Transforming ordinary walls into works of art

Digitally printed wallpaper allows for greater versatility, flexibility than traditional offerings
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
By Anita Modha

Digital wall finishes can transform an ordinary space into one that inspires and stimulates.

The nature of digital wall finishes, though still not without certain constraints, allow for many different types of imagery to be printed onto digital wallpaper substrates, including photos, illustrations and mixed media. Basically, almost any digital image can be printed onto wallpaper – keeping in mind that the higher the image resolution, the better the output, and that ownership or copyright laws apply to all digital files.

Interest in digital wall finishes has grown for a variety of reasons. These include: the flexibility the medium offers (customers can customize current stock patterns in terms of colour and scale); the ability of studios to print on demand; and the proliferation of design magazines, blogs and television shows that are featuring digital wall coverings.

Over the years, there have been many different trends in digital wall finishes, some that have lasted and others that have been more fleeting. Here are five that have stuck around.

1. Place
Imagery is used to draw people into a place, to move people through a space in an interactive way or to reference the architectural history of a building.

Vintage maps and personal travel images provide a visually transportive experience, where the viewer is guided from their current location to a place of yesteryear. These customizable maps also speak to wanderlust – the strong desire to explore, allowing people to travel while standing still.

Signage systems help people navigate through time and space, using iconography that is recognizable (for the most part) by many different cultures and age groups. The goal is to communicate a message, direction or a state of being. Wayfinding graphics on wall coverings address directional instructions in a creative way, making the functional aspects a thing of beauty. Functional iconography, which can be used in public spaces such as office buildings, lobbies and airports, also serves to minimize additional signage, keeping a space clean and contemporary.

The general approach to design today is to modernize older interiors. However, in doing so, the heritage of a building can be lost. A great way to preserve the past is to reference it through digital wall coverings. This also creates an interesting juxtaposition between old and new.

2. Corporate brand
Digital wall coverings are ideal in promoting a corporate brand. For example, at various Earls locations, scans from a set of original restaurant menus were used to develop a custom wallpaper that simultaneously reflects the brand and incorporates vintage elements in order to invoke reminiscence.

3. Personal image
Incorporating inspirational quotes into a space is a great way to impart a personal touch. Self-portraits or scanned photos are also a perfect accessory, adding a contemporary touch to any room.

People often look to cover their homes or commercial spaces with their own artwork. The addition of hand-drawn or hand-touched elements in digital wall coverings is a great way for people to feel they have helped in the creation of their space.

4. New materialism
Images or high resolution scans of handmade surface treatments such as rust, patina, concrete, wood and foiling can create visual interest as well as add warmth and texture to a space without the use of graphics or a definitive pattern.

5. Interaction
Digital wall coverings that feature word bubbles, a crossword puzzle or picture frames encourage interaction. Over time, the installation evolves and changes, creating a conversation piece for passersby.

The integration of media-rich technology, such as QR codes, takes interactive wallpaper a step further. When scanned with cell phone cameras, the QR codes allow for up-to-date information retrieval within a matter of seconds.

Anita Modha is the owner and CEO of Rollout, a creative studio that designs and digitally prints custom wallpapers by the square foot.

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