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Posts Tagged ‘ClassicMODUL’

The History and Benefits of Trade Show Fabric Graphics

January 20th, 2023 COMMENTS

fabric graphics

If you’ve attended trade shows for more than 10 years, you’ve seen trade show graphics change dramatically. Not so long ago, laminates and direct print graphics were the default choice. Not now. Large print fabric graphics, either dye-sublimated or direct print on fabric, represent 80-90% of all graphics on the show floor. 

It makes sense. The color vibrancy and clarity have improved significantly. Fabric graphics are lighter, more durable, and frankly easier to install than direct print graphics on Sintra or other foam-based materials. The purchase cost is comparable, but the shipping expense isn’t even close. Fabric graphics are much, much less expensive. 

And then there’s backlighting. Even with the introduction of LED lights, backlit graphics would have been a “no-go” without the concurrent rise in fabric graphics. Backlighting has gone from complicated and unusual, to easy and ubiquitous on the show floor.  It seems booths of every size and shape now include some backlit fabric graphics. Often multiple examples like towers, counters, conference rooms, and overhead hanging signs. 

What are Fabric Graphics?

The types of fabric available for trade shows include heavy knits, mesh, sheers, and everything in between. With fabric graphics, you don’t need to worry about dealing with reflections as there is no glass or plastic over your graphic. Printers typically have a range of fabrics available depending on the application. For example:

  • Stretch fabric. Some frames, especially portable displays and overhead signs, are perfect for stretch fabrics since the final sizing is more forgiving. 
  • Non-backlit fabric. SEG fabric applications, where silicone welting is sewn to the perimeter, typically specify a material with minimal stretch and internal blocking. The blocking prevents lights from behind the display distorting the images. 
  • Backlit fabric. Backlit fabric comes in a variety of weights and stretches. Choosing the right one depends on the size of the frame, the application, and the exhibitor’s budget. 
  • Blocker fabric. This fabric has one job. Serve as a reflector in a lightbox to maximize the brightness of a backlit graphic. 

Attaching Fabric Graphics

While there are exceptions to the following, the vast majority of fabric graphics attached to a display structure use these methods:  

  • Velcro. Velcro is sewn into the perimeter of the graphic (usually the loop). The hook, using adhesive, is attached to the frame.
  • Flat Silicone Gasket. The gasket is sewn into the perimeter of the graphic and fits into a channel on the frame. 
  • Zipper. Most pillowcase graphics and hanging signs wrap around an aluminum tube structure. The two sides attach with a heavy-duty plastic zipper (or zippers). 

5 Fabric Graphic Examples 

Portland Travel

Double-sided backlit fabric graphics on two towers and a bridging header.

fabric graphics

fabric graphics

Classic Exhibits

Large format backlit and non-backlit fabric graphics and a triangle hanging sign with pillowcase fabric graphics. 

branding fabrics

branding fabrics


Solid and printed backlit fabric graphics on an inline exhibit back wall. 

fabric graphic

PA Hardwoods

Non-backlit SEG fabric graphics on two rectangular frames and one peak frame. 

branding fabrics


Non-backlit pillowcase and backlit fabric graphics 

tension fabric

How Fabric Graphics Changed the Trade Show World!

Dye-sublimation fabric graphics took the trade show world by storm about 15 years ago. Before that, the only real way to print on fabric was silk screen. Dye sublimation printing changed everything. It offered a higher quality, lower cost graphic, which could be attached to aluminum extrusions with silicone strips or velcro. Suddenly, aluminum extrusion systems, which had been largely hidden or ugly duckling rentals became exhibit swans. Big, bold, and colorful exhibits with tension fabric graphics became the norm from 10′ x 10′ portable displays, like Symphony or Sacagawea, to 20′ x 20′ islands, like Gravitee. It was the classic chicken and egg scenario. Dye-sublimation fabrics made exhibits lighter and lighter exhibits allowed larger, more modular displays.

The Dye-Sublimation Process

Dye sublimation, also known as dye-sub, is an interesting process. In the first step, the graphic is printed on paper as a mirror image. If you’ve ever witnessed this process, you know the paper image is subdued and the colors muted. That’s OK. The magic happens in the next step. The printed paper is then run through the sublimation press.

The sublimation press transfers the paper graphic, via rollers, to the transfer fabric. The paper along with the fabric passes at a very slow speed and a very hot temperature. As they pass close to one another, the “solid” ink instantly skips from a liquid into a gas and literally impregnates or dyes the fabric. The vivid color jumps to life and the print replicates the original digital design.

Advantages of Fabric Graphics

The dye-sub process has several additional advantages as well. Dye-sub graphics can be folded without “breaking” the ink (similar to what happens when you fold a piece of paper printed on your desktop printer). The fabric is lightweight and durable and folds into a compact shape for secure shipping. 

