The Art and Science of Graphic Overlay Design

The Art and Science of Graphic Overlay Design

Graphic overlays are an essential user-interface component that connects users to devices in an efficient, intuitive, and aesthetically pleasing way. They must be robust, attractive, and functional, with a design that provides professional protection for a variety of applications, such as control panels, switchboards, and switch panels under various environmental conditions.

As an essential component that we have manufactured for decades to support a broad range of applications, graphic overlays are a product that needs to be highly adaptable. These varied needs have forced our team to develop a flexible process that is as much art as science to meet our customer’s requirements. Read more about our success with graphic overlays below.

The Function of a Graphic Overlay in Business

The prime function of graphic overlays is information conveyance, whether at a glance or through an in-depth investigation. An overlay communicates invaluable information about the associated device’s usage to the user, and with the right design, they will convey even more information.

The most common application of graphic overlays in business is to cover control panels and subsequently label the electronic controls on the panel for easy operation. Depending on the material required, the overlay will also help protect the underlying control mechanism from any environmental contamination. For example, a chemically damaged overlay is more efficient to replace than the electrical control board it is attached to or an LED display screen.

The Perfect Blend of Aesthetic and Function

Alongside their primary function, graphic overlays also serve as the “face” of your product, enhancing its look and feel to provide a high visual impact. The aesthetics and design branding printed on the overlay will be a subtle reminder of the application’s manufacturer and develop trust between them and the brand with repeated, successful use.

Working with our internal art studio, we seamlessly blend functionality with aesthetic appeal, striking a balance that guarantees lasting first impressions and keeps your users engaged. From different textures to various coatings, our team ensures our overlays not only serve the purpose but also look and feel exceptionally great.

Subtle Features and Their Effect on Graphic Overlay Designs

Whilst the design and materials are the most prominent features of our graphic overlays, there are a number of additional features that our design team takes into consideration to ensure the most effective product. Below are some examples of additional options and why we would include them.

Overlay Embossed Buttons

  • Rim Emboss: this creates raised borders around buttons. It offers tactile differentiation and facilitates precise finger placement. It is ideal for intricate control panels requiring selective actuation.
  • Pillow Emboss: this embossing presents raised, domed surfaces. Buttons resemble small cushions, providing positive tactile feedback. It is an excellent choice when an unmistakable touch response is vital.
  • Non-Embossed: there are conditions when we will choose flat surfaces and avoid embossing. These buttons offer a sleek, unbroken aesthetic while maintaining full functionality. They are perfect for minimalist designs, prioritising visual appeal while guaranteeing intuitive use.

Cut-outs, Transparent Screens and Secret-Till-Lit Windows

  • Transparent LED windows: these house and protect bright, vibrant displays, offering optimal visibility. Our design team weave this feature into overlays, cutting through darkness effectively.
  • Secret-till-lit windows: this feature remains hidden till backlit; they add layers of interaction. They reveal indispensable information, discreet yet discerning.
  • Cut-outs: these accommodate switches with precision. Selective lacquers provide a protective cover, enhancing aesthetic appeal. Our team uses these details with utmost care, reflecting uncompromised quality.

The Consideration of Graphic Overlay Materials and Finishes

When it comes to creating an effective and durable graphic overlay, selecting the right materials is pivotal. At GSM Graphic Arts, we understand the significance of material properties and how they shape the efficiency and longevity of graphic overlays, especially in specific environments. Our meticulous selection process takes into account technical specifications, industry demands, and aesthetic considerations for a product that skillfully strikes a balance between form and function.

Polycarbonate or Polyester?

To protect vital components like displays and switches, our graphic overlays are manufactured from one of a selection of excellent materials, polycarbonate or polyester.

Graphic overlays shield vital components. Either material can be UV-resistant and is hard-wearing, they withstand harsh weather excellently. Ideal for outdoor use, they stay resilient as long as rapid button presses stay limited.

Rapid button presses present a challenge to polycarbonate overlays as continuous impact increases the potential for cracks. Therefore, we would specify polyester when our clients want an overlay for frequent, repetitive button presses, as this material combats the cracking risk inherent in others.

Our recent expansion into digital printing of both material options has created infinite design possibilities on polyester overlays.

Finishes Catered to Different Environments and Applications

Material finishes play a crucial role in the overall durability and appearance of a graphic overlay. Taking into account the intended environment and application, we provide clients with a wide variety of surface finishes to meet their specific needs. Our team works throughout the design process to ensure an overlay that’s tailored to its purpose, offering options such as hard-wearing coatings, transparency and gloss coatings, and even incorporating corporate and brand identity.

Graphic Overlay Printing Processes

We work with an application-orientated approach, and our expert team will pick the best printing process to suit the unique requirements of each application, ensuring long-lasting, durable results for the overlays you need.

Silkscreen Printed Graphic Overlays

Our silkscreen printing process provides a durable, high-quality finish. Ideal for specialised labels and overlays, this process prints onto various materials, including polycarbonate and polyester. It caters to a diverse range of finishes such as gloss, anti-glare and selective textures.

With this process, we ensure the clarity of display windows and provide contrasting text and background areas. We colour-match the inks to all recognised colour standards, including Pantone, RAL, and BS, offering clear display windows, coloured LED windows, and secret-till-lit areas.

Sub-surface Silkscreen Printed Graphic Overlays

Sub-surface silkscreen printing allows the printing of the image on the underside of the material. This protects the ink from surface abrasions and wear and tear, ensuring the durability of overlays even under constant use. The exceptional adhesion and resistance to environmental conditions make it a perfect choice for high-stress applications.

Digitally Printed Graphic Overlays

The digital printing process is another one of our highest-quality solutions, delivering vibrant overlays capable of withstanding rigorous environmental conditions. It is perfect for designs requiring many colours, as it can print many colours automatically. This is a significant improvement over screen printing for complex designs where the ink would need to change with each new colour. However, screen printing is significantly faster for designs with minimal colours, which makes it the better choice for minimalist designs and higher volume requirements.

Anodising with Rasterize Printing

Our unique Anodising Rasterize printing process prints directly into the metal. The anodising process created minute pop marks where the ink would be injected. Integrating the ink into the top layer of metal this way adds to the lifespan and durability of overlays whilst the final covering finish seals the colour in permanently. This is Ideal for applications exposed to heavy use or harsh conditions; this method creates hard-wearing, corrosion-resistant overlays.

UK Graphic Overlay Manufacturer

Our team of graphic overlay manufacturers at GSM Graphic Arts has decades of experience and versatility to deliver tailored solutions that are crafted for seamless integration and performance in any work environment.

You will gain peace of mind for your desired overlay as our team will eliminate many of the decisions required and streamline the creation process with minimal questions to be the most efficient it can be. Contact us today to discuss what graphic overlays you need and embrace our expertise in creating reliable, durable and informative graphic overlays.