Trade Show Graphics – Do’s and Don’ts

Below are 10 tips to consider when designing the graphics for your next show. We see a lot of graphics. Some are awesome and others fall short. We want yours to be amazing!

1. Probably most importantly, hire a graphic designer who understands trade show graphic design. Most of them don’t, so don’t waste your money on someone who is inexperienced in the type of design you need. A professional graphic designer will know how to source quality files, format them, design your graphics, and hit your deadline. It will pay off to hire someone who knows what they’re doing! If you don’t know what things like resolution, PMS color, vector art and bleed are, you don’t want to be responsible for file preparation. We’ve had one too many clients try to prepare graphics themselves only to miss their deadline because they don’t know what they’re doing. Then they end up hiring someone at the last minute anyway PLUS paying rush production fees. Save yourself the hassle and find someone you can trust from the start!

2. Think about what elements you want to be seen either 6 ft. away or across the show floor. Higher elements such as overhead signs and railing graphics on a double deck will draw your customer’s attention. If you need to pick and choose for budget reasons, those should be the ones you emphasize over eye-level graphics. 

3. Make your message clear, concise, and to the point. Leave the details to your handouts. Visitors won’t be reading text heavy graphics so it’s best to keep it simple and impactful. No one is going to read text heavy graphics so keep it simple and impactful. What problem is your product a solution to? What makes your company stand out from the rest? Messaging that can be digested in 15 seconds or less will make a much larger impact than throwing copy everywhere. 

4. Pay attention to image quality. Photos should be vector or high res, ESPECIALLY your logo. Spend the extra money to get good quality stock photography. People will be viewing your graphics from close up, so they need to look sharp. If you worked with a designer to create an identity for your company, ask them for the native files. You may not have the software to open them, but a professional designer will. Keep in mind that if this is a booth you own you’ll likely be using the same graphics for multiple shows. They should look the best that they possibly can!

5. Color is Your Friend (or your enemy…). Referencing specific Pantone swatches when color matching is critical. If you’re working with a professional they’ll know this. Trade shows are notorious for being tight turn projects. No one wants to be surprised by their graphics being the wrong color on the show floor.

6. View them before you print them. View your graphics rendered on the display. Sometimes elements of the physical booth have a big affect on the flow of your graphics. You won’t know until you see them rendered on your display. Pay special attention to where shelves and monitors and get exact measurements. It sucks when the graphics arrive and they look amazing until you realize that the monitor cuts off half of your logo.

7. Scale is everything. Show them something that makes them want to visit you. Don’t design 20 ft graphics that are only meant to be viewed from 5ft away. Let them use your collateral for details and smaller views/descriptions of your product. Think about what you want people to see from three aisles over that will make them stop by.

8. Don’t overdo it on the fonts. Custom fonts are all the rage right now, and while it can look cool on, say, baby shower invitations, one or two fonts is plenty on your trade show graphics. Any more than that and you’ve got a possible identity crisis on your hands. The most important thing is clarity and legibility so look for a clean, easy-to-read font for the majority of your text. If you need a little flare you can add an accent font that’s more unique, but keep it to a minimum.

9. Create a good flow. Make sure your graphics all send one cohesive message. If you have 3 different products you’re showcasing and want them to look different that’s fine, but make sure they tie together somehow. 

TIP: If your company is re-branding, it’s a good idea to change out all of your graphics at once so that they all look cohesive. Sometimes there can be slight differences between batches when printing, so the only way to absolutely guarantee that your panels match perfectly is to do them at the same time from the same printer. 

10. Cut your losses and learn from your mistakes. If you follow these tips then hopefully your graphics will turn out amazing. But if despite your best efforts you end up with lack-luster graphics, try not to sweat it. Learn from your mistakes and try again at your next show. Graphics can be pricey, but re-using crummy graphics will likely cost you more in lost ROI than sucking it up and re-producing.