People have a natural desire to want to know what the future holds. Especially business people who are keeping an eye toward “what’s next.” In an effort to fuel this desire, we are always maintaining our database of industry insights, trend experts and other ways we can stay “in the know.” Anja Bisgaard Gade, a lifestyle trend researcher and developer from Denmark says it so well, “A trend is the beginning of a new direction, taking a turn or a twirl or a twist to something that already exists. It starts something new and then over time, will become more normal before something else will become a trend.”
The Power of Visual Communications: How Insight Drives Business Success
In the world of Visual Communications, which encompasses the various visual elements that enable an organization or business to communicate their brand, a specific message or even a campaign, insight can go a long way to providing knowledge for making great decisions. While the nuts and bolts of visual communications include anything from exterior lighted signs to graphic design, and vehicle graphics to digital signage, the tangible benefits of visuals impact a business tremendously. Whether you’re needing to direct prospects to your business, guide students easily around their new college campus or impress donors at your highest fundraising gala of the year, a business person can never run far from the need for visual communications.
Brian Boehm, Sr. Director of Supply Chain and Technical at FASTSIGNS International, Inc., recently visited Tokyo to gather insights and upcoming trends such as environmentally-friendly applications, a focus on design and interior decor, the use of AI in this industry, and more. So, without further ado, here is what our team and Brian Boehm have curated as the top trends.
Automation and AI
From hardware to software companies such as Adobe, Onyx, Topaz Labs, Epson, HP, Canon, a recurring motif for 2023 is automation. The use and growth of automation has a direct impact on the visual communications industry and its products. With so much emphasis placed on machine learning (AI) to reduce downtime, increase output, improve employee knowledge and add capacity, the automation of processes will usher in new techniques, products, finishes and more.
Through investment in AI and machine learning w Adobe, whose mission is to unlock the creative potential in everyone, strives to better understand what the user is doing to "learn" how to accomplish various tasks either automatically or faster in the future. Boehm reports that Adobe is using AI to verify the authenticity of images while giving the owner of these images the credit they deserve. Adobe recently partnered with Leica and Nikon to automatically implement authenticity tech into cameras, adding automatic metadata to show when and where a picture was taken and who took it. For content creators, this means they have reassurance they have the rights to use certain photos. For the marketing director, it means staying in tune as the industry moves to image authentication and educating their content and creative teams on best practices.
In 2023, sustainability is a high priority across all industries, including the visual communications and signage industry. Manufacturers continue to introduce environmentally friendly products, and some examples of sustainable products include PVC-free vinyl, cardboard rigid boards like Falcon Board, canvas and paper. While there is a current challenge to obtain core ingredients required to make these products due to the digital supply chain, this desire for sustainable materials--and demand--is increasing the efforts of other media manufacturers to come up with more alternatives.
As a key player in the space, Epson has continued its commitment to the earth and an effort to preserve natural resources. Over 80 years ago, the company embraced a philosophy, also known as “Sho-Sho-Sei” in Japan, of ensuring efficient, compact and precise technology in every product. From investing millions in sustainable technology and reinforcing the manufacturing of heat-free technology to their Climate Reality Barometer in 2022, Epson is a sustainability thought leader that is paving the way.
New in Digital Signage
While digital signage itself is not new, there is a product out now that does have an intriguing new twist. Novisign has launched an easy-to-use and intuitive software to create, schedule, broadcast and manage digital signage campaigns easily. What’s really impressive about this product is that it uses state-of-the-art technology, powered over a wireless connection. The Wi-Charge puck is actually installed within the ceiling and can even power multiple displays within a specific radius.
Old School and Texture
From 2D to 3D signs and faux neon, it’s true what they say - what’s old is new again! While the Ukraine supplies about 75% of the world’s neon which has created an understandable shortage, the shortage does not affect the faux neon that FASTSIGNS provide their clients.
A trend that marketers need to keep top-of-mind in 2023 is that one-dimensional (read - boring) custom signs will be elevated (pun intended!) by adding texture or varnish. The trend for texture and layering started popping up in home decor several years ago and has now morphed into contemporary signage. Signs and applications with multiple finishes/substrates will be “built up” to create a singular, more complete look that involves a higher level of craftsmanship.
