Gavin Scillitoe Managing Dircetor, BAF Graphics
The evolution of large-format digital printing – which can be applied on to previously unimaginable surfaces – will make significant strides in 2008, opening up new creative possibilities for designers of commercial interiors
The potential digital print provides is often misunderstood or not fully realised, yet today the scope of opportunity is near limitless. Traditionally, graphics in the realm of commercial interiors have taken on a conventional identity, incorporating pictorial imagery, text, branding and other more generic communication forms, which combine to promote a concept or product.
However, the commercial environment is now a showcase for brand excellence and environments of inspiration, stimulating empathy between personnel and product. We are seeing graphics taking centre stage, acting as the conduit between a business’s creativity and its activity.
On the production side, the huge technological advances and capabilities of experienced large-format print producers set new benchmarks in what can be achieved. On the side of the creatives, we are beginning to see a convergence between interior design, spatial design and graphic design combining their disciplines to create inspiring and communicative interiors. This is set to gather pace and the application of the digital print process is well placed to play a major part in this, providing innovative and practical design solutions that go beyond the traditional use of graphics.
Working alongside advancements in the digital audio-visual arena, the roles of graphics and digital print will continue to evolve. Print can already be applied digitally direct to many previously unimaginable substrates. These include glazed surfaces, wood veneers, metallic and laminate surfaces, as well as conventional substrates, such as self-adhesive vinyl, paper, banner material, cloth and wallcoverings. Each offers a blank canvas for the designer to create their imagery to then be printed, finished and installed.
Walls previously left bare now represent the perfect medium to project a brand’s ethos or communication opportunity. Wall surfaces can be optimised to become as noticeable or as subtle as the opportunity requires, but, above all, they provide the most appropriate form of communication available to deliver the desired commercial message, whether to staff or a client.
Through the year ahead we shall see an increase in the production of bespoke digitally printed wallcoverings, achieved by designers creating imagery for commercial-grade wallcoverings that are produced by specialist digital print and installation companies. Whether the content is for large non-repeating design, subtle branding, informative communication or a photographic image, we are set to see many more walls covered with enticing imagery.
The prominence that graphics can take in the commercial environment is endless. The challenge is how far designers will go to stretch the capabilities of digital print and the techniques available to them to create tomorrow’s inspirational and informative commercial interiors.
Two examples show a trend that is set to continue. Universal Records commissioned BAF Graphics to work with Island Records’ artistic director Cally. This project had to demonstrate Islands’ individuality and brand ethos. Under Cally’s artistic direction BAF printed graffiti-effect corrugated walls, reflecting the company’s Jamaican aesthetics. One nice irony is that all its artists appear lifelike in superimposed tuxedos around the walls. Through the graphical decor, staff and visitors are reminded daily of Islands’ heritage.
Another commission, this time from Rocket Interiors, involved the production and installation of an exotic floral wallcovering for the Pitcher & Piano bar in Brighton. The design covered an area of wall and ceiling surface and the effect was as impressive as the imagery itself.
The capabilities of digital print go beyond the translation of photographic imagery. Through the combination of design, substrates and techniques, we can expect to see an increase in the number of designers creating decorative and informative graphics suited to each individual application. Graphics will become more relevant to the business’s purpose than before.
Enhancing the Office
In the office interior, the use of conventional manifestations and frosted vinyl applications to glazed surfaces is evolving into translucent imagery, coloured graphics and stunning white silhouettes, where each echo the essence of the business. In fact, the process of printing white has only recently emerged and its potential is just beginning to be realised.
In conjunction with architectural glass companies, digitally produced translucent imagery produced on to clear photographic film can be encapsulated within glass panels for permanent application in a commercial setting. Yet the impressive form these panels take provide considerable scope and design content for any interior.
Similarly, we are set to see an evolution in the role of the conventional light box in the commercial interior. While these are more commonly used in wall-mounted pictorial applications, they’re likely to increase significantly in their surface scale, acting more like light walls than light boxes.
Digital print provides designers with a near limitless toolbox. The potential to create dynamic design, display and promotional solutions makes for exciting times ahead.