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Floor Graphics

As creative design ideas graduate from the walls that surround you to the floor beneath your feet, Harriet Gordan takes a closer look at the growing sector of floor graphics

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Floor graphics are transforming spaces, making big statements in environments like retail and exhibitions

Paving the way

Once upon a time the floor was just a surface to be walked on, a means of getting from A to B—the ground, the earth, the land. Variations occurred, of course: carpet softened the experience while high-value marble would add a luxurious edge in any era of history. Durability has been a factor, as has cost, and the 1980s saw the rise of laminates, bringing the effect of wood or tiles with the low-level maintenance of plastic.

The twenty-first century, however, has brought another variation on the humble floor. It has, in recent years, become an experimental arena, a marketing medium, and yet another site to express our seemingly boundless creativity. I am talking, of course, about floor graphics. The developments in wide-format printers, materials, and adhesives over the past two decades has propelled the use of floor graphics into the sectors of retail, hospitality, and interior design. And with the technology improving every year, it seems the sky is the limit when it comes
to creative applications taking over our floors.

Fashion-forward

Like any industry, the sign and graphics market follows fashions. Creative design ideas are growing in popularity at the moment, as Kerrie-Anne Moore, sales and marketing manager from Soyang Europe, explains: “There is a huge surge in the market for interior decorative ideas at present. Wall-coverings are, of course, back on trend and have been for a few years, so those highly creative people who now need the next big thing have realised that flooring is yet another way to make a statement.

“Flooring has really come a long way and we have solutions for pretty much all interior applications. Catwalk printable carpet, Grip Floor for on top of carpet tiles, cushioned printable flooring, as well as our very famous G-Floor. For exterior floor graphics, being the sole distributor for Alumigraphics in Europe means we have a magnificent range of products for both walls and flooring solutions.”

For exterior floor graphics, Soyang is the sole distributor for Alumigraphics in Europe

Moore continues: “Soyang has always been a forward thinking company and in the last ten years has concentrated on the needs of the market and building on our long-term relationships with great partners in the industry, such as Better Life Technologies and Alumigraphics. However, it’s been just as important for us in recent months to get to grips with those who are using these products such as designers and architects who employ flooring fitters, so we can ensure our products are meeting all their requirements.”

Avery Dennison are another company working hard to capture the growing market in floor graphics. In a blog centered on the growing relevance of floor graphics in today’s industry, Joey Heiob, technical specialist for graphics solutions at Avery Dennison, comments: “As marketers try to catch a consumer’s attention in every possible location, floor graphics are becoming increasingly popular and causing many of us to look down.

These graphics were printed on Avery Dennison MPI 2121 high-performance calendered film, and protected with DOL 2080, a premium calendered overlaminate with a matte finish

“Creative designers and installers are incorporating floor graphics for POP purposes, sporting events, home and office decoration, as well as special event promotions. Designers are also taking creativity to a whole new level with 3D floor graphics.”

Practical pressures

Ideas and creativity are all well and good (and are indeed driving the advancement of the sector), but the time will come when sketches have to be put aside and the practical elements of the job need to be taken into consideration.

Heiob picks up on this point, suggesting that, once the designer determines what kind of floor graphic they want to create, the next step is determining which pressure sensitive vinyl to use. There are many details that need to considered such as the substrate the graphic will adhere to, how long it needs to last, and whether it will be placed indoors or outdoors.

Once these aspects have been determined, there are a range of different film options for every application. And while the aesthetics of an application are of course important, a floor is still a floor and must, first and foremost, be safe to walk upon. Shaun Holdom, global product manager at Drytac, explains how safety is the number one priority at his company: “Floor graphics have become a commonplace and important part of the retail experience. Even when out shopping, people are often looking down at their phones, so placing floor graphics around the store is a great way to attract customers and make them look up again.”


In our experience an end-user is going to select a media with certification

“However, in public spaces there is a need for official standards and certifications to give shoppers and retailers the confidence to place graphics on the floor that they know will be safe, especially if there is any danger of the graphic getting wet. Drytac has made huge investment in research and development in order to gain the correct certification for all our media and particularly our floor graphics.”

Drytac is an international manufacturer of self-adhesive materials for the print, label, and industrial markets. The company has a range of media specifically designed for floor graphics and they are all accredited in some way for slip prevention in their designated markets. For example, Spot On Floor 200 is globally slip-certified and fire rated; Drytac’s Emerytex overlaminate has a low slip potential rating, which pairs well with Polar Carpet and Floortac.

