Large-format practicalities

You’d think large-format work was just a matter of scale, but there are many practical issues to resolve before designers can realise their creative solutions. Design Week looks at three recent projects that overcame the obstacles

A giant Rubik’s Cube, a 36m sail and a 30m-high, 70m-wide retail wrap. These are just three recent large-format projects that designers have created to promote their clients. Their sheer scale makes them some of the most noticeable pieces of design work, but it also makes them some of the most challenging.

The problems designers face are often technical, such as ‘Will the giant vinyl logo applied to the sail of an offshore racing monohull add too much weight and so impair its performance?’. With large-scale retail and office wraps, there are complex issues with planning authorities – notoriously alert to advertisements masquerading as wraps – as well as a long list of health and safety regulations. Even without these issues, there are practical ones, such as getting the large-format idea into the space available.

Despite these problems, recent large-format works show designers coming up with creative solutions to clients’ objectives. Some are using new techniques in an innovative way, while others have applied tried-and-tested methods to good effect. They bring a light touch to a big scale, as well as having what looks like fun.

Consultancy/ Hat Trick Design
Client: Land Security
Project: New Street Square office development, London

To promote Land Security’s latest office development, Hat Trick Design took the idea of the large format and re-imagined it as sculpture. The consultancy sent out an invitation to the opening event in the shape of a normal-sized Rubik’s Cube with the colours mixed up. For the event itself, they installed a giant, 2.75m-high Rubik’s Cube with the colours arranged in order. Balancing the cube on its corner, says Hat Trick, allowed guests to see how all its six sides matched up, and implied a job well completed. It was also a measuring challenge, says Hat Trick’s David Kimpton. ‘The ceiling height is only 3m,’ he laughs. The large-format cube was made from polystyrene and coated with glass fibre, and the coloured labels, made by Beanie Brownjohn at Makestuff, were printed on glossy self-adhesive vinyl. On the floor of the office space was a giant crossword with clues and answers about the development. It was printed on a grid of square vinyl panels and the clues were individually cut letters applied direct to the panels. They were designed by Ben Christie of Hat Trick.

Consultancy: GBH
Client: Puma
Project: Il Mostro racing yacht livery

‘A nine-month floating billboard for the brand’ is how GBH describes Il Mostro, Puma’s 21m-long monohull which competes in the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race this October. The design studio created the large-format livery for the craft which echoes elements of the Mostro trainer, one of Puma’s best selling lines. The hull includes imagery from the shoe’s sole, while the 36m mainsail is emblazoned with a GBH-modified fragment of the Puma cat. This is always white out of red, but for Il Mostro the cat is black out of red. The livery applied to the hull is part-vinyl, part-airbrush and part-lacquer effect which keeps weight down without reducing the visual impact. Weight was again an issue for the Kevlar-reinforced sails, a problem GBH describes as converting the ‘most striking look into the least amount of weight’. ‘It had to be a major brand piece,’ says GBH’s Peter Hale, ‘but also an effective sailing machine.’ The craft was made by US boat builder Goetz, and the livery was made by several American specialist suppliers.

Consultancy: Small Back Room
Client: The Crown Estate
Project: Regent Street wrap in London

Large-format wraps of central London buildings must often seem less like design projects and more like a planning – and a health and safety – obstacle course. Not only must planning permission be granted, and Westminster City Council’s anti-guerrilla advertising regulations observed, but public safety must be guaranteed. ‘You’ve got to be sure stuff doesn’t fall on to people,’ says Gavin Tuck, creative director of Small Back Room which created the Regent Street wraps. The contractors also need to be thought of. A white inner skin to the debris netting lets light in, while black blocks it out, says Tuck. Long experience of working with The Crown Estate enabled Small Back Room to successfully complete the wraps, the last of which covered ‘Block W1’ near Piccadilly Circus. This building has undergone a major redevelopment, and to maintain the environment and protect the public, Small Back Room created what Tuck calls a ‘Venetian principle’ wrap. This is where the entire building is photographed, and a trompe l’oeil image printed on to the debris netting. The wrap started on the first floor and rose to the roof line, and measured 30m high and 70m wide. The printing work was completed by Concorde.

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