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I Like Big Graphics and I Can Not Lie / Baby Got Big

July 3rd, 2018 COMMENTS

How to Design for Large Format Graphics

How to Design Large Format Trade Show Graphics

“Oh my god Becky, look at that large trade show graphic!”

Forgive the Sir Mix-a-Lot reference. I couldn’t resist. But then again, most graphic designers have a good sense of humor, both artistic as well as musical. A good song can inspire and change your design mood, just as seeing work from other designers can give you great ideas.

What we are going to review today is the terribly easy world of large format graphic design for trade show exhibits and other large structures. Now of course, as a graphic designer, you noticed I put the words “terribly easy” into that previous sentence and instantly think I’m crazy. Most designers rarely design a layout larger than a corporate booklet or perhaps a 20″ x 30″ poster. Therefore, when it comes to knowing the secrets to making a perfect graphic print at 30 ft. wide by 10 ft. tall, designers get cold sweats and think of calling in sick that day.

But fear not. Designing for large format is actually quite simple once you know the basic steps. And, if you do large format designs on a regular basis, you might find that it is more enjoyable than most jobs. All it takes is a leap of faith… and trust in my advice.

Please note this is only a breakdown of the most important elements. Should you need more details, I’m happy to provide further information.

Viewing Graphics from a DistanceTip #1 – Large Format Graphics are Viewed from a Distance

When you look at a billboard along the freeway, you probably wonder how a large graphic can appear so crisp. The beauty of billboard graphics is that, if viewed from 1 ft. away, it would appear like a blotchy and dotted mess. It’s the perceptive ability in our eyes to complete images that makes such items work.

The concept for trade show graphics isn’t that much different. But, luckily, trade show printing is MUCH higher quality than billboards. However, the concept is the same. At a trade show, it is rare for a booth visitor to stand 1 ft. away from a printed graphic that is 30 ft. wide by 10 ft. tall. Though it does happen. A large format trade show graphic must be stunning from the aisle as potential customers pass by. You want to create something unique and eye-catching without worrying about print quality. Should someone stand next to the display, and really want to analyze the quality, they may notice a slight difference from perfect. But that isn’t common.

Tip #2 – Patience and Computer Power

You need to have a powerful computer before you design something in large format. Many of the files you will be processing can be beasts on your RAM and processing speed, not to mention your video card. Therefore, if you feel your system isn’t up to the task, but you have still been given the job of designing something very large, I recommend you be patient. Most modern systems that run graphic design software without crashing on opening will eventually process your requests if you wait. You just have to allow the system to get through all of the math.

One change you should make to your Adobe software (I’m assuming that is what you are using because hardly anyone uses other graphic design software today) is to alter the scratch disc settings. In Illustrator you will find that under “Preferences” then “Plug-ins & Scratch Disks.” When you find it, be sure to change the “Primary” to STARTUP and the “Secondary” to the largest hard drive on your computer. Usually that is the main drive, but if you have larger drives on your system used for storage, change it to that. In Photoshop, you will find these settings under the “Edit” menu followed by “Preferences” and then the “Scratch Disks” section. Here you may only have one option depending on your system. Specify the main drive as primary start-up disk and then, if you have a secondary, larger drive, used for storage, use that as another. This will actually set the drives to use hard drive space for extra processing during your layout.

Power systems today can use up to 32 GB of RAM and have processing speeds that are out of this world. 64 bit systems are always desired but not always affordable. The more RAM and processing power you have, and the faster video card you have with as much internal RAM as possible, the smoother your experience will be.

But, for many years I have worked on systems well below the standard recommended system for large format design and still accomplished my goals. The word is always patience. You need to allow the system to process.

