Trade Show Graphics? NP – I Gotta a Cousin

February 8, 2015

Mel White

Mel White is the VP of Marketing and Business Development at Classic Exhibits Inc., a designer and manufacturer of portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibits.

Hire a “Trade Show” Graphic Designer. Most designers don’t understand trade show graphics. Hire someone who does. Your graphics are as important as your physical display, if not more important, and they can make or break your presentation.

Up or Down. What elements will be seen up close or across the show floor? It matters. Avoid putting important elements at floor level. Higher elements will draw your customer’s attention several aisles over. There’s a micro-brewery in Oregon with a BIG sign:  FREE BEER. When you get closer, the sign reads: FREE wi-fi | great BEER. I fall for it every time.  

It’s a Display. Not a Brochure. You want your messaging to be clear, concise, and to the point. Leave the details for the brochure or the website. Keep it simple and impactful. Avoid clichés like “New and Improved” and “World Leading.” The message should be easily digestible in 10 seconds or less. Treat it like popcorn for your eyes.

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 it will make a HUGE difference in your booth. Word of warning . . . hand your business card to your designer for your logo, expect to die. 

Details. Details. Details. Have a rendering done with your graphics. It may change how you see the message. 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. Finally, have someone who TRULY cares about spelling and grammar read your copy. I once saw a display for a university with the following – “Go Where Sucess Matters!” It made me cry.

Coherence. Your graphics need to tell a coherent story. If you have multiple products, find a way to tie the color, design, and copy together. Don’t re-invent the wheel with each individual graphic. You want the overall design to work together -- not confuse. Save the collage for your next papier-mâché project.

Color is Your Friend. Reference specific Pantone swatches when color matching. This goes back to working with a professional. Trade show graphics are notorious for being tight turns. No one wants to have graphics shipped directly to the show only to discover that your corporate mustard yellow logo printed as peach or pea green.

Fonts are Your Friend. One or two fonts is enough. Three fonts is pushing it. Any more than that and you’ve got an identity crisis on your hands. Look for clean, easy-to-read type and then if you want a little flare, add an accent font that is more unique. As a side note, avoid any fonts with names like Giddy-up.

Scale Matters. Seize the day! Go big! Think about what you want people to see from three aisles over. Show them something that compels them to visit you.

Swallow Your Pride. This is for graphic designers. If your client wants to do something really dumb and you've advised them why they shouldn't, then swallow your pride. They'll learn. They can only make the same mistake so many times before a) they learn, b) they start listening to you, or c) they lose their job.  

Share your tips for AMAZING trade show graphics.

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