas on how to combine different products to make up a booth space.

    There's a new outdoor aluminum tube a-frame display that we added as an alternative to the our popular pop-up a-frame banners. The pop-ups are made in China and are one of the few things we don't do in house, so we wanted to offer a US made option. These displays also offer the benefit of being able to replace the graphics instead of having to purchase a new display when the graphic wears out or needs to be changed. This makes them less expensive in the long run, and more durable, but they don't have the advantage of collapsing if someone falls on them like the pop up style that uses fiberglass poles to hold the shape, so those are still better around sports fields where players could run into them.

    On The Horizon

    There are lots of exciting new things we're going to be offering this year, and we're committed to doing a better job of announcing when they become available. A few were mentioned above, including a new SEG display from Expolinc that's easier to set up than anything else on the market, new inflatable towers, bench and walls, and new counters and towers made from aluminum tubing with pillowcase fabric covering as well as new hanging fabric display options. There are also magnetic displays and lots of other things we're evaluating, so stay tuned for what's new.

  • Use Selfie Stations To Brighten Up Your Gathering

    by Bryan Kilpatrick

    There is no denying that holiday events, trade shows, job fairs, and other corporate occasions can—and often do—present awkward situations and make for bland interactions at best. At worst? The environment can be downright intimidating. But, it doesn’t have to be like that, and a great mitigator for keeping your event light while inserting a little spice is to provide photo opportunities.

    The benefits of a photo backdrop—or selfie station, as it has lovably come to be known—can be two fold. This simple addition can bring much-needed levity to gatherings that are often, let’s face it, wound a bit tightly. At the same time, because photos are usually shared across multiple social media platforms, it presents a great opportunity to get your brand out there by taking advantage of the graphic space on the backdrop to draw people into your space and get them to start snapping.

    Here are a few options for adding a selfie station to your event or trade show booth:

    Retractable banner stands

    If cost, convenience, and utilization of smaller spaces are at the top of your wish list, using a retractable banner stand equipped with an eye-catching graphic—like a life-size image of a famous figure on a clear banner—is a great option. These stands are available in a variety of widths, most of which would be suitable for a photo backdrop. For selfies and smaller groups, stands in the 30- to 36-inch range will have you covered; retractable stands also come in widths of 60 inches and up, making it easy to pack a whole crew into a pic.

    retractable banner stand

    Telescopic portable banner stands

    Though they aren’t quite as easy to pack up and move, telescopic portable banner stands are a straighter, more stable option than retractable stands—especially if you’re looking for a larger graphic and display. This type of stand provides flexibility, with some models adjustable up to 120 inches both in width and height. Plus, the extra space on the graphic allows for added color and flair—or even to use the display to mimic a well-known location such as the Hollywood Sign.

    Fabric pop-up displays

    Much like retractable banner stands, these displays are built for convenient assembly, disassembly, and transportation. The major difference with fabric pop-up displays is that no degree of quality is spared. These displays can be large—widths of up to 30 feet are available—and, since the graphic is printed using a dye sublimation process allowing the fabric to be washed if necessary, they’re durable. Additionally, with the availability of backlit options, the graphic on fabric pop-up displays can have eye-popping effects (think: a recreation of the world-renown “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign).

    tube frame fabric display

    Contact a Power Graphics representative for more information on how to bring these and other photo backdrop options to life.

  • 4 Ways Floor Graphics Can Benefit Your Business

    graphic design depicting 4 ways to use floor graphics for your business. Learn how to use floor graphics and decals to improve your business.

    If your business needs to send a message, there are thousands of ways to do it, but floor graphics have a unique ability to catch the attention of your audience. Whether you are looking to draw more attention at your place of business or looking to capture eyes at events or through advertising, here are some ways to utilize the power of floor graphics.

    1. Advertising Your Products

    Floor graphics are a great way to call attention to certain products that you are trying to move off the shelves more quickly. Whether you have products that are on sale, products you want to educate people about, or items that are top sellers that you want to use floor decals to help direct them to their location in your store, these unique graphics can help you bring attention to whatever you need to.

    You can also use floor graphics to get extremely creative with your purchase cycle. Often times, a particular item or product that someone buys, requires another product or has complimentary upgrades. Floor graphics can help you spark a thought process for your customers. Often times this is a great way to lead them directly to their next purchase that they wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

    2. Unexpected Places

    Humans are creatures of habit and if there is anything you can do to catch their attention, catching them off guard tops the list. Placing your floor graphics in places that they would not expect will almost undoubtedly draw them in every time. For example, you can put floor decals in elevators, on stairs, a place where people typically get in line. You can generally expect that anywhere you place a floor decal that gets a lot of foot traffic is going to get a lot of eyeballs on it.

