By Olivia Cahoon
Corporations seek customized décor for privacy and brand promotion. To meet these needs, print service providers (PSPs) offer window graphics for aesthetic and practical functions in retail and office spaces. Window graphics may be applied with adhesive or cling and are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions—making them a viable option across industries.
Evolving from Photography
Established in 1986, PhotoWorksGroup Inc., is a grand format and environmental graphics production house in Charlottesville, VA that masters in fabrication and installation. The shop started with two employees in a 1,600 square foot work space as a large format studio offering photography, film processing, and custom printing with a one hour miniature lab.
PhotoWorksGroup now employs 18 and serves the U.S. from a 15,000 square foot work space. The print provider produces backlit applications, banners, poster prints, roll ups, and wallpaper. It also uses dye-sublimation (dye-sub) fabric printing for airport, museum, and trade show graphics. Its clients include advertising agencies, museums, universities, hospitality industries, and manufacturers and corporations.
An HP, Inc. Latex 360, purchased two years ago, is used for roll-up production, backlit applications, and general prints. For dye-sub printing to transfer paper, the shop has a Roland DGA Corporation device. Its Epson Stylus Pro 9800 with UltraChrome ink is employed for giclée fine art reproduction. PhotoWorksGroup also owns a Screen Americas Truepress Jet1600 125.7-inch UV flatbed printer.
Installed in 2016, the shop’s latest printer is a Mimaki USA, Inc. UJV55-320 roll printer with white ink. The UJV55-320 has a 128-inch width and features seven ink colors. It handles media up to 127.9 inches wide or two simultaneous rolls up to 60 inches wide. “We use this for all of our large production window graphics, vinyl wallpaper jobs, and grand format fabric,” says Geoff Kilmer, founder/president, PhotoWorksGroup.
Clear polyester media from Lintec of America, Inc. is commonly used for permanent window graphic installs. It is available with high clarity and permanent or removable adhesives. “It’s consistent and durable. We’ve used it for about three years,” shares Kilmer.
The Window Revolution
PhotoWorksGroup has produced window graphics for five years. About ten percent of the shop’s requests are window graphics jobs and the number is growing. Window graphics are used in corporations and retail environments for advertisements, brand awareness, decoration, optical illusions, privacy, and UV protection.
Material options include perforated and non-perforated. Perforated media enables UV protection and privacy, often used in corporate settings for work spaces. Non-perforated, adhesive-backed options provide textured and blockout effects that highlight the graphic for display.
High-clarity polyester films are often used for window decoration while non-PVC films may be used as an eco-friendly alternative. Graphics are typically applied with adhesives or cling options like static and suction. Cling material is white and clear for easy application and removability in retail settings. It’s commonly used for short-term advertisements.
Recently, window graphics have become a standard for decorating and branding glass enclosed offices and conference rooms in high-end corporate spaces. “They are gaining popularity in the high-end corporate office market as permanent graphics for branding the space,” says Kilmer.
Window graphics are used to boost employee morale by decorating clear, unused surfaces. In office settings divided by glass panels, they also provide privacy within glass cubicles while still offering visibility. Window graphics are printed as transparent or with blockout functions.
While window graphics provide conventional and aesthetic benefits, the installation process is complicated. “In my opinion, you need formal training and practice to successfully install. We typically print multi-panel seamed murals. The printing and installation is more demanding than a multi-panel vinyl mural,” explains Kilmer.
Dust or dirt surrounding the window graphics installation area, particularly following construction, poses potential risks. Debris may become trapped in the graphic during application, especially when dirt particles are in the air. “It takes technique to get the film down,” adds Kilmer.
Applying graphics to glass windows is a delicate process. Depending on material thickness and the install method, heat applied directly to the graphic may crack or break the glass.
Printing History on Windows
In July 2016, PhotoWorksGroup was approached by Gensler to complete a window graphics project for the Washington Post’s new headquarters. Gensler is an integrated architect, interior and environmental graphic designer, planning, and consulting firm with offices worldwide. Gensler furnished the artwork produced and installed by PhotoWorksGroup.
The firm assisted the Washington Post, which sought two graphic types for glass panels throughout its six-story headquarters in Washington, D.C. “One graphic type was unique combinations of historical headlines, arranged to provide privacy and branding. The other was for workstation endcaps with historical quotes,” says Kilmer.
For this job, the PSP used Lintec media printed with latex ink. The shop designed the graphics on a Caldera RIP and printed on the HP Latex 360 printer. The mural panels were trimmed with one to two inches of bleed on all sides using a Zünd G3 digital cutter.
The graphics were installed in over 24 locations within the Washington Post headquarters, totaling over 6,000 square feet of material.
According to Kilmer, the shop experienced challenges due to inconsistent and unequal glass panels. To overcome this, the panels were custom sized to correspond with the glass panel seams. “This required keeping track of each location’s unique glass panel dimensions and tiling the murals to match,” he says.
The entire job took three months to complete, however, it was a tight deadline. The shop followed right behind the construction efforts. “As a result, keeping the installations pristine was a challenge in a construction environment,” adds Kilmer.
The Washington Post was pleased with the quality and timeliness of the PSP’s services. As such, PhotoWorksGroup continues to do work for them as needs arise.
Progress for Windows
Whether in retail or corporate settings, window graphics provide permanent and reusable décor. Print providers offer window graphics because they provide multiple functions like filtering UV light, decorating spaces, promoting brands, and adverting. As digital technology advances, large corporations like the Washington Post take notice and realize the benefits of digitally printed window graphics.
May2017, Digital Output