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Balloons bloom at Macy’s Flower Show

November 1st, 2010 / By: / Graphics

The project. Constructing printed hot air balloons for Macy’s Flower Show, which began in 1946 and attracts more than 500,000 visitors to view an annual display of flowering trees and plants from around the world. The show transforms five Macy’s stores in San Francisco, Minneapolis, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York City into fantasy environments celebrating the return of spring.

The companies. Macy’s designed the balloons for the 2010 show theme, “Spring is in the Air.” Moss Inc. in Chicago fabricated and printed the balloons for the New York City, Philadelphia and Chicago stores.

The task. “For Macy’s, it was very important the balloons have an authentic look and feel to blend in with the aesthetic style of the event,” says Jana McQuilkin, marketing manager for Moss. The balloons had to be centerpieces at each store, embodying the vibrant colors and festive spirit of the show.

The challenge. Moss had to map the 2-D balloon image onto the 3-D surface of the fabric structure, a task that proved to be the most challenging aspect of the project. The artwork depicted a rope wrapped around the balloon, and the printed rope had to line up with an actual rope used in the display. In order for the balloon to appear real, all of the hardware used to build the structure had to be hidden.

The solution. Moss used CAD software to map the 3-D surface of the balloon without distorting the 2-D image. The artwork was printed onto Soft Knit, a warp knit fabric from Fisher Textiles made from 100-percent polyester. Printing was completed using a VUTEk printer and eight-color VUTEk ink. The seams, framework and zippers of the structure were disguised within the display.

The result. The balloons served as the perfect focal point in each store. The Chicago store balloon, which was suspended from a cable, reached two stories high. The balloon at the Philadelphia store sat atop a plant-filled basket encircled with flowers. The New York store featured half of a balloon protruding from the ceiling surrounded by acrylic butterflies.

Abbie Yarger is a freelance writer based in St. Louis Park, Minn.

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