City grid wall mural


MARCH 14, 2019| SpeedPro Pittsburgh North



The marketing buzzword of 2019 is experiential marketing. Not only is the trend of millennial’s affinity for experiences over material goods spilling into other generations, but it is also impacting how marketers interact with consumers.

Marketing isn’t just about product plus branding anymore. Every single consumer touch point matters  more than ever. Marketers are tasked with not only pushing products or services, but cutting through clutter to create a fully branded experience.

Best-in-class brands are speaking to consumers through a preferred medium, elevating customer service and creating positive interaction fostering ongoing loyalty. An emerging vessel of experiential marketing is brand activation through visual mediums.

Brand activation means engaging consumers in a memorable way to form long-term emotional connections. To that end, below are nine trends we see achieving widespread adoption in 2019:

1. Interactive Graphics

Bring people together through interactive environmental graphics. Wall murals, artwork and displays can turn into community events inviting viewers to draw, color, sign and share messages through visual displays.

When the Special Olympics was in Chicago this summer, SpeedPro Chicago Loop created a 20’ canvas which offered a color-by-number-inspired template for attendees to color and connect with each other and the organization while paying tribute to the games.


Engagement marketing needs to embrace authenticity when interacting with the consumer. The Special Olympics event is an example of a hands-on, one-to-one experiential project that draws onlookers and media attention.

Brands seeking authentic connections with their audiences are increasingly identifying this type of experiential graphics to cut through the digital noise, create meaningful engagement and generate earned media to further draw attention to the organization.

2. Pop-Up Retail Brand Activation

Pop up shops, bars, salons and more are cropping up everywhere. It’s a splashy limited-time-only promotional idea that draws in new customers, as well as deepens customer loyalty.

Businesses can transform a commercial space into a brand activation platform by creating an immersive brand experience. For example, Hotel Monaco hosted a pop up “Buddy’s Bar” over the Christmas holiday featuring “Elf” inspired refreshments.  It was a fun, whimsical experience with holiday colors and an over-sized Christmas card.

Although pop-up concepts aren’t new, brands are finding new applications, particularly with traditionally e-commerce companies finding partnerships with brick-and-mortar locations to give their customers a new experience and face-to-face interaction.

3. Digitized Hand-Drawn Artwork

Engagement marketing needs to embrace authenticity when interacting with their target audiences.

The University of California at San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital of Oakland recently built a new outpatient center for children and their family members. They enlisted the help of a local SpeedPro studio.

The studio used artwork that was created by kids who had stayed at the hospital to design nearly 80 wall murals. All of the artwork was small scale, hand-drawn painted pieces on 8.5” x 11” paper.

The artwork was digitized through a high-quality scanner and printed off each piece at roughly 12.5 feet wide and at varying heights to install them as wall murals in more than 70 rooms throughout the hospital. The texture of the watercolors on paper in the scanned digital file came through on the final product, adding a deeper level of authenticity to the project.

The artwork transforms the spaces from ordinary – or even cold – into something welcoming, comforting and familiar. It’s a tactic that we anticipate brands from multiple verticals integrating in the coming year.

Concept and photos courtesy of Ed Owens, owner of SpeedPro East Bay.

4. Smartphone Imagery that Holds Up when Blown Up

Let’s face it – consumers can spot generic stock imagery from a mile away. One of the biggest trends in graphic design and branding in the coming year is a shift toward authentic imagery that seamlessly integrates into a business’s marketing campaigns.

In today’s tech-rich world there are few obstacles preventing the capture of an image that’s sufficiently high-quality to blow for most wide-format printing purposes.  Smartphone technology has developed so much that an SLR camera is only rarely a necessity.  As a result, the perceived barriers to using consumer technology in a business context have all but been erased.


5. Dimensional Lettering and Contour Cut Signage

Environmental graphics are about transforming spaces to help connect people to a specific place. And innovative uses of technology are opening up a world of options for marketers.

The combination of a flatbed printer and special computer-controlled contour cutting (CNC) machines opens up endless opportunities for customized signage décor and other products utilizing wood, acrylic, aluminum – the list goes on. The CNC allows SpeedPro studios to contour cut virtually any shape and size, whether it be dimensional letters or décor that requires multiple materials.

