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Whimsical Whatnot Workshop

Check out this Muppet Workshop at FAO Schwarz, part of our series on P-O-P.

Big Picture

When it comes to point-of-purchase advertising, print buyers as well as print providers have much to gain. For the buyer, research shows that P-O-P advertising drives sales 70 percent of the time, according to a study done by POPAI, the Point of Purchase Advertising Institute. And for the print shop, there's the inevitable turnover due to the ever-changing nature of retail.

Point-of-purchase graphics can take on many forms--in fact, just about any idea a client can dream up is possible with today's output technologies. From life-sized cutouts and storewide banner campaigns to wall coverings, window graphics, and even LCD-screened displays, P-O-P has the ability to help prod the buyer into finally pulling out his or her debit card.
For your perusal and your inspiration, we've tracked and gathered information on seven P-O-P jobs from print providers around the marketplace.

Whimsical Whatnot Workshop
Most everyone knows what a Muppet is, but many people have no clue what a Muppet Whatnot is. Yet, as we speak, Muppet Whatnots--Muppet characters "extras" that might be found on the set of any Muppet production like Sesame Street--are being produced in a sturdy workshop in New York City's FAO Schwarz, thanks to New York-based Graphic Systems Group (GSG).

Representatives from Disney had noticed the craftsmanship of GSG's Harry Potter display for FAO Schwarz in 2007, and when the idea for a Muppet Whatnot Workshop was conceived, the company immediately contacted the print provider. In this case, the idea was to create an in-store workshop where FAO customers could make their own personalized Muppet Whatnots.

The two companies began concept drafts in the spring of 2008. As Disney offered sketches, GSG fine-tuned the ideas in order to align the client's wishes with the best of GSG's capabilities.

"We designed everything," says GSG president Ken Madsen, "We used CAD engineering for the architecture; we did an elevation drawing and produced a quarter-scale model and placed graphic samples." GSG used various Adobe programs as well as QuarkXpress for the up-front design work. And because Disney is in Burbank and GSG is in New York, the shop used its proprietary Go workflow system for proofing. Largely comprised of Esko products, says Madsen, Go allows GSG and its clients to route, track, annotate, approve/reject, and otherwise collaborate to reduce cycle time and labor.

Once Disney had given its approval for the concept work, and provided digital image files, GSG could turn its attention to final output, creating a faux brick structure and window, hanging signage, plus wall and floor graphics throughout.

The brick wall and brick accents along the fake window help provide "workshop-like" realism to the display. Although some of the brick detail around the window is indeed real, the bricks along the walls were output--GSG used its 104-inch HP Designjet 10000 to print onto 3M Controltac adhesive vinyl, carefully color-matching the printed brickwork to the actual bricks.

Another of the other workshop's main features is the 5 x 8-foot "window" featuring the famous Muppet crew. The shop output this graphic via its Durst Lambda onto Kodak Duratrans, then coated with a General Formulations UV matte overlaminate.

The client wanted the main sign hanging on the ceiling dropdown in the workshop's entryway to look like it was painted on stucco. GSG printed this piece using its HP Designjet 5500 onto "a special material" found in Manhattan's textile district, Madsen says. The shop then put an adhesive on the back and simply wrapped it around plywood, giving it the "stucco" look and feel.
 

Other elements for the project included:
* 13 framed pictures of other Muppet Whatnots digitally printed via a 12-color Canon imageProGraf iPF 9000, and hung throughout the workshop for customer inspiration. Sizes ranged from 20 x 24 to 30 x 40 inches.
* A faux "chalkboard" made from 1/8-inch Alcan Sintra and coated with magnetic paint. Using an HP Designjet 9000, GSG produced more than 200 small graphic elements onto 3M adhesive vinyl, then cut and mounted these to the chalkboard.
* Additional output including workshop graphics for the cash wrap (where the customers purchase items), printed onto 3M adhesive vinyl, and a floor graphic of a Muppet-adorned sewer cap, output using the Designjet 10000 onto a 3M floor-graphics kit (IJ-162 and Scotchcal 3645) with eco-solvent inks.

GSG handled installation of all two-dimensional workshop elements, while three-dimensional elements were handled by PRG Fabricators in New Windsor, New York. The Muppet Whatnot workshop will be in place for three years and has already been featured on The Today Show.

Serving the studio, retouching, digital print, and large-format graphic needs of its customers, Graphic Systems Group has been operating for more than 20 years and currently employs 150 in its 40,000-square-foot workspace. It's not your typical P-O-P print provider, says Madsen: "We only do retail space when it’s a very specialized theme or theatrical setting which begs visual."
 

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