[Digital Business Africa] – There’s no doubt that the promise of the interior décor market is extremely attractive as an opportunity for signmakers and graphics producers to diversify into more profitable applications. FESPA’s 2018 Print Census (https://bit.ly/2YuKsXj) revealed that 74% of wide format print service providers (PSPs) identify wall coverings and interior décor generally as a growth area for their business. But to truly succeed in décor, you may need to acquire new knowledge and expertise over and above your ability to produce high quality printed graphics.
In entering the décor market, you should look to build your technical understanding of how décor applications are inherently different to other types of print, in terms of their lifespan, their functional use, the settings where they are installed and the physical stresses on them.
You must also be mindful of how the décor application will be installed and removed at end of life and take this into account in their choice of materials, adhesives and fixtures. In commercial settings, speed and cleanliness of décor installations are particular considerations, as every hour of closure or disruption translates to lost productivity and revenue.
Unique physical demands
A primary consideration is that décor projects place physical demands on print that go far beyond those faced by conventional graphics. To start with, décor installations – whether for retail, hospitality, corporate or domestic clients – have a significantly longer lifespan than short-term promotional graphics.
Wall coverings, flooring and surface décor will be expected to stay in place and keep their original aesthetic and performance qualities for years at a time. They must also withstand physical impact: repeated footfall, brushes against a wall or counter edge, hard knocks from bags and trolleys, and so on.
Much like outdoor graphics, décor applications may also need to withstand extremes of temperature, UV light and wet conditions, and functional printed applications such as table or counter tops will have to be resistant to all manner of regular use.
Compliance and consistency
When printing for interior environments, compliance with environmental and/or health and safety standards is another important consideration. Décor prints should be free of odours, emissions, irritants and contaminants, as well as being fire retardant.
This means that when working on indoor décor projects, certified inks need to be used that comply with low chemical emissions standards. Prints may also be handled in certain ways specific to the environment; for example, applications used in healthcare settings should be optimised to withstand cleaning and disinfection to meet legislative requirements or best practice guidelines.
In the décor sector, visual consistency is also a critical factor in customer satisfaction. But while it may not be a concern you currently face with conventional signage and graphics, this may become more problematic when working with diverse materials. The proximity between items printed on different substrates – such as wall coverings adjacent to printed acoustic panels – as well as the ability to view décor applications within close range poses further production challenges when it comes to colour management for décor projects and maintaining colour consistency across different applications.
Whathever the project is, faithful reproduction of brand colours across multiple substrates, and even in multiple locations is important.
Prime, print, protect: individual recipes for success
It’s important not to underestimate the complexity of décor. While you may feel confident of your ability to produce high quality print, certain décor applications require additional expertise for the choice of materials, inks, and production method to optimise overall quality and performance.
Each décor application has a unique specification based on the environment where it will be installed, the duration of the installation, the expected physical stresses and the printable substrate. Consequently, you may need to develop individual ‘recipes’ for each décor product, bringing together the right combination of digital print solutions, primers and coatings to achieve the desired outcome and performance in response to the client’s brief.
This can make for bewildering choices and – in the worst case scenario where premium materials are involved – expensive mistakes. Happily, the choice of primers, printing processes and coatings continues to expand in tandem with growth of applications, and technology solutions providers have developed expert teams who actively build and share their expertise and knowledge for the benefit of print businesses active in the décor sector.
Across our worldwide network, we have collaborated with independent suppliers of primers and coatings to optimise almost every imaginable printed décor application, from melamine bathroom panels, to glass whiteboards for hospitals, to imitation leather seats for sports stadiums. With this collective accumulated experience, we can support you in building out your offering as décor service providers, and help you to achieve excellent high quality outcomes, healthy profit margins and sustainable business growth from decorative print.