Trade Show TalesBlog

Posts Tagged ‘trade show graphics’

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. 

Vibrant Color and Stunning Contrast Gallery

August 6th, 2014 COMMENTS
Glenna Martin, Graphic Design Manager

Glenna Martin, Graphic Design Manager

Graphic Inspiration Galleries

Several months ago, Glenna Martin, our Graphic Design Manager, created the first Graphic Inspiration GalleryGraphics that Complement the Display. Glenna pulled 38 Past 5 Days photos to show effective examples of structure and graphics. If you haven’t read her notes, I urge you to review them. You may want to consider directing graphic designers to the galleries if they are unfamiliar with trade show graphics.

Glenna has created another gallery, Vibrant Color and Stunning Contrast. This gallery discusses color strategy and image placement. As you click-through the photos and read the text, Glenna identifies how colors serve to create a cohesive image and guide your eye to the important images and text. It makes so much sense to a non-graphic designer once you read her notes, but it takes a talented graphic designer to build it. See all 30 photos in the Graphic Inspiration Gallery in the Resource menu. Here are a few examples to entice you.

Gorgeous example of how wonderful backlighting can showcase rich color.

Great combination of white space and high color saturation in the photo. The white space allows the logo to stand out while the bright green wings frame the entire design nicely.

The wide gamut of bright colors give this iPad stand WOW factor in a small amount of space.

Black and white photo with color photos set forward really showcases the product in this display’s graphics.

We welcome your comments.

–Mel White
http://www.linkedin.com/in/melmwhite
mel@classicexhibits.com

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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.


 

The 10 Do’s and Don’ts of Trade Show Graphics

November 6th, 2013 5 COMMENTS

VisionaryBlogBanner

You decided on your new trade show display . . . but you’re not done yet. Now, it’s time to design the graphics. Every day we see completed graphics, many of which we feature in Past 5 Days. Some amaze us. Others not so much. You want AMAZING!. Below are 10 tips to consider when designing your next trade show graphics.

1. Look Up. Think about what elements you want seen either 6 ft. away or across the show floor. Avoid putting important elements at floor level. Higher elements will draw your customer’s attention. Those should be the ones you emphasize.

2. Hire a Graphic Designer Who Understands Trade Show Graphic Design. Most don’t. Don’t spend thousands of dollars on a new display only to use lackluster, unprofessional graphics. It’s the equivalent of working out to build a 6 pack and then wearing a muumuu. A professional graphic designer will know how to source quality files, format them, design your graphics, and hit your deadline.

If you don’t know what resolution, PMS color, vector art and bleed are, trust me, you don’t want to be responsible for file preparation. Hire someone who knows what they’re doing. The graphics are as important as your physical display, if not more important, and they can make or break your display presentation.

3. Your Display isn’t a Paper Brochure. This is the single biggest mistake most exhibitors make. You want your messaging to be clear, concise, and to the point. Leave the details for the printed or electronic collateral. No one is going to read text heavy graphics so keep it simple and impactful. Get the help of a copywriter if you can. Avoid clichés and tired expressions like “innovative” and “unique.” Get to the root of the problem and state your solution. Strong messaging that can be digested in 15 seconds or less will make your display MUCH MORE effective.

4. Image Quality Counts. Photos should be high resolution or vector, especially for your logo. Always have native, clean artwork for projects. This is critical! Spend the extra money to get good quality stock photography. It’s not that expensive and can make a HUGE difference in your booth. This isn’t a billboard — people will be walking up and even touching your graphics. Nothing makes a graphic designer cringe more than being handed a business card and asked to pull a logo from it. If you worked with a designer to create an identity for your company, ask them for the native files. You may not be able to open them, but that doesn’t mean your designer won’t be able to. This is why you hired a professional in the first place, remember?

5. The Devil is in the Details. View your graphics rendered on the display. Sometimes elements of the physical booth really have an affect on the flow of your graphics. You won’t know until you see them so make sure that you view them before you print them. Be sure that you know where accessories like shelves and monitors are placed. Exact measurements are critical. Too many times the graphics arrive and they look amazing, vibrant, and perfect . . .  until you realize that the monitor cuts off half of your logo. Seeing the graphics rendered will help prevent mistakes and be worth the added time.

6. Create a Flow. Sometimes clients have a million ideas in all different directions. Just because your display has four different graphic surfaces that doesn’t mean that you should treat them as such. Make sure your graphics tell a coherent story. If your client wants each of their four products featured, one on each panel, that’s fine. Find a way to tie them together. Make sure that the color scheme and design as well as your copy works together. Don’t re-invent the wheel with each panel. You want the overall design to work together — not confuse.

7. Color is Your Friend . . . or Your Enemy. Reference specific Pantone swatches when color matching is critical. This goes back to working with a professional when possible. Trade shows are notorious for being tight turn projects. No one wants to have graphics shipped directly to the show only to find out that the nice mustard yellow they were expecting printed peach or pea green.

8. Don’t Font It Up. One or two fonts is enough. I promise. Three fonts is pushing it. Any more than that and you’ve got an identity crisis on your hands. Legibility is key with any graphic design but especially graphics that are being viewed from a distance. Look for clean, easy-to-read type and then if you want a little flare, add an accent font that is more unique, but don’t over use it. And please, I beg of you, don’t use a cursive or handwriting font in all caps. Just don’t. As a side note, avoid any fonts with names like Giddy-up.

