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5 things to know before you print your trade show graphics

What do an image, a color, a shape, or a texture say about your brand? As it turns out, they speak volumes amid the hustle and bustle of a custom trade show display floor and can be a significant difference-maker when it comes to drawing people in.

Too often, organizations focus on the size, layout and verbiage (all important, of course) for a booth, but look to the printed graphics element as an afterthought. Actually, the trade show graphics used for your booth are a vital contributor to your success on the exhibit floor. Here are five things to be aware of regarding the all-important step of signing off on and printing those graphics.



1. Are Your Graphics Current?

Like every art form, graphic design for the booth space sees its own trends and stylistic evolution. One of the great reasons to rent a booth is that you can regularly update and refresh the graphics to make sure your brand is not appearing stale or out of fashion. In the mid-90s, many designers were just discovering Photoshop, a game-changing design tool to be sure, but the new technology led to a number of booth designers to play with everything they had at their disposal – resulting in a decade or so where style seemed to eclipse substance and booths crammed with all the graphic bells and whistles that would fit into one space became the norm. Today, exhibit designers are getting back to basics and subscribing to the “less is more” ethic. We’re seeing less special effects on the graphics side, and cleaner, precise lines with minimal clutter. Vector images are the name of the game today – because they are modern and timeless and can scale seamlessly from a computer screen to any sized booth on the show floor. Remember, when it comes to design style, simplicity doesn’t date itself!


2. Image Trumps Verbiage

The saying “a picture speaks a thousand words” is particularly true when you’re exhibiting. Companies often have amazing copy – well written, compelling, etc…. on paper. Excessive verbiage rarely translates well to the display walls of a booth, however. Attendees brush past hundreds of trade show booths quickly and in the two seconds or so that it takes to pass by, there is no time to absorb a lengthy written passage (or more). Designs, pictures, photos, imagery – are visuals that register instantly.

As a rule of thumb, words should be limited to short, easy to digest messages – accompanied by clean, attractive or eye-catching visuals. The images are what will draw the eyes first – and if they do their job, those eyes will steer their owner into your booth.



3. Don’t Get Lost in Translation

One of the biggest mistakes that companies – and even some designers – make is that they automatically assume that the design they’ve seen on their computer screen will translate directly to a trade show booth graphic. That’s the kind of assumption that can lead to disappointment.

An analogy to consider is language. You can produce a beautifully written passage or poem that loses much of its power when translated to a foreign tongue…unless it is done very carefully and with consideration for the end result. Converting design work to the very large scale that a trade show booth requires is like translating to a different language too.

When you have your graphic design draft on your computer screen, zoom in and make sure the design elements pass the microscope test for fine-tuning. Also, make sure your designer is working with and sending the correct format files to the printer to avoid the common problem of incompatibility. RGB files, for example, don’t work well. Images and designs should be saved in CMYK as well to stay true to the original colors selected.



4. Color and Texture are Always Important

With booths, color theory is very important. Don’t invest in a beautifully designed booth and then throw a casual dart at a color chart to select your representative hue. Explore what will work to best represent your brand and the messaging you are trying to convey — and then work with your designer to aim for colors that can be eye catching without being tacky. Need a little inspiration? Download our free exhibit design style guide to give you some ideas for your next design project.

Texture is an important element to consider too. There are a number of lightweight solid substrate textures to print on that work great. But maybe your company wants to experiment with a texture to tie in with a specific theme of your booth. Fabric is another texture that is becoming more and more popular. It’s super lightweight and allows the exhibitor to go seamless with their images. It also allows backlighting and light box options, which are a great way to illuminate graphics and draw the eye on the show floor.

The bottom line is that there are limitless options when it comes to color and texture – so it’s always worth a conversation with your designer to see what works best for you.


5. Don’t Take Printing for Granted!

When it comes to trade show booth design and construction, some may consider the printing step to be a relatively trivial and mechanical aspect of the process. Actually, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Printing is a crucially important step on the road to trade show booth success, and when done right can take an exhibit to the next level of eye-catching greatness! For example, what type of ink is being used on your booth? What kind of printer is creating the images? Technology today enables us to produce brighter and more vibrant images and colors than ever before. UV printing, for example, is technology that light cures the ink, resulting in better quality color, a faster drying process and faster printing overall.

ExpoMarketing's Style Guide for Trade Show Booths and Decor

Hopefully by reviewing these “five commandments of graphics” above, you’ll get a sense of just how important this aspect of trade show booth design is. More than just a pretty picture – graphics done right can take your brand to the next level!

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