An Interview with SGIA’s Dan Marx
I know for a fact that more and more corporate and agency print buyers and designers are handling unusual projects these days, including things that fall under the category of “Specialty Graphics.”
In my mind, I think of very LARGE applications when I hear the term – like large-format graphics, vehicle wraps and building wraps. They intrigue me! Every time a car or truck whizzes by me on the highway, tricked out in gorgeous, multicolored graphics, I wonder, “Who did that? And how did they do it?”
And when I’m in large public spaces – like Boston’s South Station – and see massive banners and sophisticated signage, I wish I’d had the chance to source such beauties just once in my career. I decided to feature this specialty as a session at our 2012 conference.
For today’s Print Tip, I asked Dan Marx 6 easy questions about this topic. Dan is the Vice President of Markets & Technologies for SGIA, the Specialty Graphics Image Association (www.sgia.org).
Dan will be a presenter in October at our 7th Annual Print & Media Conference in Chicago. He’ll discuss “The World of Specialty Graphics – and How to Navigate It!”
1. Dan, how do you define “Specialty Graphics,” and how does it differ from commercial printing?
Specialty graphics companies are those that use wide-format digital printing, screen printing and myriad other technologies to produce signs, banners, t-shirts, vehicle graphics, soft signage and more. The big difference is that specialty graphics companies produce the things that most commercial printers don’t – and can’t. That said, many commercial printers are looking toward specialty graphics as a strong, added revenue stream.
2. Without giving away your presentation for us in October, what are a few of the more exciting new developments in this field?
Here are a couple of trends for you. The first is mass customization on a grand scale. While commercial printers are certainly familiar with customization through personalizing a publication via a variable text field, specialty imagers are finding success in helping customers create one-off or short-run event graphics, printed garments and one-of-a-kind displays to raise brand awareness. The other is product bundling, where a graphics producer creates complete packages for a customer, from marketing materials to onsite signage.
3. Does every printer offer this as an option – or are there specialists? If so, is there a directory we can refer to?
Most specialty graphics producers offer a range of products within an even broader range of product possibilities, and many have unique specialties or address certain interest areas. One easy way to find the right specialty graphics producer for your needs is to access SGIA’s “Find a Printer” search on SGIA.org. The search allows you to drill down into specific product areas (and capabilities) to find the correct company for the job.
4. How big of an industry is it? Is it growing? In certain applications?
While much of the commercial printing industry has been struggling in recent years – many are victims of strong commoditization – specialty imaging companies are operating in a area of relatively robust growth. While some commoditization exists in specialty graphics, the wide range of technologies, materials and finishing options has resulted in hundreds of end products and numerous profitable niche markets. According to one of our recent surveys, this segment is expecting 11% growth for the year ahead.
5. Does one need specific design skills to create many of the applications – say, a vehicle wrap or a building wrap? I don’t imagine they teach graphic designers this specialty in colleges and universities. Where do they learn?
While many of the design skills translate between processes, resolution and image quality are of critical importance when companies “go big” with the graphics they produce. Many of the skills needed in specialty graphics production are not taught in colleges and universities, so many of the production professionals in this segment learned on the job. For many jobs, it is important to remember that design and printing may be the easy part, and that it is quality print finishing and installation that converts the print into a finished product. Wrapping a VW Beetle ain’t easy (believe me): it takes skills and know-how to do it right.
6. What can our audience expect to learn from your session at our Print & Media Conference this October?
The audience can expect to learn how to access and navigate the specialty graphics industry, and how to expand the reach of their print buying efforts by tapping into new, exciting areas. Further, they will learn that “print” means so much more than just ink on paper, why the intended use of a product may dictate the imaging technology used, and how this industry segment is a home for innovation and opportunity for print buyers.
Thanks, Dan! Look forward to seeing you in Chicago. Dan will present his session on Wednesday, October 10th, from 10 to 10:45 am. Attendee registration opens later this week!
© 2012 Margie Dana. All rights reserved. You’re free to forward this email. However, no part of this column may be reprinted without permission from the author.