spring is in the air, and the lovely trade-show graphics re-do season is near.
Can't you just smell the fresh Lexan® being bent and twisted? The crackle of Velcro® being robustly shown who's boss? The pitter-patter of ladies' shoes with heels growing higher and sharper by the hour... and let's not forget those masculine shoes with the dainty tassels.
Chances are that these nice people - after struggling to build a booth structure resembling their instruction booklet - have little patience left to take what I like to call "reasonable care" of their graphics. As the show approaches the end, these shiny happy people become Frankenstein-like creatures whose sole purpose in life is to get all that stuff into that little case as quickly and easily as possible.
I am being a little hard on them, I know. Especially since they're my bread-and-butter, or - more modernly known - my Ramen noodles and frozen burritos.
The dilemma we all face is whether or not to redo a delaminating graphic that has been improperly handled. We did a good job, we got the color right, and we delivered a quality product. But, if we don't redo the graphics for free, we could end up losing a quality customer.
Don't get me wrong. I've fought the good fight. I've gone in swinging. I've tried the smiley trade-show approach. I've tried logic. But, at best, you are left with a client who is not happy.
FOIL THE FOLDER?
I had a customer who folded - let me say that again - literally folded a trade-show graphic. Imagine a guy putting a crease in a graphic, and then putting his full weight on it to get the fold as flat as possible, and continuing until he has a nice little plastic
||square that he brings to me and demands I redo. If there ever has been a candidate for a face-fold, this guy is it.
Luckily, I had a spy who witnessed this graphic atrocity. With this insider information, I began to formulate a strategy.
My argument was concise: We delivered a quality product that demands a certain amount of care. I said, "This graphic has clearly been folded."
His response was a simple one, which he must have learned from his teenager: 100-percent pure denial.
"No it wasn't!"
I eagerly rushed to my ace-in-the-hole: "Sir, one of my customers saw you guys folding it and tried to stop you."
Can you believe he still denied it? Can you believe I caved into a discount?
So what's the answer? I think a good idea would be to hire out-of-work flight attendants to stand in the aisles and do overly repeated demonstrations of removing, rolling and packing a trade-show graphic - the RRP, as I like to call it.
TREAT 'EM RIGHT
So, what are the ancient Chinese secrets of removing, rolling and packing trade-show graphics?
First and foremost, always roll the graphics image-out. Rolling graphics the opposite way from the previous roll just one time can induce those unsightly wrinkles.
Second, only roll the graphics as tightly as needed to put into the case. If the graphics are small "placeables" (i.e., 16"square or less), then just slide them carefully down the side of the case after the bigger graphics are already inside. Don't try to roll them; they are too small.
Graphics commonly get damaged while being forced down into the case. One must make space before one starts to cram.
Don't put two graphics face-to-face to prevent the magnets or Velcro on one graphic from scratching the face of the other. This actually causes one graphic to
be rolled image-in, which - as we already discussed - is a big, fat no-no.
Don't over-use Velcro. A 3/4" coin per corner is sufficient for graphics up to 24"-square. For larger graphics, put two 3/4" x 5" strips in each corner (a total of eight strips for four corners), and add 5" strips every 1 1/2' to 2'.
Don't circle the entire perimeter of a graphic with Velcro, either. It's not only wasteful, but too much Velcro puts excessive stress on the graphic when Frankenstein yanks it down.
There is one time when we do use Velcro along a whole edge, and that's when we are butting sections of a tiled image together. This keeps the butt as close as possible (don't quote me out of context here). Be sure and give the customer extra warning when you use this method.
I recommend that two people should put up large graphics - one to position, and one to hold the graphic away from the carpet until it's ready for final docking.
When removing graphics, start with the corner and use your other hand to gently separate the Velcro.
Don't leave graphics in excessively hot or cold places like cars. If they do get cold, then let them warm up to room temperature for several hours before unrolling them.
I also recommend, for long-term storage, you pack graphics flat.
Recently, we started putting decals on the back of our graphics with warnings and instructions for handling, which seems to be helping.
One final secret: When faced with a damaged graphic, look your customer dead in the eye, shake your head back and forth, and say with a Southern twang, "Whooo doggie, you did a number on this bad boy."
This seems to loosen them right up.
Stephen Augustine owns and operates Eye Candy Graphics, a graphic design and digital printing shop in Denver. DG