    3. Advertising Opportunities

    If you really start to think about it, there are literally thousands of events going on at any given point in time and most of them involve people spectating or walking around. In either scenario, there is a perfect opportunity for you to display your brand with a floor graphic. Take some time to research the events going on in your community and find ways that you can infiltrate. For example, you could talk to local high school about advertising on their gym floors or find a local festival that relates to your brand and talk to the event coordinator about getting some floor decals into central, focal points where a lot of their traffic will be passing through or waiting. The possibilities are endless!

    4. Directionals

    Whether it is that item that people are always asking about, but they can’t seem to find, or you’re just being proactive about letting people know where to go, providing directionals through floor decals will help your bottom line. People tend to get frustrated when they can’t quickly find what they are looking for and having an element already in place to help them out is always appreciated by your customers.

    For more information on how floor graphics can benefit your business or how to best use your space, give us a call at Power Graphics, 877-389-8645. We're happy to help assist you in determining what solutions will work best for your business and accomplishing your goals.

  • 5 Things to Consider When Ordering Window Graphics

    Window graphics, also called window clings or window decals, are a great form of advertising. They are popular as decoration for residential use as well, and are also commonly used for creating informational decals. With so many different uses for window graphics, there are many different window decal materials available to allow customers to select the perfect material for their specific needs.

    However, this can make choosing a material a little overwhelming. When a customer asks us to help them choose the best material for their window graphic, we ask them to consider five things that help narrow the options down to a manageable level.

    1. Do you plan to mount the graphic on the outside of the window, or on the inside facing out?

    Mounting window graphics on the outside of the window is always best for maximum visibility, but sometimes it's not possible. Graphics mounted on the outside of the window have the greatest impact because they can be viewed without looking through the glass. This eliminates the glare that the glass can cause, and since almost all commercial windows are tinted, when graphics are used on the inside of business windows, they are even more difficult to see and have less visual impact. When window clings are being used to help block the sun's UV rays, they are much more effective on the outside of the window.

    However, in some cases, it's not possible or practical to install graphics on the outside of the window. One of the most common reasons for installing window graphics on the inside is fear of theft or vandalism. In our experience, this is less of a problem than people think, but it's definitely an issue in some locations and installing the graphics inside the window keeps them from getting damaged. When used for advertising, you have to decide if keeping the graphic safe, but making it less visible, is a good tradeoff. In some cases, installing it outside where it has greater impact, and potentially replacing it periodically because of damage, can make the most financial sense.

    Other common reasons for installing graphics on the inside of the window are to avoid violating local codes or building regulations, or because they will be installed above ground level where access to the inside of the window is easier.

    There are far more window decal materials that are designed to go on the outside of the window, so if you're in a situation where you need to mount your graphics on the inside, you've already narrowed the choices considerably. But in either case, read on to narrow the choices further.

    2. Do you need to be able to see through the window graphic from the inside?

    View through window graphics are some of the most popular because you can see through them from the inside, even though they look solid from the outside. These materials are full of holes of varying density, with a black backing. When there is more light outside, it passes through the holes and your eyes see this instead of the black backing. The effect is similar to looking though a screen door. This is very useful for large window graphics where solid materials would block the view from inside and leave you looking at the blank back side of the graphic. For smaller window graphics and decals, a solid material is a better choice.

    If you need to see through your window graphics, then your choices are fairly simple. For inside mounting, we offer a 70/30 view through window graphic film. For outside mounting, view through perforated window material comes in different perforation patterns that leave anywhere from 50% to 80% of the image. The more of the image that's left, the greater the visual impact and clarity of the graphic, with proportionately less clarify when looking out through the graphic. See the example below.

    perf-samples-insideperf-samples-outside

    Keep in mind that view through graphics are not privacy films. Common sense would dictate that if you can see out from the inside, you can also see in from the outside to some degree. With perforated view through materials, you'll be able to see through from whichever side is darker. During the day, when it's brighter outside, you can clearly see out through the graphic. But, at night, when lights are on inside, you'll be able to see in almost as clearly.

