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?



The History of Type Design

At Ardent, we’re not just passionate about point-of-purchase displays. We have enthusiasts on our staff about every conceivable design field. Two of our designers, for example, are photography buffs. Our president loves rebuilding his ’61 Fiat. And my design niche is fonts and typography.

Mr. Mueller type-set my name, Crista. Notice how all of the letters had to be both backwards and upside-down to print correctly.

In order to learn more about where the standards of typography come from, I recently met with Mr. Herman Mueller. Mr. Mueller was born in Germany, where he apprenticed as a typesetter in the mid 1950s and worked as a compositor at a local newspaper. In other words, Mr. Mueller was responsible for setting the text of every newspaper page, every single day. Even he admits that it’s hard to fathom putting a paper together like that each day. The process went a little something like this:

  1. Each compositor had a case like the one below, where each drawer was filled with the numbers and letters of a particular font at a particular point size, e.g. 12-pt Garamond. Without looking–memorizing the drawer layout was a part of the apprenticeship– a compositor would pick out the letters and order, upside-down and backwards, and place them in a composite stick. 
  2. The composite sticks (like the one in the first picture), were used to create newspaper headlines. Once all of the type was spaced correctly in the stick, a compositor would carefully take the text and place it onto a form and organize it so that everything was packed tightly enough to stay put. 
  3. The longer newspaper stories were set using a Linotype machine. Linotype machines were similar to modern keyboards, but they produced “slugs” out of molten metal. These slugs, like the ones below, were individual lines of type that had to be organized around the hand-set headlines on a press form. 
  4. Once the page form was complete, it would be sent through an automated letterpress that would ink the surface of the form and press it onto a roll of paper that would then be cut into distinct pages.

It’s incredible to think that only a few generations ago, every single periodical was put together by craftsmen like Mr. Mueller. He also showed me an old catalog of typesetting equipment:

This section is where you would purchase sets of fonts for your collection. Mr. Mueller admitted he preferred sans-serif fonts like Helvetica; because all the lines were straight up and down, it was much easier to space text in that font than, say, Monotype Corsiva.

Of course, there is more to publishing periodicals than letters and punctuation. Look out for a new post coming soon about some of the other machines and processes involved in traditional printing!


Ardent Displays Earns More OMA Awards!

Last year, Ardent took home a bronze OMA Award for our Bic Mark-It display. In 2012, despite steep international competition…

We doubled our success and took home two new OMAs!

Below are the winners, the Bottle2Pen Floor Display and the Ultimat Vodka Floor Display:

(Click on the thumbnails to see full-size images.)

Ultimat and B2P were both praised for their eye-catching structures, durability, and high-quality graphics.


How to Set Up an Award-Winning Display

Last week, an Ardent team and I were lucky enough to attend this year’s POPAI GlobalShop and OMA Awards in Las Vegas. It was a great event and we were all happy to learn about some of the cutting-edge trends in point-of-purchase displays. Even better, of course, was taking home two POPAI “Indian” Awards! More on that to follow.

For those of you who attended GlobalShop, you probably remember the exposition center looking sharp and organized. When my colleagues and I arrived, however, it was just a giant room of crates, pallets, and packing material. We spent Monday morning setting up and merchandising our entries–luckily it wasn’t too tough of a job, since we specifically design all of our displays to be simple assemblies:

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I think they look pretty polished, don’t you?

We can’t wait to do this again next year! Hope to see you there.


More News on Martha!

The Martha Stewart & Avery home office line has launched! As you may remember from an earlier post on this project (read about it here), Ardent was chosen to design and manufacture custom gondolas for Martha Stewart and Avery’s new line of home office goods in over 1,450 Staples stores. Throughout November, December, and January, we’ve been designing, manufacturing (in 18 factories!), shipping, and providing 24-hour assistance to the installers across the country putting this display together.

Well, it looks like all of our hard work has paid off. This week, I was lucky enough to attend the press event for Martha’s line in Staples’ Manhattan flagship store. The event was beautiful:

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True to the good taste of Martha’s team, the event featured sparkling cider with freshly cut pineapple, goodie bags, and bouquets of red carnations. Staples president Demos Parneros and Avery-Dennison VP Timothy Bond were also at the event, giving speeches and admiring the product line.

We received great compliments on the gondola, as well as the signage (Ardent printed the banners for the product launch), but the most flattering moment of all was seeing Martha next to our display! (Check out the final photo from the Associated Press.)

She even signed some Ardent baseball caps:

We definitely think this project is a “good thing.”


Amped Up

We recently expanded our manufacturing capabilities in a big way by investing in a number of die cutters & tooling machines. The new machines required a huge power expansion: the new transformer needed a crane just to put it in place! Check it out below:

Come back soon to see video of our new machines up & running!


What on Earth Is Dye Sublimation?

When designing a display or a banner, it’s really important to make the right choice about printing process. You need to know how your printing choices will affect the look, feel, cost, and lead time of your product.

The rich color of the fabric is due to the dye sublimation process.

Of the many options for printing, one of the most interesting ones is dye sublimation. If you listened carefully in high school chemistry, you may remember that sublimation is the process of solid state materials changing into gas  without becoming a liquid in between– this is the essence of dye sublimation printing. Dye sublimation printers use heat to transfer dyes onto plastic, paper, or fabric without the dye ever going through a liquid phase. Consequently, one of the key benefits of dye sublimation is that prints are dry the moment they leave the printer, and there’s never an opportunity for ink blots or spots to damage your prints. Overall, the image quality of sublimated product is exceptionally clear, bright, and vivid.

Dye sublimation is an especially popular process for fabric printing, because the extreme heat penetrates fabric fibers and allows for a highly detailed and saturated image.

Here’s another example of a banner we’ve produced at Ardent, where dye sublimation was the best printing choice to allow for rich, accurate color:

According to Steve, our on-staff dye sub expert, this process is also excellent for personalized gifts or promotional products, for two reasons:

1) The process is hand-made, one-by-one, so it’s easy to apply unique logos or designs.

2) Besides fabric, dye sublimation is commonly used on metals and ceramics. The process makes products washable and microwave safe, so it’s a good choice for something like company mugs.

Still have questions about dye sublimation? Leave them in the comments!