Interior Decor-Based Products
Marketers are employing a more holistic approach to creating spaces with graphics that blend into the surrounding area as if they had been a natural part of the original design. Interior decor-based products enable visual communications experts to accomplish this. So how do we define interior decor-based products in the custom graphics category? To us, they refer to films that look like architectural finishes, frosted window films, acoustic panels that absorb sound, and materials like wood, metal and PVC that incorporate unique textures that add a visual dimension and discernible depth.
These higher-end applications are completely changing the way spaces make people feel and the impact they have on them. Brian Boehm has noticed these more sophisticated interior products popping everywhere from tradeshows such as NeoCon to high-end hotels, museums, upscale restaurants and interior decor publications.
Acoustic Panels have become a strong contender in the texture discussion for 2023. In their earlier iterations, acoustic panels were sound-absorbing, strategically positioned on walls, ceilings or hung, with a wide range of benefits that included sound reduction, improved speech intelligibility, creating productive meeting spaces and enhancing the privacy level for open floor plans. Functional, yes. Visually pleasing--not so much.
The aesthetics of acoustic panels have now moved front and center, as they are being utilized heavily for enhancing interior design and decor. These applications can be an elaborate work of art, or even be formed to create a finished 3-D piece like a chandelier or wall decor and custom dividers. Interlam and Acoustical Art Concepts are two examples of companies moving the design and function ball forward.
Decorative Wall and Window Coverings
Decorative wallcoverings, such as Dreamscape, are seeing heightened popularity. The trend has moved beyond the printed component to the texture of the wall covering itself. In addition, premium window fabrics like Veilish (an adhesive-backed fabric) and Squid textile window films help elevate any space and also provide a sense of privacy.
White and varnish inks increase the perceived quality of the piece. Varnish is used to accentuate a part of a print to draw the viewer's attention and increase the perceived value. White and varnish is also necessary for producing texture on prints and ADA braille signage.
Earth Tones and Botanical Beauty
A botanical motif, which catapulted with a rise in living walls and green visuals several years ago, is ramping up even more as an anecdote for a stressful, anxious world to one of well-being and serenity. While in Tokyo, Brian Boehm witnessed an increased usage of botanical pieces indoors across walls, sconces, art pieces and focal points.
For forecasted paint colors, we are seeing a return to what’s natural as Bob Vila shares on his blog - from Dutch Boy’s Botanic color collection, a forecasted 2023 trend palette to Dunn-Edwards Color of the Year, Terra-Rosa. And don’t forget, Sherwin Williams’ 2023 Color of the Year, Redend Point, which comes from a 40-color grouping called The Terra Collection, a nod back to customers’ intimate connection with the Earth.
"People have been drawn to nature-inspired and earthy tones the past couple years, and this is something that will continue into 2023 and beyond," says Sue Wadden, director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams. "Greens, blues, and browns can make any space feel safe, calming, and grounded yet still energized."
Also, who could pass up a color discussion without mentioning Pantone’s 2023 Color of the Year, Viva magenta, with a focus on invoking the forces of nature in a color that not only galvanizes the spirit but also aids to build our internal fortitude.
Whether you’re a business leader trying to get ideas or a marketing or creative director mapping out your visual communication needs in 2023, FASTSIGNS can help you achieve more than you ever thought possible. Call us today!
Brian Boehm, Sr. Director of Supply Chain and Technical at FASTSIGNS International, Inc., who is well-known in the signs and graphics circles, attends a myriad of industry events and speaking at some of them, shares his expertise daily in the custom signs and visual solutions industry. He also belongs to several "think" groups for Adobe, Epson, HP, Keenvcut, Onyx and Canon to help them develop ideas to make better products. On his most recent visit to Epson in Japan, Brian noticed there was a focus on environmentally friendly applications, a strong use of negative interior space for a clean, modern look, and also a botanical theme used across walls, sconces and art pieces. With Brian’s expertise, he helped us curate this visual communications 2023 insight list.