    3. Is the window graphic going to be installed once, or does it need to be reusable?

    Both types of window graphics are common. Window graphics that are serving the dual purpose of advertising products or services while blocking the sun and/or providing some privacy, tend to be installed once and left up as long as possible. This is also true of some promotional window decals and is usually the case for vehicle window graphics.

    Window clings that are intended to be removed and reused are popular because they obviously save money compared with having to purchase new graphics for each use. These are often used for recurring promotions, or seasonal ads and info, such as holiday hours. Generally speaking, this type of window cling should be a material that adheres to the window without adhesive. There are some adhesive window graphics that can be removed and reused, but like any adhesive product, once it gets dirty, it won't stick to the window. Plus, keeping the adhesive clean between uses can be difficult. Non-adhesive products, such as static cling and Glassmate, don't use adhesives so if they get dirty you can simply rinse them off and continue to reuse them.

    Reusable graphics have different properties, so be sure to select one that will work for your intended use. For example, static cling is the least expensive window cling material, but it doesn't stick well in cold weather, and tends to come off the window after a period of time. This makes it better for short term use, or when you don't mind having to periodically reinstall it.

    By this point, if you've considered the first 3 questions, you will have narrowed your choices of material to just a few. Consider the final two questions to make your selection easier.

    4. Do you want the base material to be clear or white?

    Graphics that cover the entire window are usually printed on white material, and that's the most common type since virtually all printing materials are white. The same is true of rectangular graphics, even when they don't cover the entire window. For irregularly shaped window graphics, white materials can be die cut to create the intended shape, but with some intricate designs or those with soft edges where a die cut wouldn't be ideal, clear materials are a better option. Usually, a white underprint is a good idea on clear materials for the best visibility in the window. A white underprint is where a layer of white ink is printed first on the clear material, and the graphic is then printed on top of the white ink. The white underprint can cover the entire graphic, or be selectively used in certain areas to leave other areas clear. Below is an example of the Crystal Clear window film with white printed behind part of the image and the background left clear, as well as a view of the same graphic from the inside looking out.

    crystal-clear-comp

    Because windows appear almost black from the outside, putting a clear window graphic on the outside of a window without a white underprint will make them very difficult to see, as can be seen in the example below.

    Clear Window Graphic Example

    One of the advantages of clear window graphics, is that they can be seen from both sides. While the view from the inside will be reversed, some people prefer this to looking at the blank back side of a window decal printed on white material. In the case of using a white underprint, the white ink is not completely opaque, and during daylight hours, the printing from the front is still very visible through white on the back side. For maximum visibility from both sides, 3 layer printing can be used, where the image is printed twice with the white layer in between. This makes a graphic with the same clarity from the front or back, with the back side still being reversed. For situations were the graphic needs to read correctly from both sides, a double sided window graphic is required.

    By now, your options have been limited to only a few choices. Consider the question below to finalize your choices.

    5. Do you want to use eco-friendly materials for your window graphics?

    Vinyl, or PVC,  is the most common material for window graphics, but it's not an eco-friendly material. The manufacturing process creates harmful byproducts, and the vinyl itself isn't biodegradable. Vinyl is popular because it's inexpensive, and can be used for a wide range of applications. It's ability to conform to irregular shapes makes it excellent for things like vehicle wraps and graphics, but for windows, that's not necessary. With the exception of vehicles, windows are almost always flat, and there are quite a few eco-friendly window decal materials available. There isn't an eco-friendly solution for view through window graphics installed on the outside of the window, which is unfortunately since those are so popular, but the material for mounting inside the window is a polyester film, which is eco-friendly. Many clear window graphic materials, both adhesive and non adhesive clings are eco-friendly, so those looking for earth friendly clear window graphics have quite a few good choices. Crystal Clear and EcoCling are two such products we offer. For eco-friendly window decals with a white base, the GlassMate and EcoStick are two options, with the GlassMate being a non-adhesive cling and the EcoStick having adhesive.

    By considering how you will be using your window graphics, and what qualities you want them to have, you will have narrowed your options to the point where choosing becomes much easier. When shopping on our site, many of these considerations are available as filters in the left column to help narrow down the visible products. When all else fails, feel free to contact us for assistance, as we're always happy to help make sure you choose the correct window decal product to make your project a success.

