Volume 4 | Issue 4 | Year 2008

In today’s highly competitive economy, interior design does more than just offer a visually pleasing environment to customers and employees: it goes hand in hand with how you market your unique brand, increase productivity, sell merchandise or services, and meet overall business goals.
This is increasingly important during an economic slowdown, when companies must distinguish themselves by offering innovative and creative solutions that support and add value to the customer base. Becoming uniquely distinctive through your business’ interior design is a vital part in establishing sustainable marketing and rebranding initiatives that ensure your company’s continued growth.

“Other companies will hold their chips and try to weather the storm, but forward thinking companies now will begin to refresh their stores using a little color, certainly some wall coverings or maybe some lifestyle imaging,” says Eric Daniel, a Prototype Director at WD Partners, a design and development firm that works with multi-unit retailers such as Safeway, New Balance, Best Buy and Benihana.

“They can get a huge lift in an existing store just by refreshing the interior image, and we’re finding ourselves quite busy with that kind of work right now,” says Daniel, who has more than a decade of experience creating innovative interiors for retailers.


With so much demand for and emphasis on customization, businesses – from restaurants, retailers and hotels to hospitals, corporations, manufacturing plants and entertainment venues – are looking to wide-format digital printing to add elegance, edginess and appeal to their interior environments.

Current digital imaging technologies offer great flexibility for designers to break out of traditional, mass-produced design products and create unique images that can be printed onto glass, tile, wallpaper, fabrics, ceramics, ceiling tiles, carpets, acrylic panels, laminates and many other surfaces.

Members of the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA) have seen more businesses successfully add these imaged products to their interiors:

  • Wall murals and coverings;
  • Soft signage (such as fabric banners);
  • Vinyl wraps;
  • Imaged curtains and tablecloths.

Additionally, digitally imaged décors are less limited by size and “repeat lengths” of patterns. For example, traditional wallpaper repeats a design every 76 cm (30 inches), but digitally printed wallpaper doesn’t have to repeat a design.

Instead, it can be custom printed and pieced together, allowing tremendous design freedom and the ability to print murals and photos. These printing advancements mean the possibilities are endless when it comes to your commercial interior.


It’s not just the customers that drive the demand for customized interiors. Corporations are integrating digitally generated designs into their office spaces, break rooms and show rooms to attract and retain talented professionals, improve employee morale and promote worker productivity.

“A colorful nature-motif wall mural can add a cheerfulness to a room,” says Ann Brown, Co-Owner of New Vista Image, an SGIA member and digital imaging company based in Golden, Colorado that specializes in corporate interiors.

“Larger companies are looking for digital solutions that can make break areas more inviting and promote a sense of community,” says Brown, whose company recently provided full-length wall murals for the show rooms and break areas at the Denver offices of Google Inc. and Time Warner Inc.

Plus, digital graphics can be extremely cost-effective, since today’s printers can handle short runs and one-off production. Printing only what is needed, as opposed to investing in bulk materials, means your company can save in production costs and limit waste, supporting a sustainable position and holistic interior design.

Keep in mind, interior imaging products aren’t limited to commercial buildings. Salisbury, N.C.-based supermarket chain Food Lion LLC recently hit the road with a retrofitted 18-wheel trailer for its “Guiding Stars 3 Star Kitchen” mobile tour.

The trailer, which is separated into several rooms, highlights Food Lion’s in-store Guiding Stars Nutrition Navigation System. In addition to having the system’s signature lime green splashed on borders in each room, images of mock grocery aisles and nutritious foods are prominent on the inside wall coverings of the trailer.


As you look around your office space or retail shop and consider how imaging can uplift your interior, it’s important to study your “communication hierarchy,” Daniel says.

“Every good communication system, or presentation of your company message, starts with a strategic objective. It can be very difficult to truly define that strategic message, but once you do everything else falls in place,” says Daniel, who cautions companies against layering new graphic applications on top of old ones.

Oftentimes, bringing the digital print shop in at the start of your design brainstorming can result in more imaging options that are tailored to your brand or company message. Digital imaging analysts note one of the biggest challenges is bridging the information gap between printing companies and the design and architectural community.

“There is a big disconnect between digital printing – its capabilities and advantages – and this group of customers,” says Patti Williams with I.T. Strategies, an SGIA member and Hanover, Mass.-based research and consulting firm for the digital imaging industry.

“It’s not so much that architects and designers don’t care about digitally printed decorative products, but that these applications are different – and working with something different can be difficult,” Williams says. A primary challenge is finding the right printing shop to do the work, Williams says. “It’s a big issue of where do you go to find the companies that can do this work for you.”

SGIA responded to this issue by creating its Find Print Providers online search engine at www.printproviders.org. The online tool lets you conduct incredibly detailed or broad searches of nearby imaging companies that can meet your digital print needs. Be sure to check out “Architecture/Interior Design,” “Glass/Ceramics” and “Retail Displays/ Exhibits” categories as the featured products are heavily used in commercial interiors.

No matter how your business re-brands or refreshes its image, your extra efforts now to shape the right message, sustain your brand and invest in innovation will put you ahead of the pack and pay out in dividends as the economy improves.

Michael Robertson is the President and CEO of the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association, a Fairfax, Va.- headquartered trade group representing the specialty imaging industry. Learn more at www.sgia.org. You can find more details about innovative interior jobs SGIA members have accomplished by accessing the free Product Case Studies section at SGIA.org, Keyword: CaseStudy.

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