Print Buying: An Inside Look

Q&A with Kraig Kessel, Kraido.

How are the signage and graphics programs for some of the top brands evolving, and why? What can you, as a print service provider, do to better serve the needs of these major clients and prospects? Learn straight from the brand owner as we chat with Kraig Kessel, the decision-maker responsible for signage and graphics at Kraido, which creates branded environments. Here you’ll garner invaluable insight into how you can better serve your top clients – and win more lucrative accounts.

Wells Fargo gold
The gold graphic surrounding Wells Fargo ATMs features complicated gradations in various shades of yellow.

Q: Can you share some insight into your wide-format background? 

We do a ton of work for Wells Fargo and Chevron, and we learned we had to do independent research on wide-format digital printing to find the best print providers for the assets we were developing, rather than relying on the current PSPs we used and being reliant on the equipment they had. We learned the existing shops may not have had the best equipment and technology to service what we needed, so we conducted independent research on print technology and then identified PSPs who had this equipment. This was a huge learning moment for us!

Wells
For Wells Fargo temporary construction window graphics, matching gradations is top of mind. “When we have these printed, we have swatches for each color in the gradation and we require the printers to use spectrophotometers to take readings to ensure that they are within an acceptable Delta E range,” Kessel explains.

Another key learning experience for us, as we started looking at the assets we needed to have printed, was not to rely on the print equipment that our vendor pool of PSPs had in-house, but to align the print technology with what we were trying to do. This was critical. For instance, if we need something printed with image/white/image (or color/white/color), with a certain resolution and no banding, we need to look at printers that can accomplish this. The programs we work on are not one-off, custom assignments (usually). The majority of our projects are very large-scale programs with multiple locations (hundreds, if not thousands, of sites). We work with very big national and multinational brands.

Q: What are you looking for in a print provider? 

1. We want someone who can be consultative, problem solve, and provide input – not just do the job at hand.
2. We want someone who has specific types of print equipment to handle what we need (i.e., color/white/color with certain resolution).
3. Someone who can provide test print samples and is willing to work with us to fine-tune the print to get it right.
4. A reasonable and competitive pricing model is always important, as is the ability to meet aggressive timelines.
5. Because we do large national programs, we need printers that can cover the entire country and can print from various parts of the country; otherwise, we source multiple print providers that can handle items regionally.

Q: Is there something a PSP can do (or has done) that will lead to ending the partnership? 

Yes! And it has happened. Changing a spec or printing something on a piece of equipment different than what was specified. Or missing a deadline and not communicating what is happening. 

Google pic
Kraido integrated biophilic-design stairwell graphics for Google to “activate an otherwise boring space and to encourage people to use the stairs,” says Kessel.

Q: In your experience, how is the signage and graphics market evolving relative to the environments you are creating? 

The technology is evolving significantly! When it comes to digital print technology, we can now do things for exterior environments that are of a high quality and will have longevity. The digital print technology of “yesterday” was only for short-term applications. The work we do requires at least three to five years of durability for exterior application.

Q: At events and in conversations with industry experts, the Big Picture team frequently hears differing views on the status of retail brick and mortar. Is it dying or is it just changing?  

Retail brick and mortar is definitely not dying, but it’s changing and evolving rapidly. It’s all about creating an “experience.”

Q: How has e-commerce affected your industry? 

Not too directly with the work we do, other than the evolution of companies that start out as online-only and then need to have a brick-and-mortar presence.

Q: Can you share an example of a project that changed the way you buy print? 

We had a project for a large-scale, national client that required a very complex, wide-format graphic with layers and multiple gradations, based on color values of one specific color. This was originally achieved by using the print equipment the existing vendor pool had on hand. The complex graphic required multiple layers being built up, laminated together, with perfect registration. It was very, very difficult and expensive. When we originally tried to do this with one-pass (we required color/white/color), the PSPs that said they could do this wound up having banding and poor print quality in every test. We (incorrectly) were relying on the print equipment that various PSPs had (and every one of them told us they could do it, even when they could not). We wound up conducting an independent (and agnostic) research assessment to analyze different types of print equipment that could handle the assignment and then conducted tests. We worked directly with the printer OEMs (various brands) to develop a very comprehensive print performance specification and then identified PSPs who had this equipment. Minor tests included printing a small watermark at the bottom of the graphic (not visible) to ensure substitutions were not happening. 

Q: Rank the Importance of the Following Factors:

• Customer Service: Very important
• Print Quality: Very important
• Price: Important, but not the most important part. When there’s something complicated and it has to be done right, we understand that it may be more expensive, but needs to be within reason.
Sustainability: Somewhat important. Would love to have more sustainable materials, but when longevity is sacrificed, it becomes less practical.
• Turnaround Time: Important, but this is almost the “price of admission” amongst good PSPs.
• Ability to Customize: Depends. Not necessarily important on large-scale, multiple units, but sometimes print projects require site-by-site customization, and it becomes very important to be able to adapt.
• Innovation: Very important. We’re always looking for PSPs who innovate and can show us new and inventive ways of doing things.


Kraig Kessel

Kraig Kessel is a licensed architect who has spent the majority of his 32-year career specializing in the development of branded environments and international signage programs for numerous industries, including convenience stores, quick-service restaurants, financial services, specialty retail, and petroleum. Kessel co-founded his own company in 2010, called Kraido, which creates branded environments and develops customer experiences that are strategic, innovative, and practical. Key clients include Wells Fargo, Public Storage, Chevron, and Google. 

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