Drytac’s floor graphics are all accredited in some way for slip prevention in their designated markets. Pictured: Spot On Floor 200, globally slip-certified and fire rated

Holdom continues: “In our experience, an end-user is going to select a media with certification over a media without as it protects them. Ideally, the media should be extremely durable to withstand various human factors, such as different body weights or shoe types that walk over the graphic. The possibility of standing water on or near the graphic should also be considered.

“The materials used and how the graphic is made can contribute to greater longevity. Many floor graphics are made of smooth printable vinyl with a textured slip-resistant overlaminate, which ensures the printed graphic is more heavily protected against surface damage from moisture or abrasions (such as scuffs or tears from high heels). The adhesive on these materials must be aggressive enough to stick to the recommended flooring but also easy to remove when the graphic is no longer needed without leaving behind residue.”

One of Drytac’s reseller partners, Standard Dynamics, had an unexpected demonstration of Spot On Floor’s non-slip credentials. According to Standard Dynamics: “After a small water leak in our demonstration room ceiling conveniently landed on our Drytac decals, our team can definitely confirm the ‘low slip potential’ rating in both dry and wet scenarios. New Drytac Spot On Floor is the perfect product for short-term indoor applications where slip resistance is a concern. It doesn’t need to be over-laminated, saving you and your clients time and money. It’s easy to remove and apply and can be applied to a multitude of surfaces, including tile, sealed wood or concrete, waxed vinyl, marble, terrazzo surfaces, and more.”

For many end users, customer safety is a top priority, and this means that ensuring floor graphics have the appropriate certification is a key consideration. Drytac believes sign-makers can increase business in this area with their products, as Holdom concludes: “To prevent safety concerns, testing should be completed to verify the slip resistance of the media. Currently certification is not mandatory, but because Drytac media will give you the correct accreditations, you will be set apart from your competition and will increase your potential business—especially within public and retail space areas. Ultimately, certification will become standard and floor graphics will become the norm. This is definitely a big potential growth area for sign-makers.”

The tough get walking

Floor graphics continues to be a boom market in Europe, and this trend has now hopped the channel and is gaining significant traction on the retail floors, shopping centre atriums, supermarket aisles, and airport walkways of our island. 

Kernow Jet Floor Shark is one such system that has seen a spike in popularity and was a major hit at the recent FESPA exhibition.

Kernow Jet Floor Shark was a hit at FESPA 2018

It is an easy-to-apply and remove floor graphic film, designed for most types of hard floors and short-pile carpet tiles. Kernow explains that its unique “sharkskin” coating offers a slip-resistant surface that is tough enough to resist floor cleaning machines, pallet trucks, and stiletto heels.

It is also directly printable with all standard inks and requires no lamination, Kernow also states it requires no residues after removal. 

“We set a tough list of deliverables to the research and development team and they surpassed all expectations – we have just raised the bar several notches in the floor graphic market,” explains Bosy Colak, sales and marketing director at Kernow.

Available in 1,372mm and 1,524mm widths, Kernow Jet Floor Shark uses an “ultra-strong” polyester base and installers can peel the tear-resistant film off the floor in one piece, with no post-cleaning. In addition its material construction and ink absorbency means it offers the ability to produce high-density vibrant colours and slip resistance even when wet.

The road ahead

The growing popularity of floor graphics undoubtedly presents opportunities for sign-makers; yet the developments of the products also come with challenges. Soyang’s Moore explains: “The standard of fitting is getting better all the time and the materials are getting increasingly wider to meet the demand of the customers. Of course, the size and capabilities of machinery and transportation have to be the main consideration when taking on this type of work.

O Factoid: The earliest surviving carpet is the Pazyryk carpet, which dates from the 4th to 5th century BC.
It was excavated in 1949 from a Pazyryk burial mound in the Altai Mountains in Siberia. 
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Soyang’s Moore suggests that, as retail and hospitality is constantly being rejuvenated, products will need to meet more stringent building regulations and be very durable

“Equally, you also need to ensure you have a reputable fitting team on hand. Knowledge of surfaces and, to some degree, adhesives is also required, however the team at Soyang Europe can assist with these types of questions.”

Looking to the future of the sector, Moore sees the quality of products increasing, as consumers come to expect more personal, homely environments: “Hotels, restaurants, as well as retail environments are all areas where printable flooring exists and we all spend a lot of time. As these environments are rejuvenated, products being used will need to meet more stringent regulations, they will need to be very durable, easily cleaned, and the print maintained. As I heard someone say the other day, in order to create spaces where we want people to visit, we need to make it feel like home.”

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