  • New Monthly Specials

    We've begun this month offering monthly specials on our site. This is a fairly common practice, and we've wanted to offer something for quite a while, but our old website wasn't capable of this. Now that our new website is up and running, we've begun the program this month. The original plan was to tie the specials to our Facebook page and offer the discounts to those who like our page and follow us. This is also a common practice for companies looking to expand the number of people who follow them on social media, but it seems a little too much like bribery to us. So, we're still promoting the specials on Facebook, and would love as many customers as possible to follow us, but we're not making that a requirement for the promotion. However, the monthly specials will be announced on our Facebook and Google Plus pages first. We'll follow up with an announcement of the promotion on this blog so everyone can benefit, while still providing some incentive for following one of our social media pages.

    carrera-main

    As you would expect, each month we'll have a different promotion, and this month we thought we'd start off with a discount offer on our newest banner stand, the Carrera cassette retractable banner stand. It always takes some time for new products to develop a following and become popular, so we thought we'd speed up the process by offering a $20 discount on the Carrera this month. The Carrera is a high end stand with a mid-level price. It's the most solidly made and durable stand we offer with an inexpensive graphic cassette that makes banner changes extremely quick and easy. Extra cassettes can be used to maintain a library of graphics for use at different events, or, because the cassettes are so inexpensive, replacement graphics can be ordered preinstalled on a cassette for extremely easy graphic changes that anyone can do in seconds. It also has a high quality telescopic support pole with lever locks for quick and easy height adjustments, and leveling feet in all four corners of the base for maximum adjustability.

    We're confident that the Carrera will become one of our more popular retractable banner stands in time because of the combination of quality, ease of use, and great price, and for the rest of the month of June, the price is even better thanks to this promotion. Simply use the code JUNE2015 during checkout to receive the discount. We hope everyone in the market for a new display tries the Carrera, because we think that it's a great banner stand and an excellent value.

    Be sure to keep up to date by checking our blog each month, and follow us on Facebook and Google Plus for even more frequent product announcements and the earliest notification of our monthly specials.

  • Fabric Display Graphics - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

    Over the past several years, the display graphics industry has fallen in love with fabric. When you consider the qualities of fabric display graphics, it's easy to see why they would be popular for a wide range of applications. Dye sublimated graphics generally offer vibrant color that becomes part of the fabric itself, making them very durable and beautiful. Dye sublimation inks are available for printing on many different types of fabrics, but for the display industry, inks that print on polyester are the standard, which makes sense because of the incredible range of weights, weaves, textures and finishes that polyester offers. If you've shopped for a trade show display in past 2-3 years, you've almost certainly looked at fabric displays as every manufacturer has been pushing them, and new models and styles are constantly being released. If you listened to the industry, you would be under the impression that fabric graphics are the best option for virtually any display, and that a fabric display is the best choice for every need. Unfortunately, like most industries, what sales people want you to believe and what's actually true are not often the same thing. The best example of this is how dye sublimated fabric graphics are often referred to as wrinkle proof. Certainly, dye sub graphics are more wrinkle resistant than any other type of graphic, but it's funny to watch a salesman demonstrate how wrinkle proof a fabric is by wadding it up and then showing the resulting wrinkled graphic like a magician that has just pulled a rabbit out of his hat. The look on their face is a little perplexed when the wrinkles in the fabric are pointed out, as if no one had noticed before that the emperor had no clothes. The fact that fabric wrinkles shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, nor should it prevent anyone from purchasing a fabric graphic, since unlike other materials, the wrinkles can be steamed or ironed out, but it's important to know that in advance in order to be prepared for that step when setting up a display.

    The reason fabric displays are being pushed to consumers is that dye sublimated graphics are seen as a premium priced graphic option, with much larger profit margins than standard graphics. Because of this, display manufacturers have decided to get into the printing business by offering overpriced fabric graphics, and they push fabric displays so they can sell the pricey graphics to go with them. Because printing and finishing fabric graphics is more involved and requires special equipment, usually the expensive kind, there are fewer companies producing fabric graphics in-house, and therefore less competition to drive down prices. This doesn't make fabric graphics bad, but it can make them wildly overpriced, so it's important to know when they make sense, and when a different option is the better choice.

