Guest Post by Lori Hanken, Total Displays
So you bought or are renting a new trade show exhibit. It is exciting the possibilities in front of you. When you are on the trade show floor you have one chance to capture someone’s attention. The structure is just part of it. The bigger thing?
Trade Show Graphics!
Let’s talk graphic design. What do you think of when you hear someone is a graphic designer? Do you think about logos? Websites? Flyers? Social Media? Here is what I think (I really should say know, but I don’t want to sound arrogant).
Graphic Design is TOO broad of a category. Let’s run a little scenario. You have a “marketing firm”. That marketing firm helps you with campaigns, print campaigns, email campaigns, social media campaigns, maybe some logo design and other fun things like that. Then you decide it is time to update your trade show exhibit. Who do you turn to? Your marketing agency?
Alternatively, it seems like many recent marketing graduates or unemployed graphic designer has created a home based business to offer graphic design services to companies. Be very careful hiring these people without vetting them first. I am all about entrepreneurship, but your trade show graphics will have a HUGE impact on your success at a trade show.
Let me tell you a little secret. DESIGNING FOR TRADE SHOW DISPLAYS IS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT THAN ANYTHING ELSE! We have seen trade show graphics that read like a marketing flyer. We have seen backwall graphics that are so busy with lifestyle or action shots and color that your brain goes, ‘WHHHOOOOOAAAA”, just looking at it.
Graphic Design Tips and Advice
You have 2.5 seconds to catch someone’s eye at a trade show or event. Here are some high level things to consider.
- People are NOT going to read all your copy. Your trade show exhibit is not a marketing flyer. Yes, I will say this multiple times.
- Putting graphics behind a counter or a table? The graphics are lost.
- Trying to align images (depending on the system) across structural seams is VERY difficult for fabric graphics.
- Putting messaging on the bottom of your display? No one will see them.
- Busy, busy, busy graphics with lots of images, color and text will be ignored (unless that is part of your brand).
- Images from a website or print media do not generally enlarge well for trade show exhibits.
- A jpeg of your logo may not enlarge well.
We have had numerous interactions with “trade show exhibit graphic designers” over the years. Based on the questions they ask and the designs they create, it’s often pretty clear they do not specialize in trade show graphic design. It is a completely different animal from digital marketing, website, or even print marketing.
If you are designing new graphics for a trade show exhibit, here are a couple of suggestions.
- Ask for references from your agency of choice for large format, trade show exhibit design clients.
- Check their website. A bullet item that says they do trade show booths or graphics, doesn’t mean they excel at trade show graphics.
- Check their website or ask them for examples of previous trade show work.
- If most of their work is digital marketing, web design and social media marketing? Find another designer. Your bank account will thank you. Your patience will thank you.
- Make sure you have a library of your marketing assets, logo source files, high resolution images etc.
Tried and True Suggestions
Here are some simple, tried and true suggestions for trade show graphic design.
- Trade show graphics are meant to be viewed from 6 ft. or more away.
- Don’t use strange fonts or fancy fonts.
- Put important messages or images, like your logo, up high for visibility.
- Use white or empty space. Don’t be afraid of white space.
- Reference/use PMS colors to be sure to stay true to your brand.
- Less is more. Don’t try to put an entire flyer on your trade show graphic.
- If this is for a large exhibit, make sure your graphics have a plan and/or coherency, don’t just place random product images on a wall because the wall is there. Have a plan. Be purposeful with your graphics.
If you need help with trade show graphic design? I recommend starting with your trade show exhibit company. A good partner should have resources or recommendations that they know have experience in large format, trade show exhibit design.