— Durability —

The major advantage of a dye-sub graphic is overall durability. In the past, many custom exhibits and even some portable displays used backlit plex graphics or thin roll-able graphics. Those had to be handled with “white glove” care because they could get easily scratched, broken, or dinged. A dye-sub graphic is much smaller to pack and can’t be broken. At the end of the day, the only way to damage a fabric graphic is to burn it, bleach it, or cut it. Dye-sub is also washable in the gentle cycle of most washing machines or it can be spot cleaned with a carpet cleaner. 

— Lighting —

One of the least talked about advantages may be the most important. Traditional photography or inkjet prints, which are laminated or mounted to plex, usually have some form of front lighting, such as halogen lights. That lighting looks good with one noticeable exception. The lights create a glare (even on textured laminates) or hotspots. And it never fails that the hotspot is always in the most critical part of your message, photo, or logo! Unlike traditional first or second-surface graphics, fabric graphics absorb reflective light, which turns a serious negative into a positive.

— Cost —

The last of the big benefits of fabric is cost. Money matters. Trade show and event budgets are getting squeezed or are under scrutiny. In most cases, fabric graphics are about half the price of a Lambda or inkjet print of the same size. With the new super wide dye-sub printers, you can print up to 120 inches without a seam and up to 72 inches with a “Better than Life” quality.

Rental Exhibits and Fabric Graphics 

Today’s rental exhibits are as custom as a Rolls Royce. Many have towers up to 20 feet tall in custom configurations that are less expensive to install all the time.  No longer is it necessary to ship huge panels and plex graphics when you can use lightweight aluminum and fabric. Most rentals have become indistinguishable from new exhibits. Even smaller 10′ x 10′ and 10′ x 20′ hybrid exhibit rentals are now available in shapes and features unimaginable just two years ago. Fabric graphics made all that possible.

3 Rental Designs with Fabric Graphics

RE-9167 | Island Peninsula Rental. (1) 12 ft. H x 9 ft. W storage tower with fabric graphics and a 12 ft. archway and graphic header. (4) double-sided SuperNova lightboxes with SEG fabric graphics. 

rental fabric graphics

RE-2094 | Gravitee Inline Lightbox. (3) Gravitee lightboxes with SEG fabric graphics and (4) non-backlit fabric graphics.  

fabric graphic example

RE-1592 | Lightbox Counter. Double-sided lightbox counter with backlit SEG fabric graphics.

branding fabrics

Fabric Graphics with Classic Exhibits

Looking at the big picture (no pun intended), dye-sub fabric printing hasn’t changed the world like the Internet or antibiotics or opposable thumbs. But for us who allow trade show exhibits to rule our lives, it is pretty darn important. 

Understanding how fabric graphics are printed, attached to the display, and packed is indispensable in today’s trade show environment. Nearly every display from tabletops to islands includes fabric graphics. The trade show professionals at Classic Exhibits guide clients through the design and printing process every day. 

Classic Exhibits has been designing and building solutions since 1993. We’ve been honored as an Exhibitor Magazine Find-It Top 40 Exhibit Producers and an Event Marketer Fab 50 Exhibit Builders multiple times. Along with numerous Portable Modular Awards. 

With over 200 Distributor Partners throughout North America, there’s a Classic representative close by to assist with any rental project. Contact us today whether you need an inline rental display, a double-deck island exhibit, or a contemporary kiosk rental. At Classic, we’re not just different. We’re better.

Now Available — The New MODUL 7.1 Catalog

August 22nd, 2017 COMMENTS

The new MODUL 7.1 Index/Catalog is available as a PDF download. You can also download it on the website. With over 200 pages of engineered aluminum extrusions and accessories, you are guaranteed to find something new and useful. As a reminder, all the extrusions are available at full lengths, or the extrusion can be cut, punched, powder-coated, customized, etc.

Whatever you need, just ask. Typical turnaround is a few days. Click on the image below to download the PDF version. Contact Tom Jones for quotes and orders.

Cover_INDEX 7.1_S80 A.indd

5 Classic Tips x 5 Days = 25 Insights | Day #1

November 7th, 2016 COMMENTS


I’m a giver. What can I say? It’s who I am.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought I’d share 25 “Classic Tips and Insights” over the next week. Five per day. Some you may know. Others probably not. I promise to keep them short, sweet, and easily digestible.

Tip #1 — Photo Galleries

Exhibit Design Search has three new photo galleries:  custom, rental, and retail. Why the addition? Distributors asked us to include more customized solutions in their branded EDS websites. For Classic, these display categories are growing fast, like grass in May. Bring um’ on baby! We love these types of projects.