9. Scale is Everything. You have the opportunity to create graphics of a larger than life magnitude. Seize the day! Go big or go home. Don’t waste your time designing 20 foot graphics that are only meant to be viewed from two feet away. Again, let them use your collateral for details and smaller views of things. Think about what you want people to see from three aisles over. Show them something that makes them want to visit you.

10. Cut Your Losses. If your client wants to do something really dumb and you’ve tactfully advised them why they shouldn’t, then let them do it. They’ll learn. They can only smack their thumb so many times with a hammer before they eventually discover how to hit the nail. 😉

Need assistance with your trade show graphics? Let us know. Share your tips for AMAZING trade show graphics in the Comments section.

Glenna Martin
Graphic Design Manager

http://www.linkedin.com/in/glennamartin
glenna@classicexhibits.com

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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.


 

Classic Exhibits Welcomes Glenna Martin, FT Graphic Design Manager

August 13th, 2013 COMMENTS

Glenna Martin, Graphic Design Manager

Classic Exhibits announces the addition of Glenna Martin as a full-time Graphic Design Manager. Glenna is not new to the trade show industry, as her bio reveals. She’s been working with Classic and Classic Distributors for eight years as a contract designer and has been instrumental in the branding of Classic Exhibits since 2005. Now she’s at our beck and call, and we couldn’t be happier.

Should you need graphic design services for your client’s exhibits or for your company, such as website design, please give us a call. Our rates are very reasonable. And Glenna is a terrific designer.

Glenna Martin’s Bio

I grew up in Eastern Kentucky and started dabbling in web design at fourteen. My love of art combined with technology drove me to pursue graphic design. I was one of those annoying people who always knew what they wanted to be when they grew up. In 2004, I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in graphic design and almost immediately (I think two weeks after graduation) started working for an ad agency in Berea, Kentucky. It was the perfect position for me:  no project was too large or too small and I got to delve into the software head first. I quickly picked up the ins and outs of the full Adobe Creative Suite, and the on-the-job training was perfect for further developing the skills that I learned in school. As an added bonus, being the only designer on staff meant that I got experience in every facet of graphic design such as traditional identity design, hand illustrating signage, building websites, creating email blasts, and designing print pieces all while working with a wide range of businesses.

It wasn’t long before we broke into the trade show industry by designing identity materials and trade show graphics for Classic Exhibits Inc. This was back when tension fabric was still a cutting-edge new material and not yet the industry standard. Since then, I’ve worked in some capacity on nearly every piece of Classic branded material that has been created:  from hanging ivy on their EXHIBITOR booth in 2007 to the cheesy Aeroman and Kevio campaigns. My skills and creativity have grown with Classic’s success. As our agency built a name for itself in the exhibit industry, we also worked with several Classic Exhibits distributors on everything from identity and creative campaigns to large format graphics.

In 2010, I switched direction and started doing graphic design for a large newspaper, but maintained my relationship with Classic in a freelance capacity. While at the newspaper, I further developed my skills in Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator while learning a ton about color theory and optimizing files for offset print. Designing exclusively for print didn’t have the same creative appeal for me as trade shows so when the opportunity to join the Classic and Exhibits NW presented itself, I was thrilled to jump back in. In true Mel White fashion, there were lots of projects waiting for me. When I started in mid-July, he immediately asked me to complete the Classic website redesign (look for it to launch soon!). I’ve also worked on projects with Classic Distributors who wanted to WOW their clients with professional graphics but didn’t have a designer on staff. I’m excited to see what the future holds and even more excited be part of such an amazing team.

Contact Glenna

If you are planning to attend Shared Knowledge University (SKU) on Sept. 30 and October 1, I look forward to meeting you. If not, don’t be shy about contacting us about our graphic design services. We’re here to make you and your client look better.

Glenna Martin
Graphic Design Manager
glenna@classicexhibits.com

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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.


 

5 Surefire Ways to Drive Your Graphics Provider Crazy

June 27th, 2009 COMMENTS
How to Drive Your Graphics Provider Crazy

How to Drive Your Graphics Provider Crazy

Your graphics provider has it pretty easy. After all, you do all the work. You create print ready files, follow the rules for good output, and double-check everything to make sure you get what you expect from the process. All the graphics people have to do is push a button, right?

Here are some tried and true tips to assure your graphics provider rewards you with the PIA (Preferred Ideal Account) status you deserve.

  1. Submit your art and request a proof or PDF. Approve the art for output, then, 1 hour later, request a change and a new proof. Approve new proof but 2 hours later call to request another change. You can repeat this several times to impress your graphics rep about how you are both detail-oriented and a perfectionist.
  2. Every time you submit a job, deliberately exclude a link or font from your artwork. Time how long it takes before you get a phone call. Keep score.
  3. Mystery jobs are fun and exciting. Send art to your graphics company without a return address or known company name. Do not include instructions. Call the day you expect the work to ship to see how your rep will solve the case.
  4. (more…)