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Breaking out of a Rectangular World

(January 2008) posted on Fri Jan 11, 2008

Digital contour cutting is impacting the market.

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By Peggy Middendorf

Producing eye-catching graphics-graphics that grabthe viewer’s attention and allow the marketing message to be absorbed-takes not only an original design, but also world-class execution with a flawless finish. The graphic itself is important, but the finishing can prove to be the icing on the cake. After all, would you remember-or think great-these classics if they included a not-so-great "finish?" The Mona Lisa in a dollar-store frame? High jumper Dick Fosbury without his famous flop? Elvis with no pelvis? Or an elegant seven-course meal with a Twinkie for dessert?

In this age of electronic digital displays and multimedia communication, the provider of printed graphics has to ensure that his product manages to stand out in the crowd. Customers recognize this as well: They are looking for something more than the sameold sign or in-store graphic. They want an instantly memorable image, and are demanding more creative and interactive signage. One way to provide an image with more visual oomph is to produce 3-D graphics. Yes, a graphic that’s cut in the tried-andtrue rectangular shape may serve to "do the job," but does it really stand out? If you’re creating an image of Marilyn Monroe, for instance, consider how much more impact a contour cut-out of the Hollywood icon will have.

And although the production of 3-D graphics was once looked upon with fear and trepidation by many shops, digital-cutting technology and optical vision-registration systems-coupled with the advent of flatbed printers-now enable print providers to finish rigid graphics with that extra something to make them stand out from the crowd.

No more manual nightmare

In the "old" days (less than a decade ago), if a job called for a short run of odd-shaped rigid P-O-P displays, production was a three-step process: The shop first imaged the graphic onto flexible media, mounted it onto rigid media, then hand-cut the image hoping that the employee had a steady and accurate hand. If a mistake in cutting ruined the print, the process began all over again. The procedure was time- and labor-intensive.