Tip #2 — Graphic Resolution and Drayage Calculators

Have you ever wanted a quick tool to calculate graphic resolution sizes or material handling charges? We have both. When I showed the calculators to a Classic Distributor recently, he hugged me. Now I’m not a hugger. But, I’ll take an “atta boy!” if you like them.

Tip #3 — Projects, Designs, and Rentals Email Addresses

The projects, designs, and rental email addresses are like cilantro. Some folks like it. Others say it tastes like soap. We love them because it allows us to forward your request to right person PDQ. But, we’re not picky. Call us. Send an email to a PM or Designer. OR dance across the keyboard with,, or

Tip #4 — ClassicMODUL

Whenever you need MODUL extrusion in full lengths, cut pieces, or basic designs, contact Tom Jones at Tom is the Home Depot of engineered aluminum in ClassicLand. Give him a call or visit the CM website: At some point, we should buy him a bright orange smock.

Tip #5 — iPad, Surface, and Other Tablets

Single, double, and quad tablet stands. We have them. Counter mounts. Ones with literature holders. Most with graphic options. All built to withstand trade show, retail, and event abuse.

Available in silver, black, and white. iPad, Surface, Galaxy, and many others.

Now that wasn’t so bad. Same time tomorrow with #6 thru #10.

–Mel White





2015 Annual State of the Company Letter

January 5th, 2016 COMMENTS


Happy New Year!

I hope you had a wonderful holiday season. I know I did! It included nap time on the couch — something I rarely get these days.

We started the year on an upswing with a record-breaking Q1 across all divisions at Classic, including ENW, ClassicMODUL, and Rentals. There were several promising trends — some new, others cultivated in 2012-2014 but coming to fruition in 2015.


EDPA Booth

Lightboxes were HUGE — literally! All year, inlines and islands seemed naked without a SEGUE lightbox. Our designers found new and creative ways to add light, whether as a backlit feature or using LED perimeter lights in counters, workstations, and accessories. This extended into Corporate and Retail Environments as well.

To meet this expanding need, Classic developed two new profiles:  a single-sided option for walls and a remarkably thin double-sided option for freestanding lightboxes. If you attended EDPA Access, you saw them both in our booth.

Custom Wood Fabricated Exhibits. Easily the largest growth segment for Classic Manufacturing. We joked that Classic Exhibits has become the largest, most invisible custom builder in North America.  And that’s just fine. Never has our unbranded approach been so valuable. Each and every day we build Custom Exhibits showcasing YOUR brand on crates and setup instructions.

With a heavy focus on design and the use of our CNC shop, Classic builds custom exhibits for our Modular/Hybrid Distributors as well as our Custom Distributors who turn to us when they don’t have the time or capacity to build an exhibit. This has been a very welcome and creative challenge to the Classic staff.


Pokémon World Championships Retail Space

Retail Displays and Corporate Environments. Our work in the Retail and Corporate Environments continues to grow as our Distributors look beyond trade shows. The three largest examples were the Pokemon World Championships Retail Space, The Bonneville Power Administration Visitors Center, and our work inside the Nike Campus.

But it doesn’t stop there. We have open bids on several new corporate environments and are currently building an interactive space within a Midwest car dealership.

Patting Ourselves on the Back. At EXHIBITORLIVE, Classic Exhibits, Eco-Systems Sustainable, and several Classic Distributors were honored with five nominations for the Portable Modular Awards.


2015 PMA Winner Island less than 400 s.f.

Just being nominated is amazing… but we also WON two awards! Classic took home the prize for Best Island Design (400 sq. ft.) and Eco-Systems won best 10 x 10. Both a testament to the beautiful work of our talented Designers!

As if that was not enough, Event Marketer named us one of the Top 50 Manufactures in North America for the third straight year. The award speaks to the amazing work of our Production and Project Management teams!

We have three finalists in this year’s upcoming PMA’s. Be sure to vote for your favorite at the People’s Choice Voting.

Education. Whether in life or work, education is the key to success. Classic Exhibits’ Shared Knowledge University provides a platform for valuable education in our professional worlds. In 2015 we held two SKU sessions. The groups learned about Classic, our people, our products, and our great WEIRD Portlandia home. This year included a new twist… a trip to Cartlandia, one of Portland’s idiosyncratic food cart pods that make Portland… well Portland.

SKU benefited from the participation of great partners and speakers:  Optima Graphics, Cort Furnishings, Display SKUSupply and Lighting, 3 Dog Write, Tim Patterson (The TradeshowGuy) and Pinky Gonzales, the LinkedIn Specialist. They all helped to make Content King at SKU.