For example, brands can create branded furniture or standees for a brand activation using a wide range of materials, including wood, metal, Foam board and a variety of others. Or companies can create Instagram-worthy moments, like when we built a larger-than-life-size version of the American Student Dental Association’s logo during the organization’s annual conference. It was impossible to miss, this 3D signage which also served as a focal point for selfies and group photos throughout the event.

These innovative applications of wide-format printing transcend flat graphics and help brands immediately capture their audience’s attention. And as a growing number of large format graphics studios offer contour cut signage, the more brands will be able to unlock ways to activate their target audiences.

6. Custom POP

Point of purchase displays used to be cookie-cutter units of functionality to display products, but now organizations are taking these displays to the next level and using them to convey the personality of the brand.

For example, SpeedPro partnered with The Burnside Group to create 3D stackable cubes for Hilton’s PCMA event here in Pittsburgh.

 Along with the ever-expanding list of creations that CNC machines can help brands create, custom branded POP displays will increasingly be just another weapon in brands’ marketing arsenal to capture their audience’s attention.

7. Textures and Textiles

With so much effort placed on creating digital environments, what many people lack is that tangible element that connects them with brands, establishes a tactile experience and catalyzes meaningful memories.

Through experiential marketing and environmental graphics, there is a multitude of opportunities with new materials, different machines and new fabrics to transform a space now. In concert with architectural design, artwork and visual graphics play a big role in helping brands encourage a fully sensory engagement with a brand and specific space.

For a growing number of brands, wall coverings are the ideal solution. As opposed to the standard vinyl wall mural material that uses an adhesive during application, wall coverings are a textile that’s printed in panels and put up with glue. It uses a variety of textures, including suede, plaster, smooth and PVC free, which school systems and hospitals require.

With respect to materials, felt is increasingly popular. When applied to a wall, it helps environmental graphics take on something akin to a three-dimensional feel – people walk up and think it’s a wall mural, but it’s actually felt.

It has an acoustic component to it, as well, if brands have concerns or special needs with respect to noise levels. For companies with open office formats, felt panels can be made into a variety of shapes and sizes to not only add a visual aesthetic to the business environment but also reduce sound levels.

8. 3D Wall Murals and Coverings

Brands looking to add a dynamic element to a specific environment – whether it be an office or a retail space – frequently turn to wall murals and coverings. However, there’s a growing push for environmental graphics that integrate a three-dimensional element that’s not simply eye-catching but fits a brand’s identity and communicates a message, as well.

For example, one SpeedPro studio recently did rebrand with Hewlett-Packard at their Customer Welcome Center. The tech company sought out a solution that would help them create a look and feel that represents their brand – and create a cohesive aesthetic.

Initially, HP enlisted a graffiti artist to create the imagery for a 40-foot wall. The local SpeedPro studio printed a 25-foot textured wall covering as a black brick façade that looks like it was painted 20 years ago. The combination of graffiti-style artwork with the textured wall covering conveyed a hip, forward-thinking brand that has its finger on the pulse of technology and pop culture. At the same time, there’s a 10’ x 6’ screen in the center of the wall to do presentations.

When guests walk in, it truly makes a statement.


Concept and photos courtesy of Steve Moran-Cassese, owner of SpeedPro Marin.

9. Treat Space as Branding Real Estate

Think of any open surface as an opportunity for an additional touch point to create a entire brand experience. Floors can be an interesting and unique design element or  billboard to catch the eye of those glued to smartphones. A ceiling doesn’t have to be a blank space. A door or a mirror can be a catalyst for a branded experience. After all, grabbing attention is the whole point so the more outrageous, the better.

Determining Your Needs for Experiential Graphics in 2019

Any investment in experiential graphics needs to be weighed heavily against your business’s ultimate goal and how well the project aligns with your mission and values.

The most critical element of environmental graphics that has been developing over the past year and is set to serve as the foundation of innovative applications in the new year is authenticity. Experiential graphics will only work if they truly reflect your business and brand. And investing in engagement marketing tactics using interactive graphics has to be relevant and meaningful to resonate with your specific audience.

Your local SpeedPro studio is always prepared to be your wide-format printing partner when devising a strategy to push the envelope of what experiential graphics can do for your brand. Find the studio nearest you to get started.

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SpeedPro Pittsburgh North

Studio Owner

Rich Arrington