Elephant made out of cardboard
Durable card stands

Durable Cardboard Display Stands

The search for good, durable cardboard display stands has been ongoing practically since cardboard was made. The struggle is to find something adaptable enough to be easily fabricated to different creative designs, while also sturdy enough to be able to bear weight. 

Traditionally, this would have been made out of a mixture of available and workable materials: wood, fabric, plastics, and so on. But there are serious limitations with these. Firstly, wood can be cumbersome and can only be worked with by skilled workers with the right tools.

It can also be expensive when compared to paper products – and using cheaper wood or fiberboard alternatives is often immediately visible through poor finishes or lacklustre durability. You can assemble and paint display stands in-store, sure, but this then runs the very real risk of a final result that looks far too DIY. From the designer’s point of view, moreover, this leaves a huge amount of room for error. 

When designing display stands for products, you want to be sure that the product is displayed the same way in possibly hundreds of different shopfronts.

Sustainability in retail display stands

The best alternative, then, is to use plastics. Easily mass-produced to a variety of designs and colours, easily assembled, with little-to-no possibility that a particularly unimaginative member of staff will mess up the final product. It makes sense why plastic-based displays have been the go-to for retail designers for so long, but we’re now seeing the terrible effects of throwaway plastics on our environments.

More and more, we’re realising that it’s not sustainable to rely on single-use plastics wherever alternatives are possible – and whenever industries assume that alternatives are impossible, someone seems to pop up to prove them wrong.

So the best alternative so far has been to make display stands out of cardboard. This, while meeting the ‘recyclability’ criteria, quite quickly falls short in the ‘durability’ field. Don’t believe us? Try accidentally walking into any display stand in a supermarket. You likely won’t make too much noise with it, but you’ll certainly leave a mark. If you’re unlucky, you’ll also have a very cross store manager looking at you – if you’re lucky, you can blame it on your kids. Regardless, you’ll see how much work cardboard display stands need in order to be able to stand up to the footfall of retail outlets.

What’s a more robust alternative to cardboard?

The way to get to a better product here isn’t to reinvent the wheel – the actual material of cardboard is great. It’s easily shapeable, it’s recyclable, and it doesn’t take a thousand years to decompose. The problem is in its construction.

Traditional corrugated cardboard (with the w-shaped flutes) is fine for some applications. It works relatively well for boxes, for example, because its strength lies along the side profile of the board. But, when you need a tall section, like for a display stand, then it becomes very weak, very fast. You then need to figure out different ways of reinforcing it, which inevitably creates more material, more assembly, and more wasted time.

Our Ultra Board paper honeycomb is a similar construction to cardboard, but the internal honeycomb shape makes it surprisingly strong – both for standing and for compressing. This means that it can be cut into a huge variety of shapes that’ll be able to stand in any way and withstand any particularly energetic children.

If you stand on a flat piece of cardboard, you’re likely going to leave a footprint. If you stand on 16mm Ultra Board 3D, you could get another 374 people on your shoulders before it would break (assuming you weigh the average 80kg) – it can hold up to 30tonnes per square meter!

Crucially, for the designer, this means a whole lot more creative freedom. Suddenly, you’re not bound by large limitations in fabrication.


If you’d like to learn more about how our Ultra Board can help you free your designs, get in touch and tell us what you’d like to make.

27 April 2021