Over 65 students earned bachelor degrees, and a few earned graduate degrees. Our congratulations to our first Ph.D. — Dr. Cody. Contact Reid or Jen about attending in May.

Speaking of Reid and Jen. Reid Sherwood and Jen LaBruzza, our resident Road Warriors, hit the streets hard in 2015 visiting distributors, conducting onsite training, and generally spreading joy. If you missed them last year, they have very busy travel schedules in 2016.

Expect them to share news about New Product releases (more on that coming), Exhibit Design Search training, and your needs.

Distributor Visits. I have been doing this for 22 years and 2015 was a record year for distributor visits at Classic. Looking back at my calendar, we averaged a visit about every two weeks. Many were scheduled around client previews of large exhibit builds. Others arranged their own private one-on-one Distributor training — a mini-SKU if you will.

I appreciate these visits so much since I don’t travel much anymore due to my family’s schedule — 9 yr. old twins are BUSY. I appreciate the opportunity to introduce Distributors to our great staff/family at Classic. They’re the people who really make things happen, the folks you don’t see at EXHIBITORLIVE or other industry events.

Please know that our doors are always open. We welcome your visits with or without your clients. And our staff loves meeting you all as well. It helps seal the relationship they have developed with you all over the phone. Not to mention our food, wine, and craft beers are best experienced in person.


Rental Project from 2015

Rental Growth. Classic Rental Solutions continued its double-digit growth. And it’s really no surprise. Jim Shelman and his crew do what others “can’t” or simply are “unwilling” to do in a rental solution. I love walking through their area to see what they are building. So much of it is as custom as what we are doing on the new build side.

Congrats to the entire CRS team on their growth. It speaks to your ongoing dedication to the service and solutions that customers expect… and often exceeding those expectations.

Strong Sales.
In 2015 we experienced increases across the board at the Classic Family of Companies, including a record Q1, Q2, and Q3. Q4 is yet to be determined.

I would humbly suggest two reasons for our growth.

1. Classic Distributors tapped into our designers earlier in the sales process. By using them as YOUR designer on the initial calls with the clients, we saw our close ratio increase three-fold.

2. More distributors visiting Classic or attending SKU. There is this “moment” when someone steps into our manufacturing plant. It’s tangible and it’s hard to explain fully, but somehow it seems to validate everything that person has heard or been told by Reid, Jen, Mel, Jim, or myself over the years. They see our process, our capabilities, and our people.

Exhibit Design Search (EDS). Last year brought multiple changes to EDS. All of which were geared to make your sales process easier. Some of the highlighted changes/additions include

  • Modified Navigation
  • Easier Sort Feature
  • Expanded My Gallery-Kits, Photos and tips now can be added to your galleries
  • Home Page Redesign – including larger images
  • Printable Product sheets on most product lines
  • A NEW Gallery coming in Early 2016…VERY VERY Exciting!

100-Day Return Guarantee

BELIEVE IT – 100 Day Return Guarantee. In 2015 Classic introduced a 100-Day Return Guarantee on Sacagawea, Perfect 10, Quadro, and FGS.  It was an easy decision since we build it right the first time! We’re proud to be the first company in the exhibit industry to offer this guarantee.

Association Participation. EDPA and E2MA are a key part of the Classic Exhibits’ DNA. I sit on the Board of Directors for The Exhibit Designers and Producers Association while Mel sits on the Board of Directors for the Exhibit and Event Marketers Association and serves as the Treasury Chair. Both associations focus their efforts on the betterment of our industry through Education, Scholarships, Industry Round Tables, and bridging the gaps between the stakeholders in our industry.

I know I speak for Mel when I say we are both very proud of our work in these two associations, and that we are always available to speak to anyone interested in learning more about how they can become more involved.


John Zipay, Exhibits Northwest, GM

John Zipay (JZ). Classic was excited to add John to our management team in 2015. John is the General Manager of the Exhibits Northwest division of Classic Exhibits which focuses on the Pacific Northwest market.

More than that, John brings a wealth of knowledge to the company with his I&D experience. It’s a perspective we lean on frequently in manufacturing when analyzing a potential exhibit build. His knowledge of the trade show floor has also been beneficial to our distributors when finding the right labor in certain US cities.

Be on the lookout! We are about to launch a new product line. What is it? You will have to wait, but we are close to the formal unveiling. Expect a “soft launch” in late January. You’ll see the full product line at EXHIBITORLIVE. It will change the way you look at building exhibit systems!

Lastly, I offer my sincere thanks to you for being great partners and for supporting the Classic Family. I look forward to working with and seeing you in the coming year.

Be well!



Our “Shared Success” Values

November 4th, 2015 COMMENTS