By Cassandra Balentine
Windows act as an excellent canvas for marketing messages in retail storefronts and restaurants. However, they also serve corporate environments on both internal and external windows, providing both functional and aesthetic uses.
Corporate window graphic customers often seek higher end offerings with a lifespan of five to ten years. This is in stark contrast to retail window graphics typically changed out frequently. For corporate window graphic solutions, also consider the buyer. These graphics are often specified by architects or engineers.
Above: Image Mill of Monroe, WA uses media from 3M for its work in corporate offices.
In addition to offering a particular product or service, it is a good practice for print service providers (PSPs) to educate their constituents on the latest media offerings and opportunities. This is achieved by reaching out to vendors to learn about trends in window graphics.
“We have a well-established history of being a solution resource to our distributor partners and the printers using our material every day,” comments Eric J. Bartosz, director of business development, Contra Vision North America, Inc. “As an innovator in see-through graphics and privacy films for over three decades, our customers rely on us to provide not only the latest product updates but also ideas for applications and trends,” he shares.
Social media is also a place where many media manufacturers and suppliers can connect with customers. “Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are particularly beneficial in showing customers the possibilities of transforming corporate spaces with window graphics. When it comes time to select the film, literature with basic information that helps with the installation is crucial. Window films can be temperamental to install, so any information or tips and tricks that can aid printers and installers in selecting the right product for their job is welcomed,” says Austin Eck, product manager, FDC Graphic Films, Inc.
Educating customers on new products as well as uses is an ongoing challenge, which was amplified by the recent coronavirus outbreak.
Mactac embraced virtual techniques, reaching out to the interior design and wide format print community to drive awareness for its window products. “We promote our messaging through customer email marketing, social media, trade magazines, exhibiting at trade shows, and online video demonstrations,” comments Ross Burnham, senior marketing manager, Mactac.
“At the beginning of March 2020, our team was focused on planning for in-person trade shows. Then the focus quickly shifted on how best to deliver key messaging in the COVID sales environment digitally. We learned to embrace online platforms such as GoToMeetings, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom to reach our customers. We have utilized these platforms to create webinars, product promotion, and training for our sales team, customers, and partners. Post COVID, we look forward to meeting customers face to face through on-site visits, lunch and learn sessions, and trade shows. The new digital tools introduced during this time will continue to be incorporated into our sales process,” shares Burnham.
Adrian Cook, digital print marketing manager, 3M Commercial Solutions, says one way 3M educates PSPs about the window graphic market is through its Graphics College program, which is a two-day, hands-on session with business and technical experts at 3M’s global headquarters in St. Paul, MN. “We have also taken Graphics College on the road to select cities. Due to COVID-19, we are not hosting Graphics College events at this time but we plan to resume when it is safe again, and we are also exploring virtual alternatives,” he explains.
Eck says the reliance on video and photographs is growing because of COVID-19. “We’re not able to interface like we are accustomed to, but we’re finding new ways to teach customers about products.”
Contra Vision is also offering virtual training sessions via video conferencing during the COVID-19 pandemic and has taken the opportunity to improve its remote training tools. “These developments will prove useful going forward as we anticipate a mix of in-person and virtual training in the foreseeable future,” adds Bartosz.
While COVID-19 has brought on unprecedented challenges, it also brings new opportunities.
Corporate offices and retail have been a staple for window graphics for many years. Jim Halloran, VP, sales and marketing, Lintec of America, Inc., points out that glass and clear plastic such as acrylic and polycarbonate are excellent materials to promote social distancing. “When people start returning to work there will be a need for these materials. We can help the facilities managers with decoration options,” he shares.
In past years, office spaces were moving to an open floor plan. However with COVID, dividers are an important way to create space between cubicles, in common areas, and within conference rooms to promote social distancing. “Window graphics offer an interesting opportunity for corporate offices to use these new dividers to present messaging, reinforce branding, or create décor,” suggests Edwin Ramos, director of sales, GBC & SEAL. “We position certain products for use in offices to create privacy. This is a cost-effective way to decorate as well. More commercial interior design professionals recognize this, so print providers should be trying to connect with them about using window graphics.”
As more employees return to the workplace, renewing office environments is on the rise. “Some of the ways we suggest using window graphics for use in office and corporate environments include internal branding, creating environments and private spaces, and signage,” says Wayne Colbath, national sales manager, Continental Grafix USA, Inc.
Steve Yarbrough, product support specialist, Drytac, suggests an increased need for anti-scratch material due to heightened cleaning measures. “Anti-scratch materials will more than likely see a higher demand because of cleaning. Protective films not only offer scratch resistance, but some offer an antimicrobial coating to keep the spread of contact germs to a minimum.”
Window media is ideal for both retail and corporate environments, however these two verticals are often looking for different effects.
“Films with a metallized look have been in vogue for the past couple of years,” offers Eck. Silver, gold, rose gold, and other eye-catching colors are driving the trends. Of course, he says there is still plenty of interest for films that mimic etched glass finishes as well.
Window media products that provide privacy are popular in corporate environments. According to Colbath, glass partitions add a modern flare and are more modular than traditional walls. “Use of frosted films with or without a printed logo, message, or design allows interior designers to greatly expand their design capabilities.”
Cook agrees, noting that corporate clients are interested in privacy and distraction films for interior glass. “Many office remodeling projects involve glass installations, which increases the need for glass films for hallways, offices, and conference rooms. Clients are looking for attractive patterns, gradients, and corporate branding, particularly using white ink.”