Tip #3 – Resolution is Different in Large Format Design

Most standard corporate designs, such as business cards, brochures, booklets, and magazines, require you to work at 300 ppi (pixels per inch) or higher. However, for large format design, you do not need that level of resolution. Instead, most large format printers work at anywhere from 100 to 120 ppi maximum. The main rule is to always read the company’s graphic submission requirements so you know what resolution they are looking for. If they state that 100 ppi is the requirement, that means your “raster images” should be 100 ppi at final print size or 100% scale. Knowing this resolution requirement ahead of time will save you many hours of waiting for your computer to process and save a file. Imagine creating a display graphic that is 10 ft. wide by 8 ft tall in Illustrator or Photoshop with a resolution of 300 ppi or higher on raster effects and images! The time it would take (if your computer would even manage it) would be large indeed. And the file size would just be too big.

Large format printing is different from standard offset printing. Dye sublimation, UV wide format inkjet/direct print, and Lambda outputs print excellent quality at lower file resolutions. The brochure image you printed at 300 ppi can print the same quality at 100 ppi on fabric using a dye-sublimation press. It just works.

Scaling GraphicsTip #4 – Scaling Items and Viewing at 100% Zoom

At some point in your large format graphic design adventure, you will need to use raster/bitmap photo images in your layouts. Hopefully you have very large, high-resolution images, but how do you really know what will work?

When working with raster images, you should always pre-scale them in Photoshop so you know the “natural size” for all resolutions. For example, if you have a photo that opens in Photoshop and is naturally 11″ wide by 17″ tall at 300 ppi and looks perfect, you should then find out how that image will scale to larger sizes. To do this, go to the “Image” menu in Photoshop when the file is open and select “Image Size.” At that point, look at the dimensions of the file and then “uncheck” the “re-sample” box.

Once that is done, change the width of the image to something higher, like what you actually want it to print at. You will see the resolution drop. Or, alternatively, just change the resolution at that point to the required resolution your printer has asked for. In this case, the 11″ x 17″ image that is 300 ppi, when reduced to 100 ppi, becomes an image that will print to 33″ wide by 51″ tall. Not a bad increase. You can then re-sample the image to larger sizes, but we’ll get into that later.

Getting back to the original 11″ x 17″ image. Before you scale it up, be sure to view the image at 100% zoom on your computer screen (working on desktop systems is recommended as most laptops do not clearly show full quality). Large format printing is exceptionally accurate when it comes to the print quality in real life compared to what you see on your computer screen. Should you see an imperfection on the screen, it will print that way on the final output. It’s always good practice to view all raster images and full layouts at 100% and go through every inch of the design before you send it to a printer. That way, you will know if there is a quality problem.

So that 11″ x 17″ 300 ppi image, when dropped to 100 ppi, will now print at 33″ x 51″. That is an excellent enlargement without altering the file size in any way! But what if you need to make the image larger beyond that?

Tip #5 – How to Force Raster Images to Sizes Larger Than They Support

The latest version of Photoshop has excellent tools for making raster/bitmap images bigger than they naturally are. Older versions of Photoshop can also perform these tasks, but it requires multiple manual steps to accomplish the goal. The latest CC version has most steps built-in to the “Image Size” options.

Forcing Raster Images to Sizes Larger Than They SupportTo make our 11″ x 17″ 300 ppi file that has now become 33″ x 51″ when dropped to 100 ppi even bigger, we must force it up. The steps are simple but still require you to view the file at 100% scale afterwards. Begin by turning on the “re-sample” check box again when viewing the file with the “Image Size” window open. Then, look for the “Preserve Details (enlargement)” or “Bi-cubic Smoother (enlargement)” items in the drop-down menu beside the re-sample check box. Here you can play with the options presented in the enlargement as there are various settings to control. But, the basic idea is to choose one and then force the image up to the final print size.

For our example, let’s say we want to go to 65″ wide. With the re-sample check box active, the image will instantly convert to the correct height when you change the “width” to 65. And the print resolution will be maintained. Give it a try to see what happens. When the file has finally processed, you will see a larger image with some slight loss in quality. But, since we are printing in large format, which is usually viewed from several feet away, you shouldn’t have too much of an issue.

