Large Format Prints

Some designers are split when it comes to web-based graphics and print media, but I personally enjoy working within the limitations and possibilities with both mediums. When it comes to print, I really like doing the bigger stuff… there are few things that are more gratifying than seeing an image you’ve stared at on your monitor forever become something big, shiny, and real.
The key is planning everything out, and plans can be as different as the design itself.

Currently I produce one to three table top displays for national, regional, and statewide conferences, which are very similar to trade shows (with booths, networking, etc).
When I work in larger dimensions, I try to fill as much space as possible without losing the message inside a barrage of imagery… as with any design project, the artwork should push the message and make it easier for the viewer to digest.

Here are a few sample pieces, detail shots, and descriptions:

This is a four-panel work-in-progress shot (right, center, left, and center banner) that went to print about a year ago (as of this writing). Most of the art on the site panels was created  in Illustrator, but everything was composed in PhotoShop (at scale, 300dpi). The general height (not including the center banner) is 22 inches, printed on foam board with a gloss finish, and velcro’d onto a four-panel fold up backboard (the center piece takes up two panels). Once velcro has been attached to the back of each panel beforehand, set up and breakdown of this display literally takes less than three minutes:
One thing to keep in mind is that during trade shows or events like the ones these displays are used for, people are constantly moving. The goal is to create something striking, and not be dependent on handing out free trinkets with your name on them (pens, mousepads, etc). Remember that like billboards, too much text will make people look the other way… with displays, people will read bullets, but rarely paragraphs. Displays should be outlines, and usually the table top should have supplementary material (pamphlets, even photocopied documents) that expand on the points made visually.

The “Battered, Unbroken, Ascending” display below is my favorite for two reasons, the first being that it was the most personally-charged, and secondly because I was allowed full control over the visual assets. This display was shown at an education related conference soon after hurricanes Katrina and Rita… for those of us here in the state, the storms are scorched into our minds forever… but for a lot of people outside of the gulf south, what happened really is still sort of an abstract tragedy.

This was printed on one sheet of polystyrene (22″ h, 90″ w) and composed in PhotoShop at 300 dpi. The PSD file for this was done at scale, and weighed in at over 8 gigs in size. Every time I nudged something, it took my old machine between five and 10 minutes to render the new image. File size strain is one of the biggest problem for large format printing with raster files, but it’s all about the end goal:


Here’s a detail on the left and right sides of the display… of note, the different pieces of paper on the left were regular household items that I ripped apart and scanned in at roughly 1,200 dpi, then artificially weathered and distressed in PhotoShop. The paper pieces were scanned in at such a high resolution because they needed to appear large on the display… had I scanned them in at 300 dpi, they would have been printed at their real-life actual size (tiny scraps). The paper products used (from top to bottom) were a paper bag, a sheet from a steno note book, a chunk of cardboard, and envelope, some corrugated cardboard, and a paper towel:


The same display in use:

…the logo on the table skirt is a design I developed nearly seven years ago, in this case the table-skirt vendor simply needed a vector file (.eps).

One last display, simply because the ones presented so far are basically the same, they both attach to a paneled backboard (though with the long one-piece polystyrene print, the four panels become one curved surface).
On this project (San Francisco, 2006), I opted out of using the altogether. I had a basic idea in my head… I wanted to create something that the panels would hang from instead of being stuck on to.
I went to Lowe’s, and initially built a framework with PVC pipes (right there in the isle), but the weak plastic caused instability, and I knew there would be no way to use them to support any weight whatsoever. Luckily, Lowe’s had steel pipes, elbows, T-shapes, and bases. So again, right in the isle, I constructed a booth-like frame that looked just like the one I’d made with PVC, but this time it was incredibly stable. I bought spares of the smaller pieces, and even came up with alternative ways of putting the frame together (in case we were put in a corner or in the middle of the room):


…I was really excited about the way this one came out. The graphics (aside from some photos) were all vector, and the little airplane flying up in the center panel was a 3D model created in Animation: Master, exported as a .3Ds file, imported into Swift 3D and then rendered as a vector image. One of the funniest things about this display is that people were approaching me, asking me where I’d bought the blue “feet” for the display. All they really are were some little one-dollar garbage cans that happened to be shaded pretty similarly to the table skirt!

Here’s one last shot with a detail of the steel on top:

Each of the panels had two holes poked in at the top, and were literally strung up around the pipe with steel wire I’d bought at a craft store. Although this display was very successful at drawing in people, I probably won’t do another one like this for an out-of-state conference because dealing with over 100 pounds of pipes is a real drag (when you consider that you’re also packing other work materials, personal luggage, and the fact that you have to get it all back home, too).

One very important note:
Although I do the layouts, designs, and concepts for projects like this, I don’t do the actual printing. I have a friend at the main Kinko’s in Baton Rouge (on Airline Highway) named Gia… we’ve been working together for over six years, and she’s awesome. She treats print like a craft, and she’s a great designer and artist as well. Glad to have her as a friend and frequent working partner. Whenever you any large print jobs on this site, my friend Gia’s the one who made it go from digital to tangible. She understands the art of printing, even when it’s production stuff.

One Response to “Large Format Prints”

  1. chris nieratko Says:

    […] Chris Nieratko) together to make a skate mag. … Mail (will not be published) (required) …loudblue studios : design, geeking and skateboarding by neal boydWhen it comes to print, I really like doing the bigger stuff… there are few things that … Chris […]