Another trending solution is a multipurpose graphic that looks one way under normal light and reveals hidden layers when illuminated. “There are some talented graphic artists working for printer manufacturers that have done really unique printing layers,” notes Yarbrough.
Burnham says in a typical year, wide format printed optically clear, frosted, and dusted print media is popular. However, current demand for window graphics has shifted towards print media applications focused on COVID messaging—safety guidelines, directional/informational messaging, and hours of operation. “Ease of installation for these graphics has also been a key customer requirement,” he shares.
“I think the ability to provide a scratch-resistant, printable optically clear film makes installation go so much easier,” agrees Halloran.
Ramos points out that everything is changing now that fewer people are going into the office. “The trend was led by architectural design firms that want to use window graphics for decoration in common areas, entrances, and walkways. With the focus on safety, window graphics are now repurposed to make dividers more decorative or as a space to remind employees to practice safety measures.”
For window graphics, customers look for both permanent and removable options.
Yarbrough says most corporate locations are looking for adhesive-backed solutions. “Cling can lose its static charge over time and is a less expensive material that feels and looks different from optically clear window products. Most of what I have seen perforated is going on storefront windows or buses/vehicles and not in corporate offices. The majority of these corporate offices want a high-quality look that you will not get with perforated or cling,” he cautions.
Traditionally, materials with a permanent adhesive back were preferred. “However, with the advent of removable adhesives, as well as other hybrid adhesive technologies, more users are going with these types of adhesives. They offer easier installation, removal, and the flexibility to change graphics,” says Colbath.
Halloran points out that the ability to uninstall film is an important feature going forward. “The reason for this is there is potential to be changing graphics more frequently as tenant turnover could increase.”
“Low-tack or ultra-removable films are popular for these spaces, especially when the product is not intended to be permanent. Static cling films are an option, but cling films will have a shorter lifespan and bubble shortly after installation, which may be less acceptable in a corporate environment than elsewhere. The added benefits of using a low-tack option is the film can be easier to install than a static cling,” explains Eck.
Ultimately, the type of media you choose should depend on how long the graphic is intended to remain in the space and who is installing it. “There isn’t really an answer for every situation,” admits Ramos. “If an office space is using window graphics for décor, it’s best to get an adhesive-backed media with a permanent adhesive. If it will be used for messaging or the intention is to switch out the display, use something that is removable and easy to install.”
As a general rule, the length of time a graphic will remain up is largely dependent on its purpose and how much traffic it will see.
The purpose of the graphic will dictate how often it needs to be changed or refreshed. “It is important to understand the goals of the company. A logo on a conference room door may be expected to last years while printed messaging in break rooms, office areas, and other locations could be changed frequently depending on quarterly focuses. Understanding a client’s needs and expectations will allow the PSP to select the right film,” shares Eck.
Burnham suggests that office end users typically utilize graphics for more than five years. “Interior window applications tend to allow for extended life as long as the printed graphic is not in direct sunlight.”
“Depending on the office, graphics could be up for three to five years or get changed out every year,” offers Yarbrough. He says the factor for this is the type of company the window graphics are for. If it is for a sports team/college, they may get changed out every year. If it is a pharmaceutical company graphics could remain in place for multiple years.
“Glass finishes are treated as a long-term, durable solution that will last until the next remodel cycle, which can be five to ten years or longer,” shares Cook. He says a smaller segment of the market includes more short-term graphics for campaigns or messaging, which typically last one year or less.
“Office spaces typically don’t refresh graphics in common areas and entrances often as they are part of the décor. However, with the changing world we are currently adapting to, it may be useful to be able to changeout the graphics more often,” admits Ramos.
Window graphics are common in many areas, including entryways, partitions, arenas, and private offices.
Window graphics are placed anywhere there is glass to be decorated. “The majority of the placements are conference rooms and recently even more so for booth portion dividers,” says Halloran.
Eck sees untapped potential inside of a corporate building to install printed or unprinted window media. Window graphics provide an element of privacy while allowing light transmission into a space. Conference rooms, human resource offices, and breakrooms are all spaces that benefit from an etched film. “Print providers shouldn’t feel constrained to simply cover a window, there is potential for cutting geometric patterns, logos, or messaging into window films to make spaces pop.”
Window graphics are also used in conference rooms to create privacy. “With COVID-19 and many offices adding dividers that are glass and plexiglass, window graphic clings and other short-term solutions are a great way to allow personnel to achieve privacy and add personality to their spaces. Window graphics can be used to present messaging about social distancing and good hygiene in eating areas and other gathering spaces,” notes Ramos.
Cook says that while these films are generally used in interior glass, an underutilized application is exterior building wraps for corporate branding and messaging.
Depending on the material used, the environment plays a role in how it displays.
“With one-way vision films, lighting is a key consideration in order to make sure the material works to create the intended effect,” explains Bartosz.
The placements are usually done with high-quality graphics on high-quality products. “Optically clear window graphics require a skilled installer that knows the ins and outs of placing these types of graphics including any films or coatings that may be on the glass,” explains Yarbrough.
New Markets for Media
Print providers must stay on top of the latest trends and educate existing customers and reach out to potential clients. Window graphics are a well-known offering for many retail companies, but there is also opportunity for corporate clients to improve décor and add messaging and privacy.
Nov2020, Digital Output