Work on this scale, and on the scale of the Jubilee print, throws up a huge number of logistical issues. Besides the basics of finding large-format specialists and finishers, something like the Tate wrap requires the installation of a bespoke frame, overseen by scaffolding engineers, as well as teams of specialist climbers or abseilers to install the piece.
“What one has to do is make sure all the calculations are being done accurately for wind loadings. If you put a great big frame or great big print – what effectively is going to be a sail – on the side of a building, a big gust of wind is going to end up taking the building or the scaffolding down if it’s not been carefully thought through,” explains Murray. This may also involve using perforated textiles that can absorb wind.
But, despite these headaches, Murray agrees that ultra-wide-format projects in print can be captivating and, with advancing technology from the manufacturers combined with the ideas of advertisers and printers, there’s more to come. “We’ll keep finding new uses for wide-format print,” he explains. “With the nature of the machinery that’s now coming in the market you can actually brand a road that cars can drive up and down. There are always new materials coming out, there are new machines that have better capabilities. They’re faster, they’re more efficient and they’re greener.”
For operators such as CBS Outdoor and Murray, this last point is a strong one, especially when it comes to digital. Not only are the costs of digital screens on a super- wide scale currently prohibitive (although Murray expects organic screens to eat into some of the market over the next two decades), but for complicated, fiddly projects like wrapping a whole street, which is being redeveloped, or the floor of a train station, as CBSO does for FedEx at Southfields every Wimbledon fortnight, it will almost always be more practical to use printed collateral.
Perhaps the most impressive corridor of wide-format print in the UK is the flyover stretch of the M4 running in and out of West London. Driving over it, you can see projects such as Service Graphics’ giant Olympic wrap for the headquarters of GlaxoSmithKline and the wraps on the EMC Tower.
The EMC work was done by Hull-based RMC Digital Print, and sales executive Nicole Spencer believes it’s a good example of where print can still outdo digital screens. “For the EMC tower, they wanted to put a digital ad up there, but they couldn’t get planning permission,” she explains.
Spencer suggests that looser regulations – such as how close digital ads can be to the road, make print a more practical option when it comes to these bombastic displays.
Service Graphics’ King agrees: “Some of these areas are temporary short-term usage so, with that in mind, print becomes the perfect route to go down. Firstly, because it’s economical and secondly, because there’s no hardware outlay – it’s a print installation and that often utilities the fabric of the building that’s already there. Or, alternatively, the temporary structure that’s there to protect the work that’s being done.”