by Melissa Donovan
For print providers focused on marketing collateral, direct mail, packaging, and labels, out-of-home advertising isn’t a foreign concept. This was especially true as print shops revamped and quickly jumped into any graphic jobs they could get their hands on when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Signs for windows, walls, and floors were in high demand and still are.
Above: 3M Envision Print Film 48C is a versatile film designed to help shops reduce excess inventory by replacing multiple film rolls with just one workhorse solution.
While primarily considered a wide format offering, floor graphics are one application that fits well into many print providers’ existing portfolio. With recent media advancements, these jobs are able to run on narrow format digital printing devices. Basic considerations a print provider should take into account when it comes to floor graphics include the availability of one- and two-step system options, anti-slip ratings, and installation/removal techniques.
While health and safety messaging related to COVID-19 won’t be needed forever, floor graphics will continue to be integral to society—whether used as promotional messaging or a wayfinding device. Print providers should integrate the application into their service offerings. Coincidentally, a familiarity with floor graphics gives a printer the confidence to provide customers with other solutions, such as window and wall graphics.
Small Format for Floors
After the last year and a half, it’s clear that a print provider does not need a wide format printer or laminator to play in the floor graphics space.
Narrow format rolls of media intended for floor graphics are available to work with many of today’s popular print technologies. For example, “our standard base films in narrow roll or sheet form are given a special top coating to be compatible with production digital toner devices and HP Indigo presses. Corresponding laminates are available in narrow rolls to match the base layer. This family of floor laminates can be used with existing narrow roll lamination lines without the need for wide format laminate equipment,” points out Jay Kroll, product manager – cut and craft films and walls and outdoor media, General Formulations.
“Narrow web format floor graphic products give roll label customers new opportunities to be full-service providers for their customers,” notes Sara Damante, senior marketing manager, Mactac.
Many large format media manufacturers worked diligently to re-engineer certain products for use on narrow web devices. “These printers can output much faster and cheaper than typical large format digital devices,” explains Wayne Colbath, national sales manager, Continental Grafix USA, Inc.
“For print providers producing smaller floor graphics with narrow format technologies, their presses run at high speeds producing large quantities in a short amount of time,” adds Bekie Berg, product manager, FLEXcon Company, Inc.
Also, media manufacturers can work with the print provider to achieve the right size roll if off-the-shelf isn’t available. “It all depends on how large the graphic is that they want to produce. Manufacturers can slit rolls to custom sizes, which would require the purchase of a larger roll plus possible service fees,” advises Steve Yarbrough, product support specialist, Drytac.
As this is a newer entry into the market, Ryan Allen, regional technical specialist, Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions, cautions that the majority of materials for floors are in large format roll sizes and finding some of the common floor graphic materials might be a challenge.
The introduction of one-step solutions—where the printed media already features a slip-resistant, textured face that does not require an overlaminate—helps, as no laminator is required. “In today’s market, most print providers like to offer a one-step solution, especially if they don’t have laminating capabilities,” notes Shaun Jaycox, global product manager, S-One Holdings Corporation.
While printing and designing a floor graphic might be somewhat familiar to a print provider with a background in the commercial space, other considerations may be foreign, this includes one- and two-step system options, anti-slip ratings, and installation/removal techniques.
To choose the best floor graphic for the job, “the print provider should consider where the floor graphic is going, how big it is, how long it will be installed, and what the foot traffic would be,” explains Kylie Schleicher, product manager, Ultraflex Systems, Inc.
One, Two Step
Two-step floor graphic systems are the traditional option. These consist of a complementary pairing of a base media and non-slip laminate and as Jaycox explains, are used for long-term indoor applications. “The laminate adds protection for the ink, which means the graphic will look better for longer.”
“Two-step options are still considered more durable due to the laminate providing protection to the printed image, but most are designed for floors or carpet and are not normally considered for multiple surfaces,” explains Matt Buckley, business development director, GPA Corporation.
The type of floor—as well as whether the application will be indoors or outdoors, and in place for a long or short duration of time—is important. “If you are dealing with a floor with a bit of texture, it is best to choose the two-step option because it will allow you to tailor your construction for the floor,” explains Laura Reid, VP of marketing, FDC Graphic Films, Inc.
