A Guide to Trade Show Graphics

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Trade shows are getting increasingly more popular among all types of business owners and entrepreneurs. A typical show can have anywhere from 100 to 500 companies! During the show, exhibitors have only about 3 seconds to catch the attention of a by passer. With such enormous amount of competition how can you stand out among the pack? Having the biggest booth no longer guarantees you the upper hand, but having a properly designed booth graphics that can effectively draw in potential customers will be the key to your success. Take a look at the following tips to guide you through the designing process so you can effectively market your brand and services at trade shows or any exhibitions.


One of the most important factors when designing your trade show booth graphics is knowing precisely where your booth is located. Are you located near the entrance of the exhibit center or are you near the very end? Do you have an Island booth or peninsula? By having this knowledge, it is a huge advantage in planning out which direction to display your marketing message, and where the expected traffic is coming from.

For example, let’s say your booth is an island with 4 sides open located near the entrance of the convention center.  From this alone you can expect heavy traffic to hit your 2 adjacent sides facing the entrance. A rush of people would come at once, your goal is to grab their attention as quickly as possible (remember the 3 second rule) to draw them into your booth. This leads to sizing and placement of your graphics.

Dimensions & Placement

Knowing the size of your booth, the location and the predicted flow of traffic will allow you to effectively place your booth graphics. The dimensions of your graphics varies greatly to the size of your booth, the distance it’s meant to be seen from and the purpose of your graphics.

For example, if your graphic is designed at over 10 ft tall and 10 ft wide then it is most likely best to be displayed towards the oncoming visitors or potential clients nearby. A 2 ft x 4 ft poster design is probably better to be viewed at a close distance usually when visitors are right at your booth.

A good way for proper placement of your graphics is by identifying your long, mid and short range graphics.

Long-range graphics are placed on hanging banners, signs, flags or large display stands. These designs usually consist of a company’s logo and or very short text that are meant to be seen from across the show room. However there are downsides to this, one of the common issues being that your competitors next to you may also have a large sign display or even bigger that will obstruct yours. Displaying multiple long range graphics on tall feather flags instead of relying on one hanging banner can give you much better coverage.

Mid-range graphics is where you lure the one going by passers in to your booth. These graphics are usually placed 6-8 ft above ground level on pop up displays or banner stands. You should have graphics that are content driven including your logo, tagline with call to actions that promotes your products and services.

Short-range graphics are the final selling point of your booth graphics. They are what your audience will be looking at once they enter your booth. You should design these graphics with specific features of your products, services and highly detailed benefits on why people should choose you. There are many ways to display your graphics, one of the most popular being using poster stands and straight display stand. You want to place your graphics to be seen at eye level, in close proximity and easily read without having to crouch down or step out of the booth to see the whole design. Consider displaying your graphics double sided on a small 2 ft wide display tube. This gives people more room to read about your products and services. At the same time you will be much more flexible in positioning your stand as it now covers the front and back.

Content & Typography

The next step is the actual content of your graphics, what you choose to be displayed, how many words, sentences and what font you use. Having the knowledge of where to place your graphics, and sizing them appropriately is a great start but if the content of your graphics are poorly designed then you’re taking a huge step backwards. Many of the show exhibitors make the mistake of putting out too much content with illegible texts on their booth graphics.  Remember the 3 second rule, your graphics and message only has about 3 seconds to grab visitors attention. If it takes longer for them to read or understand what is going on, then chances are the visitors might just look the other way and continue to walk past your booth.

Ideally, your graphic content should consist of messages that targets your potential customers needs. Think about what your product or services can do for them, how they will benefit from choosing you over your competitors and why. Be unique but informative, stray away from generic content such as long product specifications, paragraphs of business descriptions or boring pictures of your company’s building etc. You have catalogs and brochures for that, keep your booth graphics interesting and straight to the point.

How do you convey your message across with clarity and creativity? This involves a good typography design and a typeface that fits with your brand and services. You should layout your text with basic typography rules: Using no more than 2 – 3 fonts, proper type hierarchy, be aware of text alignment and text spacing. Having too many fonts can create visual distraction to your viewers, similarly having only 1 font may cause dullness. Choosing the right font can be a difficult matter especially since there are thousands of fonts available. However despite the enormous amount of fonts, they all still fit within 3 font families. They are Serif (Times New Roman, Georgia etc) San Serif, (Helvetica, Arial) and decorative fonts (Comic Sans).  The most legible to read are Serif and San Serif fonts. Keep in mind of font sizes before choosing a font as too small or narrow fonts once printed out may be difficult to see. Typography hierarchy is establishing a order of importance within your text contents to effectively communicate your message to your viewers. Using proper type hierarchy will give your viewers a flow of information that lets them easily navigate through the content with no confusion. Last but not least, keep your texts aligned consistently! If you have a centered headline or logo the text below should align in the center as well to keep a proper flow that leads the viewers through your content.

Color & Contrast

One of the reasons why some exhibitor’s booth graphics are ineffective and illegible is due to bad color & contrast combinations. For effective booth graphics, use color combinations that provides sharp contrast between your text, images, and background. By doing so, you can avoid your text conflicting with your background or images. A simple way to keep your color combinations working effectively is by using light and dark colors. You can always serf the web for many thousands of color palates that will give you the correct contrast you need.  Keep in mind that typography layout also plays a role here. You should avoid placing text over a busy background with lots of images and colors. This will cause the text to be illegible even if your color combinations are perfect, a busy background is simply just too distracting. Furthermore, having too many colors in your design will also cause a distraction. A good rule of thumb is to stick to around 2-3 colors through out one design to avoid any visual noises that will distract viewers from your main message.

Creating an effective trade show booth graphics to surpass all the competitors can be tough and challenging. Trial and errors are expected, however if you keep in mind of the key points you read on this post and apply it effectively to your designing process then you can increase your booth’s ability to draw in potential clients at a crowded trade show event.