David Minnick, Director of Web to Print and Value Added Products, EFI

For all of you in marketing as well as print service providers — there is a disturbance in the force…

Yes, the latest disruptive technology that is hitting all of us right between the eyes is Soft Signage. What is Soft Signage? It is signage that utilizes fabric as the substrate vs. a hard substrate like foam core or various boards or plastics. Another term used is fabric graphics but Soft Signage is the current term and it is all the rage.

Why? Well here are some of the top reasons

  1. Fabric is lighter — this aids with shipping and handling
  2. Fabric can be folded/rolled into smaller shipping cartons to avoid dimensional weight costs
  3. Fabric has stretch which eliminates wrinkles when put on a frame
  4. Fabric is more durable for re-use
  5. Fabric can do real cool shapes
  6. Fabric can be back lit (or not)
  7. Fabric can present image on both sides with one application (think flags)

The list really does go on…

How about an example to drive the point home a bit further

Let’s pick a nice wall graphic in your favorite fashion store that is one-meter wide by two-meters tall.

It’s in a nice low profile frame (lets even call it frameless when viewed from the front)

There are no wrinkles, dents, dings, scratches and the color looks great! Wait a darn minute … is that FABRIC?

Yes, it probably is and let’s look at some of the value points noted above.

  1. One person to carry from the back and install — hey, it’s a folded pile of lightweight fabric at this point
  2. It came in a small carton compared to that hard signage which saved a LOT of money
  3. It installs using the SEG-way… You knew I would get to it eventually. That stands for Silicon Edge Graphic, not the two-wheeled wonder you were expecting. This strip of silicon is sewn to the fabric and disappears into the frame so no hems, pockets, grommets, or other distractions of mounting.
  4. Need to move it to the other wall? No problem, just pull from the corner and install in the other frame. No damage and looks just as good as first application
  5. Well this example didn’t cover it but you can do interesting shapes like curved frames
  6. Go ahead, turn on the backlit frame. Now it’s not a cool graphic, it’s a REALLY cool graphic! (remember what the cost of creating, shipping, breaking down, and shipping again that other backlit graphic was?)

And it’s not just for high-end fashion signage. I am now seeing usage all over the place; Georgia Dome wall graphics on walkways, O’Hara airport wall graphics, various shopping malls and, of course, those feather flags we all see everywhere now! The applications are endless and stretch from retail sign shops all the way through high-end marketing.

Because of all this, it is being called a disruptive technology. I agree, but I like to call these “opportunities” that can make us all successful in the eyes of our customers.

Speaking of opportunities, I am sure that the expectations of buyers these days is that they can place orders online utilizing a system that is designed for their needs and can support uploading their designs into templates that can provide a real-time preview as well as support the correct options, present the pricing and accept payment from credit card, PO, or whatever agreement you have. I expect there are some buyers that will want to design or modify already provided designs in real time online using the latest browsers/technologies on desktops, laptops, and tablets. I expect that print service providers want this ordering system to be tied into their production environment providing a level of automation necessary to stay ahead of these smaller quantity orders that are the trend in today’s world. The world of eCommerce and web to print are not disruptive technologies anymore and, of course, they should work with Soft Signage.

So marketing people, check it out and dream big!

Print service providers, it just so happens I work for a company who saw this coming and is prepared to assist you with solutions that will support your customer’s needs of Soft Signage from web-based order entry through production and, trust me, that is no accident — leveraging technology and turning disruption into opportunity for our customers is what we do, all day, every day. This one also happens to be one where I am directly involved. So leave comments, ask questions, visit EFI at a trade show, visit www.efi.com, talk to your salesperson. Whichever style of engagement you prefer in this multi-channel media age, go for it!

Learn more via EFI’s next Soft Signage webinar.

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