“Because there are two parts to the system—an added step of lamination to the process—these systems can cost more than most one-step processes,” adds Colbath.
A one-step solution involves no overlaminate and no need for lamination. “A one-step solution saves time, money, and space,” suggests Dione Metnick, product development manager, Brand Management Group, a subsidiary of S-One Holdings Corporation.
Of course there are advantages and disadvantages to both systems. “A one-part floor product provides cost savings, however, direct print to the surface means the ink becomes the walking surface and can fade overtime as compared to a two-part system with a base film and laminate. If the direct printed surface is textured it tends to collect dirt and debris that can result in abrasion and degrading of the graphic,” shares Berg.
“Most one-step products are recommended for up to six months of usage, but they may last shorter or longer based on conditions,” admits Colbath.
The print provider is accountable for using the correct media for a graphic job, and that isn’t only as it relates to appearance and functionality, but safety as well.
“The print provider is responsible for researching and specifying the appropriate material that has the certifications for the floor graphic that abide to local safety laws and regulations,” advises Josh Nguyen, technical service engineer, Arlon Graphics, LLC.
According to Berg, a print provider is trusted with selecting the appropriate product so it remains down on the surface, along with ensuring the product is slip-resistant tested and working with the installers to make sure the media is properly installed based on the media supplier’s instructions.
“When providing floor graphics, it is important to use products that are slip rated, or they can be liable for any injuries that may occur if someone slips and falls,” says Jaycox.
Common slip ratings include AS HB198:2014 Pendulum Test, ANSI A137.1/A326.3, ASTM D2047, and UL 410.
ANSI/NFSI B101.3 is particularly important, according to Damante. “It is the first floor safety specification for slip resistance in the U.S. to measure the wet dynamic coefficient of friction, as opposed to static coefficient of friction.”
Ratings include whether the material is suitable for dry or wet environments. “The print provider doesn’t want to choose a material based on price that is designated for an area that is dry and apply it in a wet area like a water park,” cautions Yarbrough.
It’s important to note, that the print provider should ensure the slip rating is not affected by inks or top coats added to the product, says Schleicher.
“Most materials specifically designed for floor graphics carry at least a minimum rating and many carry higher ratings, which could include use in different countries, wet or dry environments, or interior and exterior application,” advises Buckley.
Apply and Remove
For both install and removal, it is important to start with a clean floor surface—free of debris—or the adhesive will lose its cling to the floor.
Prior to applying the graphic to the floor, “clean an area that is at least six inches larger than the size of the graphic. After cleaning, wipe the floor with a clean, lint-free paper towel. If any grease or oil remains, clean with isopropyl alcohol and dry with a lint-free paper towel. Avoid using citrus-based cleaners or detergents that contain enzymes or soap,” advises Metnick.
Many floor graphics printed on narrow format devices are used for distance regulations or wayfinding. Allen suggests measuring three times and installing once to ensure the graphics are symmetrical with their surroundings.
While the graphic is in use, Reid recommends cleaning with a mild cleaner and cloth. “Friction over time is what causes floor graphics to fail. Industrial floor cleaners, vacuums, and mops can all add friction and cause application failure.”
When removing the graphic, Mike Richardson, business development manager, Jessup Manufacturing Company, suggests it is best practice to pull the film back on itself at as close to a 180 degree angle as possible. “This lessens the chances of leaving an adhesive residue. If adhesive residue is left on the surface, try dabbing the adhesive with a piece of the adhesive side of the removed graphic.”
Here to Stay
The popularity of floor graphics accelerated with COVID-19 safety messaging, however this won’t necessarily be forever. Print providers should be prepared for floor graphics beyond COVID-19 and what their purpose will be, as the application is sustainable into the future.
Prior to the pandemic, Richardson believes that many retailers “did not embrace floor graphics as an opportunity to increase the customer experience and/or interaction.” But now, retailers and brand owners recognize the advertising opportunity.
“Floor advertisements in checkout lines and grocery stores, or airports and entertainment venues use valuable real estate and capture attention in key areas of our commerce ad commute. This presents a great opportunity for PSPs to engage their customers and expand business using existing equipment and expertise,” notes Kroll.
