Having graphics designed for your trade show display can be a daunting task. You have to hire a designer, come up with ideas, get images or artwork, revise the layout and upload the graphics to your printer (usually your exhibit house). If the graphics are late, you run the risk of your trade show presentation being a flop. Pressure, pressure, pressure!
But, it doesn’t have to be like this!
First off, start early. Don’t wait until the week before the show to worry about graphics. This kind of thing takes time. You need time to get it right without rushing through the process. Rushing creates last minute MISTAKES!! If you’ve ever attended a trade show and noticed a typo on expensive looking graphics then you understand the need to start early. I saw one huge mistake that wasn’t caught until midway through an event. This was a misspelling of the word “Public.” The name was supposed to be “XYZ, A Public Company.” But because of a typo, it read “XYZ, A Pubic Company.” The difference one consonant makes!
Prepare for the design work. You need quality images that can be blown up to the final size in your graphics. You also need logos, tag lines, colors you are going to use (Pantone Colors) and graphic templates for your display. Templates are used to help size your graphics correctly. If you have a marketing department, they will usually have most of this for you ready to use. (Templates come from the display supplier) If not, find out everything you need and track it down.
Remember that the first point really comes into play here: START EARLY.
Keep it simple. Avoid showing everything your company does on a single 10’ graphic wall. This tends to look like something from a science fair. Also stay away from adding large amounts of text. This can make your display look busy and hard to read. Stick to a single important concept or message that draws attendees into your booth. Since your booth has so little time to attract attention (some estimates are 3 seconds), make the design simple with high impact. People seeing your graphics should be able to “get” your message immediately.
Who to use for your design work? Hire a professional graphic designer that has experience with large format graphics. They understand what you need for large graphics and will guide you through the process. Don’t forget that your display (and your company) will be judged by the graphics you present at the trade show, so hire someone that knows what they are doing. If the show is extremely important and you have the budget, you may want to consider having a couple of designers work independently on your design. This can give you extra ideas to work with.
Graphic file types demystified
Our industry prefers Photoshop (PSD) & Adobe Illustrator (AI, EPS) graphic files because they work well for printing large graphics. Other file types we can use include PDF, JPG and TIFF files.
Let’s Talk Color!
The designer’s job is to blend all of your graphic elements into a winning design for your trade show exhibit, but you have to make all the final decisions. For example, if you tell someone producing your graphics to “just pick a good red” you may be disappointed with the results since color is subjective and there are so many color choices for red. Also, if you are ordering multiple display elements such as a graphic back wall, hanging sign, flooring and banner stands that are all going in the same space but are being printed by different suppliers on different printers, then you have to make sure all the colors are going to match or at least be close enough so that they don’t clash.
There are several tools you can use to help with this:
- Let everyone know about critical colors. This would be your display supplier, designer and possibly people at your company. This keeps everyone on the same color-page.
- Use the Pantone Matching System. Pantone colors are used by most corporations and organizations to identify their logo colors. Coca Cola for example, has a unique red that is all their own. Generally the trade show industry uses the solid swatches as opposed to the CMYK versions. Example: Blue PMS 286C (C =Solid). You can see a PMS swatch book (Solid to Process) at your local printer, library, art supply shop or order one online.
- If time permits, order a hard-copy proof. These proofs are printed on the same equipment used to produce the final graphic product and is used by you to judge color. If you are getting different products printed for the same space, this is something very important to do and is the only way to see for yourself if your colors are going to work in the final product(s).
You should be realistic about color being produced over different products that are being used together even after you have done everything to get them to match. It will never be an exact 100% match! Different media produce different results. Just to give you one example, printing a logo on carpet is completely different than printing the same logo on a banner. The carpet is going to break up the image more than the banner because of the texture of the media. The banner is much smoother and renders colors more accurately. Obviously, there are a number of things printers can do to get the colors as close as possible and this may involve multiple hard-copy proofs and color matching fees. Usually, with a little discussion, you can find out if your display printer is going to be able to “hit” your color.
Before you sign off on the proof
By approving a proof, you are releasing it for printing and you are saying that you have checked everything over and everything meets your requirements. This means is that before you give your approval, you should check, check and recheck your art. Look for typos, elements out of place, colors that don’t work and content errors. Have more than one person proofread your art to insure that any mistakes are caught. This can save you the cost of reprinting and extra shipping costs.