On a side note, it is not recommended you increase images beyond 200% in scale, especially if they are already lower quality images. Since you will be viewing the file at 100% scale on your screen and will know what each inch of the image will print at, the decision is up to you. Many raster images behave differently depending on the original quality of the image. I’ve seen some stock images scale up to 400% larger while others only support around 150 to 200%. It comes down to how the image was originally created.

Photoshop Noise and Manual Touch UpsTip #6 – Photoshop Noise and Manual Touch Ups

Beyond the scaling up of images we just discussed, you may find the need for further touch ups. I’ve found that using the “add noise,” “dust and scratches,” and the “reduce noise” filters after the enlargement can improve your finished image greatly. Experiment with these filters after going through the previous steps with an image of your choice to learn what works best.

Afterwards, I always recommend getting back to the 100% zoom setting and then manually fixing any blotchy areas or imperfections using cloning tools or the content aware fill features in Photoshop.

Tip #7 – Software Choice is Key

Most large format printers will accept files from Photoshop and Illustrator. Some will accept InDesign but more rarely. Very few will accept Corel products or third-party free apps like GIMP. And, I do not know of any respectable large format printers that will accept standard files from MS office software such as Word, PowerPoint, and so on. Therefore, it is important to have the right design software.

My first choice for large format design is always Adobe Illustrator. Although most designers feel more comfortable in Photoshop, Illustrator is really the most powerful tool for final assembly of your large format design.

You will of course use Photoshop for all preparations of raster images before placement into the Illustrator design, which makes Photoshop very important. But as an assembly tool with superior control of color, measurement, tone, and scale, no software compares to Illustrator, especially with the vector capabilities for shapes, illustrations, text, logos, and so on.

Sometimes you may need to only work in Photoshop if the entire job is raster based, and you must work at extreme dimensions and settings. That is OK too. The key is to know the graphic requirements of the printer and adapt accordingly. Which brings us to the next step.

Tip #8 – Read the Graphic Requirements

Each large format job will have a specific list of graphic requirements for how the job should be prepared. Some printers will actually ask you to send “only PDF” files while others want original source files. But the key beyond the file format is the steps you need to take for proper file prep.

  • Should the file be 100% scale (or can it)?
  • Should the file be in RGB or CMYK mode?
  • Will Pantones be an option and, if so, should you use coated or uncoated?

All large format presses are run in CMYK and do not conform to the usual offset printing rules. They can’t put in, say, Pantone 200C ink, and give you a match. Rather, prints are calibrated on a job-by-job basis in CMYK (or, on rare occasions, sometimes RGB) to try to get the color you indicated. Therefore, knowing how a printer wants the job is very important. So read the manual!

Other Tips:

  • Less is more in large format design. Keep your designs simple. Something that is 20 ft wide, if very complex, will seem even more so. Simple images create stunning results.
  • Keep a buffer of white/blank space in the design. Often you will find that display structures in large format have very odd constructions and shapes. Therefore, try not to span too many elements close to edges or over onto other elements of the design that have breaks. Rather, the more you keep “focus” elements of your design on the side/base they are intended, the better visual result you will have for marketing.
  • One item in large format graphic design that makes all designers shudder is file size. If you are trying to create something so very large in the real world, you of course expect your file size on the computer to equal that frightening number. But there are tips to solve this, especially if working in Illustrator. Read this secondary article to learn how to reduce file sizes for large format design: http://www.displaysbyareaexhibits.com/how-to-design-smaller-graphic-file-sizes.html 
  • Finally, if any of the information you read here today, or any information you see on the graphic requirements pages/sheets for your current large format job don’t make sense, be sure to contact the company and ask questions! You should never feel embarrassed as a designer to contact another designer for help. That is why these people are working in this industry. They WANT to make your graphic the most beautiful output possible. Designers that work in large format really care about results and always want to make the highest quality prints anyone has ever seen. So, if you just are not sure what to do, just contact the company you are working with. All professional large format design teams are eager to assist any level of designer as they enjoy the work and conversation. If you encounter someone who “doesn’t” treat you that way, you are not working with a professional team.

