The auxiliary department of Housing, Dining, Recreation, and Business Services at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio looks slightly different than it has in the past. There are colorful new graphics, better way of finding systems, and unique displays. All areas of the department have made a newfound commitment to enhance their visual impact.
What that actually means can vary greatly between the areas. However, one thing remains the same: visually connect with the audience and they will be more likely to remember the information, product, or experience they are presented. A higher level of recognition results in increased revenues, higher customer counts, and overall boost in perception of the brand.
Applying this idea of visual enhancement takes a little creativity and a change to the “usual” solutions. One way of accomplishing this feat is to gain a basic knowledge of the printing and graphics world. Exposure to types of ink, materials, substrates, and installation techniques opens a door to a new way of solving old problems. The first application on Miami’s campus came with a yearly University Bookstore event called Grad-Fest. During this promotion, the store highlights various graduation accessories from tassels, to diploma frames, to gowns, and keepsakes. It is expected that the store stock these items during the high demand inMay. What was not expected this time around was a new take on the old merchandising display. To add interest and draw attention, slat wall display systems were covered with a material called wall vinyl. This special product allows graphic applications on a variety of delicate surfaces without leaving behind sticky residue or damaging the original finish. When patrons entered the store, they were greeted with a colorful display of printed graphics with merchandise overtop. The background of faces in the crowd, from a previous graduation, gave student customers something to relate to. Instead of a boring time picking up their gowns, they were able to interact with the graphics and find old friends, funny faces, and imagine themselves in the same rowdy crowd. This idea was continued for the next year’s graduation display. The graphics were updated to create a living room scene complete with wallpaper, a multi-frame display wall, and shelves filled with mugs and photos. This helped students to picture the featured items in their own homes and encourage a sale.
Another helpful material is called perforated window film, or simply “window perf” by those in the signage industry. An office in the housing area of Miami was having a perpetual issue with students using the wrong door to enter. This caused queuing issues and frustrations on both sides of the desk. The obvious remedy is to put up a “Do Not Enter” sign. Everyone reads signs, right? Wrong. The secretaries made the sign bigger and bolder but never with any real results. It was time to think about alternative solutions. What makes people continually enter a door that is clearly marked as unusable? Seeing a face on the other side is very welcoming, despite what the piece of paper says. Maybe that person will be able to answer a question or point in the right direction. What deters people from entering a door? The subconscious fear of the unknown. If they don’t know what is waiting on the other side, they are less likely to take the risk. The ultimate solution is found in the aforementioned window perf mate-rial. It works in a similar manor of a two-way mirror. One side is opaque and printable; the other side is transparent. An iconic campus photo was printed on the material and applied to the door and adjoining windows. Once students couldn’t see what was on the other side, they stopped using the door. The view from the outside is a lovely photograph, while the view from the inside had little change.
There are dozens more innovative solutions using possibly unfamiliar materials. A simple phone call to the local sign shop can result in more new options than ever imagined. Need hours on a door? Use cut vinyl. Need item identification on a serving line? Use static clings. The beauty of these options is that no one on the team has to be an expert. Building a relationship with a trustworthy printer is irreplaceable. They have the knowledge to solve old problems in new ways with the newest materials and technology.
Another option is investing in a large format printer for in-house use. A latex ink printer has no emissions, unlike other wide format devices. It requires no drying time, the ink is good outdoors for up to seven years (or the life of the material it is printed on), and maintenance is a breeze. Students can be trained to operate it without constant supervision. The price per unit produced from this machine is a fraction of what an outside vendor charges. If an error is made and a project needs reprinted, it is done as quickly as it can be fit it in. No waiting in line for weeks at a busy vendor.
Printing in-house was the approach chosen by Miami University. The marketing team for auxiliary services processes about 300 print jobs per month from a 60 inch, HPL2600 Latex Printer. The staff responsible for these projects consists of one full-time employee and one student production worker. By leveraging these resources, the different areas of the department are able to adorn their spaces with innovative graphic solutions in a timely manner. By committing to thinking creatively and using the available resources, any university can follow a path to enhancing visual impact.