    Fusion Fabric Graphic Display
    Where fabric graphics really shine are when stretch fabric graphics are used, usually with zippers in a pillowcase style. Displays that are designed for these kinds of stretch fabric graphics are typically made of aluminum tube frames that are lightweight and easy to assemble. The frames can have interesting shapes and when the stretch fabric graphics are pulled over the frame, the resulting display is eye catching and beautiful, and could only be created using this type of technology. A good example of this type of display is the Formulate Vertical Curve Wall. This display has a curved shape that would be possible with other technologies, but it wouldn't be easy and it wouldn't be seamless, so that's why dye sublimated stretch fabric is used. More elaborate displays, like the Formulate Fusion 20' Island trade show display could only be created with stretch fabric graphics.

    cobra-36-rls

    Even some simple displays like the Cobra Tension Fabric Banner Stands could only be made with stretch fabric, and because the unique shape is something unusual, it's very eye catching. That's where fabric display graphics are best, because getting the attention of potential customers is what a trade show is all about. And, because pillowcase graphics stretch tightly over a frame, any wrinkles in the fabric are usually pulled smooth so steaming may not be necessary.

    In some other cases, there is some advantage to fabric graphics, but these are not displays that couldn't be made with traditional graphics. Customers like the HopUp Tension Fabric Displays because they are extremely easy to set up. In this case, the stretch fabric attaches to the frame with velcro, and the pop up style frame folds down with the fabric still attached. To set up the Hopup, you simply expand the frame with the graphic attached and you're done. In this case, the stretch fabric doesn't typically pull tight enough to remove all the wrinkles in the fabric, so for the best look, some steaming is probably going to be necessary. Traditional pop up displays only take about 10 minutes to set up, but there are several steps to go through, the graphics can be damaged if they aren't handled properly, and it takes some adjustment to get the panels aligned properly. For some customers, dealing with a few wrinkles is a fair trade off for the extra work involved with a traditional pop up, but there are definite advantages to the traditional style display as well so it's really a matter of personal preference in this case.

    formulate-essentials-10-horizontal

    Similarly, the Formulate Horizontal Curve or Formulate Straight Wall offer shapes that are available in pop up displays, but with small differences like rounded corners that could only be done with fabric. The light weight, seamless look and lower cost are the typical reasons for choosing this style of display over a pop up, rather than because the shape of the display couldn't be created otherwise.

    Some of the newer displays are rectangular aluminum frames that have a channel where fabric graphics with a silicone edging sewn into the perimeter are inserted. The silicon edge graphics, or push fit graphics, as they are sometimes called, have very little advantage over traditional graphics in terms of how they look once installed, but they do have the light weight, durable nature that dye sublimated graphics are famous for. It's also possible to make a 10' display with a single graphics without seams, which can't be done with a pop up display. When these rectangular frame sections are combined together to form larger displays with right angles, they can be very interesting and attractive. We'll be adding some of this style to our site very soon because there are good reasons to use such a display. This style of display can also be backlit with LED edge lighting, which is a great idea for both trade show displays and retail displays, because illuminated graphics are always effective at drawing attention, and this would be difficult to do any other way. However, there are quite a few displays available that are simply a single, rectangular frame with feet that allow it to stand up, and we see no point to these displays at all. The same look could be achieved with a banner stand that would cost less money, take less time to set up and take down, and be more stable. Other than some backlit configurations, we have no plans to offer this kind of display, even though they can be seen everywhere at the moment.

    Similarly, we have no plans to offer dye sublimated prints for retractable banner stands. We think they're a terrible idea in general and cannot understand why other companies even offer them. None of the benefits of dye sublimated graphics are an advantage in a roll up banner stand. Dye sub fabric graphics must be hemmed to prevent fraying, or have the cut edge melted with a hot knife. The melted edge is not particularly attractive, and isn't 100% reliable in preventing fraying, and the hemmed edges look bad and can cause wrinkles when the banner is retracted. Hems can even prevent the display from rolling up properly, so they are a terrible idea. Dye sub fabrics are not typically opaque, which is a important, although not critical, so that light from behind doesn't cast visible shadows on the front of the banner. Direct printed fabrics tend to be stiffer and don't drape nicely like dye sublimated fabrics, but in a banner stand, they are ideal since the stiffness keeps them flatter and the drape-ability of the fabric isn't important. They also tend to be less expensive, which is why we offer an opaque, direct printed fabric option with most of our banner stands.

    The bottom line is that fabric display graphics can be an excellent option, but like any graphic, they should only be used when they are the best choice for a particular need. Choosing a fabric display because it's the latest style, or because it's being pushed by a manufacturer or salesman who is more concerned about how much they are profiting on the sale and less about what's best for your needs, is never a good idea.

