2012 Ad Club of Connecticut Awards

We’ve done it again!

The whole Ardent team is pleased to announce we’ve won three more industry awards. At this year’s Ad Club of Connecticut Annual Awards Show, Ardent Displays was given a bronze pencil for our Bottle 2 Pen display, a silver pencil for our Ultimat Vodka display, and a gold pencil for our Philips Mobile Phone and Accessories Sales Kit!


2012 CT Business Expo!

A brief interruption from our series on printing to let you all know that we will be exhibiting at this year’s CT Business Expo! It’s being held at the CT Convention Center in downtown Hartford this year. If you’d like to register to attend, click this link to sign up.

Come visit Booth # 405 to learn more about what we do with custom promotional products. Or come by to check out samples of fun new office toys, grab a snack, and maybe even pick up a little something to take home.

We look forward to seeing you there!

How to Print Your POP, Part II

This is the second post in a series on printing. Read the first post here.

So you’ve come up with a brilliant idea for a POP display, you’ve had designers like ours at Ardent perfect the structure so it showcases your product beautifully, you’ve chosen graphics that reinforce your marketing message and make everyone in your target demographic want to purchase your product. Now you have to make the big choice: what printing process should you use to get the best results for your display?

For commercial printing, you have a number of options, including:  lithography (also called offset printing or litho printing), flexo printing, and digital printing. Below is a primer on flexo printing, so you know when to choose flexo and why.

Flexo Printing

Flexo printing is essentially printing via a giant rolling rubber stamp.  Or, more specifically, a fountain cylinder first rolls in a pan of ink. That cylinder moves against what’s call an anilox roll, which is another cylinder that’s used to evenly distribute the ink. The anilox roll evenly places ink on the plate cylinder, which holds the print plate with your image. Unlike lithographic print plates, which are made of aluminum, flexo print plates are made of a soft, flexible rubber or polymer. Once the anilox roll evenly puts ink on the plate cylinder that’s wrapped with your print plate, your substrate moves between the plate cylinder and an impression cylinder, directly transferring your image to the material. For visual clarification, refer to the diagram below:

Flexo printing is a less expensive process than lithography. However, it has some limitations. Flexo printing is a 1-color process–although you can print multiple colors, it has to be done by blocking out space on your substrate and printing one color at a time. Additionally, with flexo printing, you are usually printing at about 65 dpi (dots per inch– it’s a measurement that refers to how detailed and clear your image is). Litho printing can go up to 330 dpi.

Overall, flexo printing is best used for large washes of color on corrugated displays. Because you can print directly onto the corrugated, it also saves you the trouble of having to mount your images onto your displays. Pretty efficient, no?

Coming up, more information on digital printing and how to prepare your art files for the best printing results!


How to Print Your POP, Part I

So you’ve come up with a brilliant idea for a POP display, you’ve had designers like ours at Ardent perfect the structure so it showcases your product beautifully, you’ve chosen graphics that reinforce your marketing message and make everyone in your target demographic want to purchase your product. Now you have to make the big choice: what printing process should you use to get the best results for your display?

For commercial printing, you have many options, including  lithography (also called offset printing or litho printing), flexo  printing, and digital printing. Below is a primer on offset lithography, so you know when to choose litho and why.

Litho Printing

According to our creative director, aptly named Art, there’s one main rule to keep in mind with print choices: “If you have a photograph, you better use litho.”

Lithography is the process that will best achieve photorealistic results in printing, holding to the true color and shading in your images. Although a more complex and expensive process, it’s worth it if you need to maintain the integrity of gradients, shadows, and other graphic subtleties.

Lithography is typically a 4-color process that begins with creating a printing plate of your image. Modern printing plates are most often made of a flexible aluminum and then covered with a photosensitive liquid. A negative of your image is placed against the liquid and exposed to UV light, creating a replica of your original image. A different plate is made for each printing color– cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.

