The use of textile materials to produce sign and display graphics has grown significantly over the last few years. Whether you walk into a shopping centre, through a hotel foyer or across a petrol station forecourt, you can see the prevalence of soft signage applications.
By Steve Jacques, Category Manager, Spandex
Where once these locations would have been filled with traditional vinyl banners and signs, textile is opening up new opportunities for branding and promotional communication, in the form of banners, fabric window displays, flags, parasols, feather flags and wall graphics.
Soft signage has captured the interest of the sign and display market for a while. For some time, growth was heavily stimulated by the arrival into the market of new printers, inks and substrates, enabling print onto lighter fabrics. Today however, marketing professionals have come to appreciate the quality, flexibility and visual impact that can be achieved using textile, and blossoming brand owner demand for innovative signage and branding solutions is boosting the segment even further.
Brand owners like the look and feel of soft signage, which can deliver a more stylish appearance compared with conventional alternatives and can achieve greater visual stand-out in a competitive environment. Lighter weight textile substrates add movement to signage, increasing its effectiveness; for instance flags flapping in the wind outside a retail or hospitality outlet or outdoor event are likely to attract more attention from passing customers than a static sign.
The choice of substrates is growing, enabling signmakers to widen their discussions with brand owners about how to achieve their desired aesthetic using printable textiles. At Spandex we have 15 substrates and solutions for soft signage applications to help businesses enter or develop their offering in this area. For instance, one of the newest additions to our range is the ImagePerfect 2324 Self-Adhesive Wall Textile which has been specifically designed for printed wallpapers, wall graphics and decals.
For brand owners, the environmental considerations in favour of soft signage are powerful too. Soft signage weighs less than conventional rigid signage, reducing the environmental impact of transportation. Furthermore, soft signage is easy to demount, store and reuse.
One market segment making active use of soft signage is exhibitions and events. Carrying rolls of vinyl or canvases to and from a stand during event set-up and break-down is heavy-going, whereas a lighter weight solution can be logistically beneficial, with no compromise on visual impact. Lighter materials mean lower transport and set-up costs, and reduced manpower to install. Soft signage is also easier to store as it’s generally rolled or folded, in contrast to more rigid signage substrates which are bulky to store and prone to damage if not carefully handled and packaged.
Even though this is a growing market, many graphics producers who have already invested in digital printing equipment have not explored the potential of soft signage. Printers and signmakers should use their suppliers as sounding boards, making the most of their extensive market and product knowledge to extend their service and offer complete textile display solutions to satisfy the varying needs of their customers.