  • New Website Features and Products

    While we are still trying to squash more bugs than we would like, our new site has been up and running since December and the feedback from our customers has been overwhelmingly positive. There is so much that's new about the site, that in addition to the usual news about new products, we'll cover a few new features in each blog post to help make sure everyone can take advantage of all that we've added.

    At the most basic level, the architecture of the new site is completely different and modern. This allowed us to make a custom site that works across all modern browsers as well as mobile devices. To compliment this, all the product photography on the site has been updated with much larger images that appear at a magnified size when you pass the cursor over them. Since most of our customers are purchasing products from us they have never seen in person, we've always felt it was extremely important to have the best possible photography and descriptions to help make up for that. When it comes to trade show displays, banner stands and other display hardware, many of our manufacturers don't share our belief in the importance of good photography, so when necessary, we took our own photos when the official versions weren't good enough. We couldn't do that for every product, but generally, we're pleased with the overall quality of images on the site. When it comes to printing materials, we did something we think is unique. We actually scanned samples of every material we offer so we could create an enlarged version that shows the color and texture of each print media. Of course, computer displays that aren't calibrated won't show the color accurately, but these still give a good relative view of the white point of each material. Being able to show the texture of each media is our favorite part of these new images, since it's very difficult to convey that to someone when they don't have the actual material in hand. We still offer printed samples by mail, but not everyone has the time to wait to see those, so these new scanned images are the next best thing to having an actual sample. We've simulated the printed images on each to show the effect of the color and texture, and with giclee fine art materials such as watercolor papers and canvas, where the materials themselves are very similar, often the white point and texture are the main differences. Being able to see that on the site should be very helpful when selecting a material for a print job. Textured wall covering materials, floor decals, fabrics and banner materials tend to each have different qualities that make them appropriate for a particular use, so the texture is not usually what determines the selection of a specific material. However, being able to give our customers an idea of what these textured materials look like when printed is a big deal to us, so we're really excited about this simple addition to the site.

    One unfortunate side effect of such a complete redesign of the site is that our existing customers have to create new accounts and their old order history is history. With all the benefits the new site offers, this seemed like a fair trade off, but any customers who need help finding what they've ordered in the past can contact us to look up order details for the past few years. Since our old site was completely custom, it didn't have all the bells and whistles that most of us have come to expect from online shopping sites. Being able to see tracking numbers for orders that have shipped when logged in to your account is one example of a feature that we have, but didn't before. Other new account functions include managing any product reviews you've written, tags you've created, or items you've added to a wishlist. You can also ask questions about particular products, and we can have your questions, along with our answers, show up on the product pages so others with the same questions can benefit. You can also add items to a shopping cart and turn that into a quote that can be used for approval, and the quote contains a link that can be used to order without having to recreate the order later. In addition to the standard Reorder functions, we've added the ability to choose certain items from a previous order to be reordered, rather than having to duplicate the entire order. We had this request in the past from customers who wanted to repeat an order, but leave off an item and this gives them that ability.

    The last new account function we've added is a new referral program. Since we've always valued the word of mouth recommendations our customers have provided over the years, we liked the idea of encouraging customers to take the time to refer us to any friends or colleagues that might benefit from our services, and reward those customers when their friends make purchases. There's a Referred Friends section of the account page where customers see which friends they've referred have actually signed up for accounts, see what rewards they've earned, and refer more friends. The Invite a Friend link sends an e-mail to up to 5 people at a time and can be used for direct referrals. There is also a Broadcast Link that can be cut and pasted into e-mails, blogs or other online posts for exposure to a larger audience, and there are also popular social media linking tools to post to those sites.

    The way the program works is that when a referred person uses the link to create an account on our site, they are connected to the account of the person who referred them. When they make their first purchase, the person who sent the referral earns $10 for every $100 spent. These credits can be used when ordering to pay for up to 20% of each purchase, and any unused credits stay in your account for future use. It's possible to earn substantial discounts with this program, but of course, this is designed to get new customers to try our services, so referrals sent to existing customers won't quality, nor will sign ups from the same company or billing address. Otherwise, we've provided the tools for our customers to share this link with as many people as possible for the greatest benefit to both us and our customers, so we hope it will be big success that benefits everyone.

    We'll discuss more new features in our next post, along with some new product information, but as always, we welcome feedback on the new site and will try to incorporate any recommended features that we think would benefit our customers.

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