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How to Design Great Trade Show Display Graphics

design tradeshow displayWalk around your next trade show and you’ll see a lot of great designs.  They look good, attract your attention, engage and tell a story.

You’ll also see a lot of bad designs!  Too many pictures, confusing messages and, what does that say?  It’s so small and there is so much text, I can’t even read it!

When it’s time to design your trade show display graphics, consider a few important points:

  • Who you are:  Obviously you want to be easily found in the show hall.  An effective way to accomplish this goal is by not only placing your logo & branding at the maximum height, but also repeating it in several different locations throughout the design.
  • What you do:  Great, your prospect has found your booth.  Now, can they quickly understand what your company does?  A tagline or short sentence should be near your logo, so that the attendee can relate who you are to what you do.
  • How you can help them:  Now that we understand you’re the “Acme Anvil Company” and you make “The most durable, USA-made and reconfigurable anvils” in the world, it’s time to explain why this is important and how it will add to their bottom line.  For example “Our anvils will increase your productivity by 37% and cut down-time by 1/3rd.”  Short bullet-points are another effective way to share this message, but don’t get too carried away.

In addition, consider the following items in your design:

  • Photos:  Not too many.  Make sure the resolution is good.  Should they show your product in action?  Does a photo help relate your service to a solution? Think about these questions as you start your design.  Do you need photos at all? Maybe an illustration instead?
  • Text:  Think billboards.  Keep editing.  Less text = more readable, quickly.
  • Lighting: How will lighting affect your graphics?  Exhibiting in Vegas?  Did you know halogens are banned at a few locations? Should you use spot lights to accent?  Or, maybe backlighting? Just like in your living room, lighting will set the tone & mood for your trade show booth.  How about some specialty lighting?
  • Technology & interactivity: An easy way to gain more attention is to add motion and technology is very cost effective these days for making that happen. Add some monitors, loop a video or pictures and you’ve easily attracted more people.  Now, make those monitors or iPads part of your lead qualifying process by turning them into an interactive game and you’ve hit a home run. Don’t forget about social media too; Tweet some pictures, upload a video to YouTube and share on Facebook.

What are your best tips for designing great trade show graphics? Share a tip by commenting on this post!

What's Working In ExhibitingDesign is one of the seven key areas in exhibit marketing covered by the What’s Working In Exhibiting white paper. Pick up your free copy to see the top tips and strategies from your fellow trade show marketers by clicking here.

About the Author

Michael Flavin is a trade show strategist & exhibit consultant at Skyline Exhibits & Graphics Mid-America in St. Louis, MO. He works with companies & organizations to eliminate headaches from their trade show, event marketing & recruiting programs. Overall, he offers total, turn-key solutions, focused on creating memorable experiences, lowering operating expenses and increasing ROI. In addition, Michael consults & trains booth staffers and helps companies measure results from their trade show programs. He also helps exhibit marketers design St. Louis trade show displays.

7 responses to “How to Design Great Trade Show Display Graphics

  1. A very comprehensive article. This gives me an idea to write about designing graphics with metaphors. Use metaphors to give your salient product new life. As marketing professor Theodore Levitt notes, “Metaphors and similes become surrogates for the tangibility that cannot be provided or experienced in advance.”

    Get a phenomenal result when you combine the metaphor with one of the 5 senses. For example when Volkswagen wanted to demonstrate the power and acceleration of Volkswagen Golf R in a magazine they literally came up with the slogan, “Eat the Road.”

    More ideas on

  2. Think Billboards, Great! Not only for text though, think this way for images too. Some photos and illustrations can be unrecognizable at a glance. You can even test images and text with colleagues or friends (do they get the message in 3 seconds?)

  3. I never stopped to consider that halogens might be banned at some locations, guess its a good thing I use LED display lighting for my booths. Great article, thanks!

  4. great tips.. trade show display graphic design will command attention from trade show attendees and compel them to come to your booth so that they can learn more about your business. To achieve this, the graphic elements that are in the display area must convey the marketing messages of your business and position your brand relative to your competitors.

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