Reid imagines a world where when someone is in line at the grocery store, there is a floor graphic advertising candy. “Consumers have become accustomed to looking at their feet for guidance on where to stand and where to go, and I think savvy marketers will take advantage of that tendency and start using floor graphics as a way to advertise products, especially in retail spaces.”
“Floor graphics have been under-utilized for years. Especially in an age where so many customers are walking around in store with their heads pointed down looking at their cell phones, floor graphics can be one of the most effective forms of graphics for engagement,” adds Andy Smith, application engineer, 3M Commercial Solutions.
Metnick classifies where we walk as the “new frontier to get your brand into your customer’s line of vision.” Versatile, floor graphics act as a wayfinding device to an intended location while leveraging a high-traffic space.
And it goes beyond retail spaces. “Floor graphics are a wonderful way to grab shoppers’ attention of a new display or a product. Not only for advertising at store level, but even warehouses and commercial settings to guide people and remind them of safety precautions, for example,” offers Damante.
“The amount of available square footage is astronomical. Floor graphics are used for mapping of stores, brand on floor where items are in stores, sales, company logos, events at concert venues, and sporting areas,” shares Yarbrough.
What is key, according to Robert Rundle, director technical sales and business development viscom, Nekoosa, is that marketing campaigns leverage out-of-the-box thinking. “As society adapts to a new sense of normalcy, it’s important to continue thinking creatively as it relates to using floor graphics for directional signage, point of purchase advertising, and unique, attention-grabbing product promotion.”
René Bourgeois, VP sales North America, ASLAN Selbstklebefolien GmbH, looks forward to creativity returning. “While COVID-19 safety messages exploded the use of floor graphic material, those have been around for ages and usage will remain if not increase thanks to good experience during the pandemic. Promotional campaigns at supermarkets, bodegas, street festivals, or open streets—the opportunities are there.”
“As stores reformat and reinvent themselves, they may want to think about graphics solutions that can be flexible and not so permanent. For traditional vinyl signage, ease of installation, compatibility with various surfaces and textures, and removability will all be important factors,” adds Allen.
As social distancing requirements peter out, Buckley sees a trend away from sterile emergency signage into more branded messaging and an attempt to better blend the graphics into surroundings. “This softer approach to floor graphics is combining the need for safety with most people’s desire for a more normal environment.”
Floor graphics are an excellent starting point into similar applications, for example window or wall graphics. Certain materials are available so that one media product can be used for all three applications, which cuts down on inventory for the print provider as well as translating to one media profile instead of three.
“Window, wall, and floor graphics can all be achieved using a relatively small material set—the same films can be used across all three surfaces for the most part,” notes Smith.
As noted, some vendors offer multi-purpose window, wall, and floor products that are printable with the same method, which is ideal for small print shops and quick turnaround jobs, says Rundle.
“This is beneficial for several reasons, such as reduced inventory, as well as better color consistency as you are only profiling one product versus several,” explains Colbath.
According to Nguyen, some vinyl films have multi-surface applications. “Having one film that can do it all is key to offering other signage applications.”
The same graphic solutions may also be used on counters and table tops found in restaurants, schools, and universities, as well as fast food, gas stations, or quick stop and retail spaces. “Driving a brand message along with the added profitability of using materials for other solutions adds to the bottom line while extending your push into different markets,” comments Kroll.
In retail particularly, Berg sees floor graphics connecting to other branding opportunities like window push/pull decals, decals on counter tops, freezer and cooler doors, and on the shelf.
It is very common for businesses to utilize both floor and window graphics, states Schleicher. “These two graphics work together to complete an environment or design.”
“Floor graphics are still in demand and may very well be the application that a print provider uses to get their foot in the door to upsell their customer on other applications,” agrees Reid.
A New Normal
Floor graphics are part of a new normal in our society and there is no reason for them to disappear. While the height of the pandemic brought with it increased demand for safety and directional signage, as these needs wane, it’s clear that environments acclimated to floor graphics are realizing their potential. We will continue to see them used in more creative ways. dps
Jul2021, DPS Magazine