Now, the metal plates with your image are attached to cylinders on a printing press, each color coming one after the other. Let’s say first up is your yellow plate. The cylinder with your plate on it is attached to a mechanism where rollers add water to the blank parts of the plate. The image on your plate is made with chemicals that repel water, so the water just sticks to the negative space. Next, inking rollers apply hydrophobic yellow ink to the image. Hydrophobic literally means “afraid of water,” so this ink only sticks to the positive space on your image.

Once the ink is applied to it, your plate rolls against a blanket cylinder. This cylinder has a  rubber blanket on it that removes the water and evenly spreads out the ink. The paper or SBS you’re printing on slides in between the blanket cylinder and what’s called an impression cylinder. As it moves through the two cylinders, the image is transferred from the rubber blanket to your paper. What comes out is all of the yellow tones in your image. The paper will now continue to slide through the next blanket cylinder, let’s say this one is your cyan cylinder, and repeat the same process. Once it’s gone through all four colors, you will have a complete, full-color image! Of course, if you are very particular about your color, you can even add 5th and 6th colors. For example, if your company has a signature color–maybe a nice bright pumpkin–that dominates much of your graphics, and it’s important that it’s perfectly matched in every print, you can add another print plate and set of cylinders to the lithography process. You can also add varnishes to protect your images from scratches and add different effects, like a glossy sheen or flat matte look.

This is a difficult process to visualize. Below is an drawing of a set of cylinders–imagine your printed image going through four or more of these, sort of like an assembly line, picking up a new color each time.

(Image borrowed from http://www.ctitech.com/images/lithography.gif)

You may have noticed above that I wrote the “paper or SBS you’re printing on.” That’s because unlike flexo or digital printing, lithography can really only be used for paper, styrene,  or thin paperboard (usually up to 24-point). In order to get your litho-printed image onto your corrugated display, it has to be mounted. Mounting is basically adhering a litho image onto another substrate, and it can be done manually or automated. At Ardent, we use automated mounting because of the high volume of most of our roll-outs. We also have potdevins for mounting paper to plastic.
Coming soon, look forward to posts detailing everything you wanted to know about flexo and digital printing, but were afraid to ask! We’ll also show you how to prepare art files to get the best printing results, every time.

More on Type and Letterpress

As I talked about in a previous post, I recently visited with a former newspaper compositor named Herman Mueller to learn more about traditional typesetting. What was amazing about the visit was not only the work that went into printing text, but all of the small machinery necessary to do detail work on prints. Check out the slideshow below to learn a little bit more about the hand-powered equipment he used prior to the invention of modern printing techniques:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A huge thank you to Mr. Mueller for allowing me to visit his shop and giving me such great insight into traditional print processes.


Ardent Displays Takes Home More Industry Awards!

This week, I was lucky enough to attend the Addy Award Gala for the Ad Club of Western Massachusetts with another Ardent colleague and Ad Club member, Wendy. It was a lovely event that included a jazz quartet, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, an overarching Mad Men theme, and most importantly…

… three new ADDY Awards for Ardent Displays!

This year’s award winners were the Bottle 2 Pen Floor Display, the Philips Mobile Phone and Accessories Sales Kit, and a USB Pallet done for Staples. All the winning displays are pictured below (click on any picture for a slideshow):


Interactive Displays

While at this year’s GlobalShop in Las Vegas, I attended a number of conferences about shopper marketing, and visited a lot of booths that focused on store design and branding. One trend in particular really stuck out: interactive-point-of-purchase displays.

21st century shoppers are tech-savvy and well-informed about products–most of them do research about big purchases online before entering a brick-and-mortar store, and many shoppers do the same kind of research about everyday household purchases. So with the wealth of information and deals available online, how can physical retailers compete?

The answer is in the total shopping experience. Retailers need to create a positive aura, a sense of fun and play, a reason to visit a store beyond the products. That’s where interactive displays come into the picture. For example, check out this counter-top display we just completed for iTwin:

It’s simple, informative, and most importantly, fun. Now while you’re waiting in the check-out line, you can press a button to watch a short movie and learn about how this high-tech gadget actually works. Beats reading the back of a chewing gum package, no?

What are the best interactive displays you’ve seen recently?