“What posters were on your wall as a teen?”
This question, although simple, is sure to elicit nostalgia, smiles, and plenty of insight into the person who’s answering it. The experience of decorating your space to reflect the things you love is one that’s nearly universal. And it’s not something that stops when we grow up —but maybe our posters can grow up with us.
Enter Displate, a Poland-based company that makes posters printed on metal, featuring everything from abstract art to officially licensed imagery from the likes of Marvel, Star Wars, and DC comics. These decorative pieces are durable, easy to install, and simple to swap for an always-fresh fandom setup.
We chatted with Displate’s deputy head of partnerships, Wojciech Ruszkowski, about what makes Displates different, the design and licensing process, his favorite Displates, and more.
The Pop Insider: To start, can you explain what makes a Displate different from a traditional poster?
Wojciech Ruszkowski: It’s a completely different experience. Holding a Displate in your hands feels very unique, not only because of the high-quality print, but also the metal itself. It’s quite heavy and instantly makes you feel like you’re interacting with a high-quality product.
Metal also makes Displates very durable. Back in my teenage years, I used to have a lot of posters in my room, mostly with my favorite bands. And as much as I would love to keep them to this day, they’re all gone now. See, time is not very gentle on paper. Meanwhile, I had a few Displates mounted at my home over six years ago and they still look brand new.
Speaking of, my favorite feature is definitely our innovative metal mounting system. Unlike paper posters, Displates are safe for your walls and you can hang them in just about 20 seconds with no additional tools needed.
PI: Displate offers a variety of licensed designs for many pop culture brands. What is the process like for creating these posters? Do the companies provide the images or does Displate design them?
WR: Actually, it’s both. Usually, when we start a cooperation, we work with design libraries provided by our partners. So initially we simply resize their graphic materials and fit them to Displate formats with some small enhancements. This allows us to launch our Brand Shops relatively quickly, within two or three weeks. This is what we call the first wave.
The real fun begins with the second wave. That’s when we can unleash our creativity and finally add some of our own Displate touch. Once our partners allow us to design our own artworks (most of them do), our internal team of talented artists start working on unique designs from scratch.
Of course, each artwork first needs to be approved by the licensors, sometimes even as early as the sketch stage. But throughout the years we’ve gained a lot of trust from our partners and many of them approach us to create something new for their brands. Those designs often end up being bestsellers.
PI: What are some of your favorite licensed collections offered by Displate? Which ones tend to be the most popular?
WR: Oh gosh, that’s a tough one. We have more than 12,000 licensed artworks available on our website, so there’s a lot to choose from. I really like the unique collections created by Displate artists, like Star Wars Lightsabers. I’m also a big Peaky Blinders fan and I love every single collection in our Peaky Blinders brand shop. Those artworks really convey the spirit of the show and its many details.
Oh, and the music posters! My old paper band posters may be gone, but I got a few Displates with Iron Maiden album covers. I just couldn’t resist. After all, that’s what Displate is all about — collecting passions.
PI: You also allow artists to set up their own Displate marketplaces and create their own designs. How do you balance fan art with officially licensed designs?
WR: Actually, this is the heart of our business. Currently, there are more than 40,000 artists on Displate who create their own designs. So far they’ve released over 2 million artworks. Compare it to 12,000 licensed designs and it should give you a good idea of why we’re a managed marketplace in the first place.
That said, there’s a significant difference in, let’s call it revenue weight, between the licensed artworks and original designs. On average, a single licensed design generates much more income than one created by an artist. I say “on average” because we still have a lot of big artists’ hits.
What’s important here is that we’re simply just catching up to the marketplace business with licensed Displates. Three years ago we had only around 20 official partnerships. Now it’s over 140, with 80 new Brand Shops opened only last year. And we definitely don’t stop here. We’ve built a very effective Partnership Team with top market specialists and now our goal is to double the number of Brand Shops in the next 2-3 years.
PI: Can you explain the unique installation system for Displates in more detail? Why was it important to offer an easy installation option?
WR: Sure I can. As I told you, it’s my favorite feature! Our mounting system is really innovative but at the same time very simple. And that’s the beauty of it.
So the first thing you need to do is to stick a small piece of paper to the wall. We call it the protective leaf, because it has dozens of tiny sticky points which protect your walls from damage when you remove it. Once you’re done with the protective leaf, you need to attach the magnet. It has only one adhesive side, so mounting it is extremely easy. And that’s it! You’re now ready to hang your Displate.
The magnet keeps the metal poster firmly on the wall and the whole process takes seconds. We offer a fully innovative product because each Displate is not only a print on metal but also a geeky mounting system. The word “geeky” is crucial here. Most of our customers are gamers and pop culture fans looking for unique products that resonate with their passions.
PI: Displate offers a variety of limited-edition designs. How do you decide which designs are released this way and why did Displate decide to start offering limited styles like this?
WR: There are only 54 Limited Editions during a year. They drop each Thursday with a limited run of 1,500-2,000 copies. Some of them sell out within hours.
From a business perspective, choosing the right designs for our Limited Editions is the most crucial part. We need to give our customers something they’re really looking for. See, we’re all very passion-driven people here at Displate, and picking the right artwork is not always easy. After all, a design that we love may not necessarily resonate with our customers. So we often have to turn that business switch on and make our decisions based on rough data instead of our own taste and gut feeling.
So in general, it’s a combination of a few aspects. First, we keep an eye on ongoing events like movie or TV series premieres, anniversaries, video game releases, etc. Then we analyze some of our top selling artworks. Finally, we also take our community’s requests into consideration. And okay, sometimes we also throw in some gut feeling in the mix.
The reason why we introduced the Limited Editions in the first place was to give our community something more premium and feed their inner collector’s hunger. Most of our customers usually start with buying a few Displates only to come back for more after some time. They often send us photos of their walls, beautifully decorated with their Displate collections. That’s why we want to give them something more – not only a fantastic, special design but also a precious item that gets more valuable with time. Just like figurines.
PI: Is there anything else you would like to add about Displate?
WR: I think the story of our growth is one worth telling. Nine years ago, we started with just three people on board. When I joined Displate 6 years ago, there were around 40 employees. Now there are more than 400! Each year we double our revenue and we definitely want to stick to that path. When I think about our success, the first thing that comes to mind is the people. During my time here at Displate I’ve met many exceptional, hard-working, and inspiring people who have completely reshaped my professional life. Special kudos to the License and Concept Art Teams – you guys are the real doers and your commitment is out of this planet!
Another thing is our eco-friendly approach. From the very beginning, we have cooperated with Trees For The Future. It’s a foundation that helps us plant a tree in Tanzania for every Displate sold. So far, we’ve planted over 15 million trees. We look for every opportunity to limit our carbon footprint. For example, when you order your Displates, they will come in this really cool packaging that’s entirely made out of simple, recyclable cardboard boxes.
Displate’s full collection of metal posters is available to shop now at displate.com.