Large format graphic design is one of the most fun and enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had as a designer, and I’m happy it has become my main task day-to-day. Once you go big design, you don’t go back.

So get busy working on that large format design so “Yer Graphic’s Got Back!”

Becky would be happy.

Jacob Norris, Displays by Area Exhibits (Guest Post)
jacob@area-db.com

Jacob Norris is a graphic designer and project manager with Area Exhibits in Seattle. He has been designing graphics for over 24 years and has been working with large format for over 17 years. 

Ahhh, The Elusive Email Subject Line

February 17th, 2017 COMMENTS

effective email marketing subject lines

Anyone who writes marketing or sales emails sweats over subject lines. Admittedly, I’ve read quite a few articles from experts, each with kernels of wisdom. Yesterday, I read a great one from Tina Brown at Warp Corp, a builder and printer of tension fabric structures in Seattle. Tina brought it all together in a tidy, well-written package. So, I’m sharing.

5 Tricks to Mastering the Elusive Subject Line

Guest Post: Tina Brown, Warp Corp

Just when you thought you wrote something brilliant, you find that your open rates are less than impressive. How could writing 5-7 words be so hard? You used to write 2,000-word papers in college. You can form a sentence in your sleep. No really, you’re a sleep talker.

E-mail marketing The truth is that subject lines are the doorway into your email campaigns. If that doorway isn’t enticing, no one will go on to click your emails, let alone buy your products. In fact, Convince and Convert reports that 33% of email recipients open email based on subject line alone. Even more challenging, your readers are inundated each and every day by a tidal wave of other emails vying for their attention. So how do you write email subject lines that cut through the noise?

Let me first reveal that subject lines are everywhere—on billboards, in songs and commercials, magazines, news articles, and even everyday conversations. To create your own, all it takes is knowing how to shape it, and the inspiration will start flooding in.

I’ve spent the last three years working in demand generation with one major goal in mind: crack the code on writing the perfect subject line. After hundreds, if not thousands, of subject lines tests, I have boiled it down to these five tips to improve your subject lines and increase your open rates:

1. Front-Load the Important Words

You know that one friend who’s horrible at telling stories? You know, where 15 minutes into telling their story, you begin thinking “Where is this even going? Are we ever going to hear the good part?” And by the time they finally get to the good part, you’ve already checked out. Yeah, some subject lines are just like that—don’t let it be yours.

People want to know why your email is more important than the thousands of others in their inbox, so put all the important, actionable words in the front of your subject line to entice opens. In other words, get to the point! In my experience, changing the structure of the sentence line to front-load the important keywords has increased open rates by 10-20%.

2. Ask a Question

Effective Email Subject Lines

I’ve been told several times that the most well-liked person in the room is the one who does nothing but asks folks questions, showing genuine interest in their lives and saying very little about their own. Why? Because people love to talk about themselves and their interests. Ask your subscribers questions and it’ll not only pique their curiosity, but they’ll respond positively by opening more of your emails. For example, imagine you’re sending out a new ebook on “The Holy Grail to Higher Revenue.” In your subject line, instead of just repeating the title, you could write “Looking for the Holy Grail to higher revenue? We have it!”

3. Use Numbers

People love numbers and lists. They’re easy to read, help us make sense of more complex concepts by breaking it into smaller parts, and let us know exactly what to expect (e.g. 5 Things Your Subject Lines Are Missing). The New Yorker even published a piece on “A List of Reasons Why Our Brains Love Lists,” which goes into this in depth. Numbers can also be used to create a sense of urgency or emphasize a discount.

