Cloud Nine

June 29th, 2022 by Nathan Hobbs

Custom Printed Film Elevates Above Traditional Options

By Chris Collier

More than half the households in Los Angeles speak a non-English language at home as their primary language, according to Data USA. Encompassing roughly three square miles, Koreatown wears that diversity proudly. Los Angeles’ STM Advanced Window Film Solutions coordinated with Lux Graphic Imaging in Shirley, N.Y., for a cross-country, custom film installation signaling the sway of singularity.

Corporate Customization

“We delivered a product that created a workspace to match the cultural diversity of the area as well as the people working in and visiting the space,” says Hann Kim, president of dealer STM Advanced Window Film Solutions in Los Angeles.

The 2,400 square-feet project showcases an array of citizens towering amongst a city as one. Extending the expanse of half of the building’s front windows, the display peaks at eight feet. Lux Graphic Imaging printed the piece and brought Kim’s ideas to life.

“Continuity of the graphic across the building and getting the right opacities of an [etch look was most challenging],” Kim adds. “ … We provided them with accurate measurement and the numbering of the panels. Lux provided a proof that showed what it would look like.”

Lux Graphic Imaging previously focused on window film installation, but today, the company primarily supplies window film companies with printed products. Custom film comprises 97% of all decorative film sales at the business.

“Three percent is probably some type of generic frost, basic gradient film or a dual feather gradient,” says Mike Pisano, chief operating officer at Lux Graphic Imaging, of a fading option. “… It’s going up every year as awareness comes about. As more designers and decorators know they can think of it and do it—knowing that it can be put onto film—it’s getting bigger and bigger.”

Life in Layers

“We started in decorative film in the ‘90s, [selling] basic frost and black-out films,” Kim says. “Those have a certain amount of limitations. Our customers are looking for something a little more unique—a little more identity-based for their company. You have to stretch your imagination to develop a design or concept that’s fitting for the client, individual or company.”

Decorative films compose an estimated 50% of the business at STM Advanced Window Film Solutions. Custom film makes up more than half of that percentile. The process is lengthy from start to finish, but additional factors facilitate higher fees.

“There’s design time, a set-up fee, installation, materials and tax involved with the material,” Kim explains. “You have to break down and itemize each line item you’re billing for.”

New construction has slotted opportunities for dealer Naples Tint Company in Naples, Fla. The company has seen decorative film sales climb to 15 percent overall.

“I attribute that to new residential glass codes requiring energy-efficient glass and less of an extreme need for solar control window films,” says Matthew Sandherr, owner of Naples Tint Company. “It changed my focus on new construction to, ‘They’re putting [in] clear-front, impact and energy-efficient doors and clear shower enclosures. [Decorative film] was something we could offer to thousands of new homes being built in the area.”

Vetrilite of Coral Springs, Fla., supplies film to dealer Naples Tint Company and assists with an increased slate of distinct, decorative desires. “40% of what we do is custom for shower enclosures and front doors,” Sandherr adds.

Pricey Printing

Dealers in the commercial sector facilitate the bulk of Lux Graphic Imaging’s business. Pisano oversees a design department and manages a line-up of printers. He says it’s a costly process most dealers don’t comprehend. “People think, ‘I’m going to buy a printer—I’m going to get right into it and make a boatload of cash,’” says Pisano, who noticed an uptick six years ago. “Eighty percent of window film dealers don’t realize what’s truly involved in becoming a big printer of decorative films. I don’t think they realize the costs involved in proper machinery, staff, designers and maintenance. As the machines get bigger, it’s like running a Lamborghini every day.”

Has frosted film peaked in the architectural world? Pisano thinks newer architects and firms on the cutting edge are moving away from basic films and shifting more towards custom printed options. Sandherr says dealers miss opportunities when dismissing non-traditional options.

“Tell the customer, ‘These are our traditional options; it’s a neutral way to go. But we can also do this,’” he says. “The right client is going to want to do the custom work. It might not be the perfect fit for the more economical client, but at least you’re not leaving it out of the picture.”

It’s a venture that Kim vouches for. “It would take doing at least one project— maybe in their own space with some conference windows,” Kim says. “Work through the process with a company who could potentially provide mockups, examples and renderings that could be Custom film facilitates 97% of all decorative film sales at Lux Graphic presented to the client.”

Welcome Back?

Microsoft surveyed 31,102 workers around the world between January and February 2022. Nearly half of leaders say their company already requires or is planning to require employees to return to in-person work full-time in the next year.

On the other hand, the ADP Research Institute published a report titled “People at Work 2022: A Global Workforce View.” The initiative surveyed more than 32,000 workers in November 2021 from the U.S., India, the Netherlands and other countries. Sixty-four percent cited that “they have already, or would consider, looking for a new job if their employer wanted them back in the office full-time.”

As employers and their team members clash on the now controversial idea of the cubicle, creative solutions shine in the foreground.

“The only limitation in this field is your imagination,” Kim says. “You have to think beyond what is currently available. Look at photos and environments; you don’t know what you will get. When you present something, it’s quite extraordinary how the client responds to it.”

Decorative Film Artists Compete

The International Window Film Conference and Tint-Off™ (WFCT) returns to San Antonio Sept. 14-16, 2022 with its first-ever Decorative Film Competition. The showdown is designed to honor the window film installers who complete the best decorative film installations. Each competitor will be judged on professionalism and the ability to apply film to a specified glass efficiently and expertly. The registration deadline is July 15, 2022.

Prize Package
First Place: $5,000
Second Place: $2,500
Third Place: $1,000

Win This Printer

A Mutoh Printer complete with training and accessories worth $30,000 will be given away at WFCT 2022. Visit Mutoh on the show floor for a sneak peek of what the printer is capable of. Details on the drawing: All registered attendees* at the International Window Film Conference and Tint-Off™ (WFCT) are entered to win. Each day of the show, a finalist will be selected and announced on location and through the WFCT Mobile App. On Friday, September 16, the three finalists will be drawn from for one lucky winner to be announced at 1:30 p.m. on the show floor. Mutoh will ship a brand new printer to the winner.

*Sponsors and non-exhibiting suppliers are not eligible for the daily drawings

Chris Collier is the assistant editor for Window Film magazine. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Facebook.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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