If you make custom signs or short runs of wide-format prints, you must continuously develop new skills in order to expand your print shop. That’s because print-business diversification requires much more than increasing your shop’s capacity to make signs and graphics.

Although the demand for short runs of wide-format graphics is rising, many of the newest buyers of printed graphics will expect your shop to help solve complex problems related to fabrication, logistics, and installation.

Today, many large-format graphics are being used as part of branded corporate or retail environments or elaborate experiential activations or events. So, in addition to knowing how to print graphics on all types of materials for walls, windows, floors, and outdoor signs, you will be working with a broader range of clients. Instead of primarily serving graphic designers, your print shop may be working design firms that help clients create corporate, hospitality, and retail interiors or stage sets and props for interactive multimedia events and experiences.

To serve this expanding client base, your sales, customer service, prepress, and production teams should develop skills in these six areas: communications, fabrication, consulting, visualization, project management, and relationship-building.

Industry-Specific Communications. Working with designers who are producing live, multimedia experiences or renovating building spaces is much different than working with a designer who simply wants to print posters and marketing collateral. You may need to learn the language of architectural planning or scenic design or keep up with changes in building codes.

In some case, your shop will have to adapt your traditional processes to conform to the preferences of architects and general contractors. For example, instead of requesting additional information over the phone, you may need to submit questions via a more formal “Request for Information” process. These practices help architects and contractors successfully manage the costs, quality, and timeliness of projects that may include hundreds of other elements beyond printed graphics, custom signs, or decorative elements.

Fabrication. In addition to traditional contour cutting and laminating equipment, you may need to add services such as prototyping, sewing, thermoforming, routing, engraving, 3D printing, or SEG frame building.

Consulting. Once you have a clear vision of the solution the designer wants to create for his or her client, you should be able to propose alternative solutions, based on the capabilities of your shop and its outsourcing partners. Some clients may want to incorporate lighting, projections, videos, or touchscreens into an exhibit or experiential activation.

This means keeping up to date with new materials and technologies for creating three-dimensional elements, backlit murals, backdrops, and prints for walls, fabrics, floors, and windows. As your awareness of alternative fabrication methods grows, you will be able to suggest the most efficient and cost-effective way to achieve the designer’s intent.

Visualization. Instead of simply supplying a proof, your shop may be asked to prepare accurately scaled drawings. Exhibit designers, event producers, or retail-store designers may want to see how the printed elements or fabricated props fit into the overall design.

Project management. Managing complex projects that involve creating, shipping, and installing multiple elements requires close attention to job details and timelines. In addition to communicating the project designer’s vision to your fabrication team, you will need to ensure that all of the pieces of the project are created and delivered by the specified time.

If the design team changes the original scope of the project, you may need to negotiate changes to your original fees. To prevent misunderstandings, your shop needs systems to document and resolve problems that arise during the execution of the project.

Relationship-Building. When you work with different types of clients beyond the traditional realm of graphic communications, you have a golden opportunity to gain referrals to prospects you might never have known about. As you build successful working relationships with every member of a project team, they may recommend you to other people that design branded environments, experiential activations, or big events.

Automating Everyday Work Can Help

As custom-designed graphics are integrated into larger, more elaborate projects, you need systems in place that can help you create custom quotes and keep track of all of the job specs and related costs. Any oversights or production delays on a complex project can be costly. Not only will mistakes cut the profitability of your print shop, but they will also affect your ability to get future business and referrals.Ordant has developed an easy-to-use print-shop management program that reflects our in-depth knowledge of the changing demands on all types of print businesses and sign shops. Our estimating, order management, and customer-relationship management tools can be easily customized as your shop adds new services, equipment, and clients. To schedule a demonstration, visit www.ordant.com