4. Get Personal

There’s usually at least one person in every office who can’t seem to remember anyone’s first name. Mike is Matt, Joe is John, and Stacy is Stephanie. They might try to get around it by using nicknames like sport, bud, pal, dude, man, bro, and fella. For the record, no one likes that, especially not your email subscribers.

Address your subscribers by their name or insert pronouns like “you” or “your” to give your subject lines a personalized touch. According to Experian, emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened (although it varies by industry), yet 70% of brands are not personalizing emails sent to subscribers. That’s a huge opportunity for your brand to stand out!

5. Use Rhymes, Alliteration, and Puns

This might seem weird, but I have always seen subject lines that use rhymes, alliteration, or puns do really well. Have you ever read a word or name over and over again until it either sounds weird or gets funnier each time? My word is “hullabaloo,” which means a great noise or excitement. Or have you ever read a subject line that was so clever it deserved to be opened?

If you can write a subject line that rolls off the tongue, you will get a higher open rate. It’s like music to the ears! It’s not easy to come up with these but when you do, they will perform exceedingly well. In fact, I’ve seen extraordinary subject line performance where I’ve beaten the control by 30-40%! For some inspiration, just take a look at some of the session names from SXSW. Some of my favorites from previous years? “Social Music Marketing: Bands, Brands and Fans” and “An Unusual Arsenal: Tech Tools to Topple a Tyrant.”

That’s it! 5 tips to improve your subject lines and get your emails opened. I hope that these tips inspire you to get out there and write subject lines like no one has ever seen before. Remember, subject lines exist everywhere. All you have to do is keep your eyes and ears open.

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My sincere thanks to Tina for allowing Classic Exhibits to share this in the Trade Show Tales blog. Please let her know if you enjoyed her post.

–Mel White
mel@classicexhibits.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/melmwhite
https://twitter.com/melmwhite
https://www.facebook.com/Classic-Exhibits-Inc-113601405319757


 

 

Trade Show Tips to the Beat of the 2010s

August 15th, 2016 1 COMMENT

2010

The Keys to a Successful Trade Show:  The Follow-Up

Advicertainment by M. Christine Delea

The two biggest mistakes regarding trade shows? People not planning ahead of time, and people not following up once they get home. Some people claim trade shows aren’t worth the cost — but if you don’t continue the relationships you start at shows, you haven’t fulfilled the potential of the show. No wonder some people get so stressed out.

Your Lips are Moving

lipsSo open your email, pull out your phone, and say hello to those people you met a few days ago. No hard sell, just a friendly greeting. Get your lips moving and connect with potential customers — remind them who you are. Send an actual handwritten note to loyal customers. I’m not the only one who will tell you that leaving a blank space is a huge mistake. Nothing fancy is necessary. Just get ahead of the wave, and you will stand out.

The fact that business tools are changing is one of the few rules of business that doesn’t change. Use every aspect of technology at your disposal to show off how incredible you were at the trade show and to reconnect with people who attended as well as those who did not (those who had to stay home can get some cheap thrills vicariously, as well as learn from your great photos and notes).  As usual, all of your business correspondence should have as its underlying principle: I would do anything for you.

lenka2

Act as if there is a countdown clock for the ideas and inspiration you learned at the trade show, and share those as soon as possible with colleagues who weren’t there. Tell them everything at once if need be. Shared ideas can spur more innovations, and you need to look ahead to the next trade show.

And speaking of those colleagues, be sure you thank and congratulate all those who made the trade show so successful. It’s not tacky to let folks know that you really like them. Everyone likes to be appreciated.

Make your trade shows pay off. Follow up and follow through once you get home. You can be the Queen or the King of trade shows if you keep up with others after the show is over. Your customers will appreciate you remembering them.

Posts in the Series:

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Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or www.classicexhibits.com.


 

 

Trade Show Tips to the Beat of the 2000s

August 9th, 2016 COMMENTS

2000s

The Keys to a Successful Trade Show:  Packing Up to Leave

Advicertainment by M. Christine Delea

It’s exhilarating and tiring, and by the end of the trade show, you are ready to escape. Your own bed, your family, your car, your pets, your routine — everything you want is at home. But before you take off, be sure to wrap things up right. Check all the small things before heading out.

Look over your lead notes. Expand on anything you might forget after a few days go by. If I told you that you will not recall which product Lorraine Mastellone wanted and all the things she said, or that you won’t be able to decipher a phone number you wrote down, would you believe me? You should, because no one has an infallible memory.

Complicated

AvrilCatch as many folks as you can during those last few hours at the show or after it is over. Tell new associates how much you have enjoyed meeting them and that you look forward to working with them. Make plans to talk soon with those people, but don’t make things complicated. Even a quick wave and an enthusiastic “Hey, ya!” in the hotel lobby will make a great lasting impression.

Sorry to Mom out on you, but remember to pack carefully (I know you are exhausted and rushing to catch a plane). It’s no fun to get home and see a stain on your suitcase from a bottle of mouthwash that wasn’t closed completely or a cracked bottle of wine you bought for your dog-sitter. Take the time to pack right, and you won’t have to worry about a thing.

It’s a Beautiful Day

U2Did someone at the hotel, the show venue, the caterers, or the coffee kiosk help you be your best? Be sure to tell them thank you and wish them a beautiful day.

In case you don’t already know this, you should be leaving a tip for the hotel maid each morning, rather than all at once as you leave the hotel. The reason? Different maids will be assigned to your room on different days. Be sure to make it obvious that the money you leave is for the maid (a short note is fine).

Here I go again with the Mom thing, but double-check the bathroom, all the drawers, the closet, and under furniture before you leave your room for good.

Bye Bye Bye

And if your trade show is one of the big ones and you find yourself waking up in Vegas, be sure to escape without cleaning out your bank account. Okay, now you can leave. Bye Bye Bye.

Be sure to do a happy dance when you close the big deal. You deserve it.

Posts in the Series:

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Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or www.classicexhibits.com.


 

Trade Show Tips to the Beat of the 1990s

August 2nd, 2016 COMMENTS

1990s

The Keys to a Successful Trade Show:  Staying Fit

Advicertainment by M. Christine Delea

As a smart marketer, you attend as many trade shows as you can, all while managing the day-to-day operations of your business. Eventually, you may feel as if you’ve been everywhere. You may question if another one is worth it.

Remember that your team worked hard to prepare for this trade show. You ended up on imaginative roads that regular workdays often don’t inspire. The pressure of a looming trade show got your office brainstorming on that wonder wall board more intensely than you have in months. Give me one reason why you would let all of that hard work be for naught.

Resolve to be your best, which means staying healthy at the show. That recirculated air is working against you, but you can beat it. This is how we do it.

No Scrubs

TLCIf you are not washing your hands regularly, break from the old routine and become a little OCD about your hands. Wash throughout the day with regular soap for as long as it takes you to sing the Alphabet Song in your head as you scrub.

Get up early every morning and stretch for a few minutes. Take a few deep breaths (good exercise for your lungs) and resolve to swim in the hotel pool before you go to the show, stroll around the grounds after lunch, and/or get to the workout room where you are staying before you go to sleep. Don’t linger after meals. Skip dessert and take the stairs up to the social event you need to attend.

So Smooth

SantanasmoothCarry your water bottle everywhere. Stick with fresh foods as much as possible — salads and fruit/cheese/nut plates will keep you full and energized. Need to indulge? Try a smoothie with a boost of Vitamin C.

Get enough sleep. This will help you stay physically fit as well as mentally sharp. When a colleague calls your room at midnight to ask you to join the fun at the bar, (politely) say that you ain’t going nowhere and go back to sleep. You can always call them at 6:00 am and see if they want to join you for a swim!

On that last night, click up your heels and have a little fun dancing to the hits of the 1990’s. It’s hammer time!

 

Posts in the Series:

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Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or www.classicexhibits.com.