Tag Archives: Graphic Design

Top 10 Signs You Need a New Tradeshow Booth or Graphic Design

The situations on this list, while presented with humor, lead to results which are anything but funny. Unfortunately, we have seen (and corrected) every one of these mistakes over the last 15 years!

If you can’t read through it without a glimmer of recognition — chances are you are coming up short on achieving the trade show results you are looking for.

Top 10 Signs You Might Need a New Booth

We’ll work our way up from number 10 in classic late-night TV Top 10 List fashion.

#10 A sure sign you need to get a new booth is when you have clients saying “You do that?” even after just seeing you at the trade show where you announced a new product or service.

#9 A sign it’s past time for a revamp is when your booth sports a color scheme — and logo — that’s been changed, at least twice, since.

#8 You might be ready for a new booth if you’ve gotten tired of watching your competitors essentially open their arms and put their booth up in two minutes when it takes you an hour or two and a ladder.

Or your competitors have one of the hybrid fabric and extrusion models that only look like they require paying for labor from the general contractor, and you are paying for setup, with overtime too.

#7 A sign the timing is perfect for a new booth is you’ve just made a big move like purchasing another company or snagging some major clients, and you want to step up the style of your display to replace the same-old, same-old pop up you’ve relied on for years.

#6 An obvious sign is when your boss finally admits that his wife’s nephew did the design for a school project.  Or your marketing agency designed it when they did your brochures — and they look exactly the same, only the brochures work and the trade show booth design does not.

(Hint: you’re not saving money by using someone who does not know how to create impact with trade show graphics. You will have to pay to replace them to get the results you are looking for!)

#5 A painful sign (and maybe no one is telling you) is when your sales people or field marketing reps won’t put up the display you think they’re using. It weighs more than they do or is so difficult to set up, it cuts into their face time with prospects. Or they have decided it requires too much effort to explain its message, and the inflexible booth layout does not allow easy adaptation for their specific audiences or product lines.

#4 Another reason it could be time to reconsider your booth design is when people keep asking if you’re a startup — and you’re not. Or you are a startup with great new ideas and everyone sees the same stock photographs they see on other booths, so they don’t pay any attention to you.

#3 You know you need to get out of a rut when you get lost coming back from the bathroom, or prospects ask for help in finding your company.  This means, your booth looks too much like everyone else’s, your company name or tagline does not stand out, and even you can’t read most of its overly small print when you’re standing next to it.

#2 A truly bad sign that you need a new booth is — it’s not doing its job. Instead of connecting with leads pre-qualified by its message, you end up talking to the wrong people.

And the #1 most obvious and most worrisome sign that you need a new booth is when people pause, stare at your display, then look at you and ask, “So what is it you do anyway?”

Do you find yourself agreeing — or even suspecting — that any of these situations describes your own booth?

Take a look at our range of portable trade show displays or modular trade show exhibits – or give us a call to talk about updating your booth graphics.

We want you to get new prospects, expand your current client relationships, and be a trade show exhibiting success!  We provide the expertise of an exhibit house without the overhead. Reach out today for help assessing your current situation.


Deborah Elms is a co-founder of Imprinted Originals, a division of The Originals Group.  She is passionate about helping new and growing businesses create and retain customers through the effective use of trade shows & events.

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/D_Elms
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/deborahelms

Website: http://www.imprintedoriginals.com


The 3 Jobs of A Tradeshow Booth: Proper Design Leads to Success

There are “3 jobs” of a trade show booth that lead to exhibiting success – do you know what they are?

If you understand these roles of a booth – and work with a designer with the exhibit design experience needed – you will have a great foundation for trade show success.  If you don’t, it doesn’t matter how great you think your booth looks – the results of your trade show might be disappointing.

The danger of not understanding the role of proper design

All too often, we see new exhibitors (and sometimes even not-so-new) rely on someone who has designed their website or brochure.  Beautiful, perhaps, but not matched to the requirements of a trade show booth.

A trade show booth needs to: stand out at a distance, bring the right people in to look more closely (and keep out the wrong people), and offer up just enough information (visually and otherwise) to start the conversation you want.

Handling those requirements are the three jobs of a booth.

#1: Grab Attention From A Distance

The first job of your booth is to grab attention from a distance, and make you stand out among a sea of other exhibitors.  Your designer will work with the whole look and feel of your booth, especially bringing focus on the part of your booth which is seen the furthest – usually the highest points of your booth.

As people walk down a long aisle, with so much distraction, you can get as little as two to five seconds for an initial look by your prospects.

In that glance, they need to see something that makes sense and appeals to them.  If your company is an unknown, you will almost certainly get a lot fewer eyeballs than you are counting on. if your logo reaches 30 feet but the headline that clarifies what you do is only visible for the final 10 feet.  This demands work from strangers who do not know why they should care, yet.

You cannot rely on your audience taking a second glance. Your booth must make them look.

#2:  Filter In and Filter Out

The second job of your booth is to act as a filter.

Your booth needs to make it clear who should stop, and who should keep walking.  And it only has a few seconds to do this.

It maybe counter-intuitive, but you don’t want everyone at a show to stop and talk to you – unless you have a consumer brand that is literally “for everyone”, which is rare.

Instead – someone walking towards your booth must be able to see if you, your products or services, match one of their needs, desires or interests. They have to see something that matters to them.

You also need to remember that your time is limited at a show.  You want to connect with just the people you are targeting, and keep others walking past.

You don’t want to waste time explaining what you do to just anyone who is curious, or have to fish for whether they match your basic qualifications, both of which a well-designed booth should normally handle for you.

Most importantly of all, you don’t want good prospects walking past you because it was not obvious why they should stop.

This second job turns your booth into a pre-qualification engine, which moves smoothly into Job #3.

#3: Start the Conversation

Your booth’s third job is to set the tone for the conversation that will follow when your intended audience has stopped.  Note, this does not mean your booth replaces conversation.

It means, up close, your intended audience will see images and words that demonstrate you understand them, and their pain points, or the benefits they’re interested in.  What keys their interest in Job 2, when looked at more closely as they’ve paused for a closer look, becomes the grounds of the discussion in Job 3.

Sometimes folks like scientists, software designers, or engineers – and actually anyone with a highly specific technical training – try to turn their booth into a sales brochure. There are paragraphs of information and detailed pictures or designs, better suited for a brochure or presentation.  They are trying to convey as much information as they can.  You’d have to be IN the booth and next to the booth to read it.

The truth is, if someone is that close to your booth, it’s your turn to engage them  in conversation.  You or your staff now get to take the connection and conversation your booth has succeeded at starting to the next level.

Other factors important to your tradeshow success

How successful you are at this third stage of conversation is dependent on much more than your booth design, of course.  It all starts with strategy, and includes pre-show and at-show promotional marketing; presentations, demonstrations or other interactions; and how well your booth staff has been trained in the do’s and don’ts of trade show exhibiting.  (I’ve created links to selected related article topics – or go to the Tradeshow Tips page)

What If Your Graphic Designer Doesn’t Know About the 3 Jobs?

My advice is to seek out graphic designers with the understanding and experience to get you the results you are looking for.  In the case of a tradeshow booth, ask if they have “large format graphic design” experience and if they know how to design for distance, filtering and conversation.

Or give us a call.  Imprinted Originals can provide creative design for your booth based on these principles; it’s what we do!

Note: I’ve talked about these “3 jobs” for years with prospects and clients.  I hope that this article on what they are, and how they can impact trade show exhibitor success, has been helpful.   Feel free to leave questions or comments (comments are moderated).


Deborah Elms is passionate about helping businesses and organizations create and retain customers through the effective use of trade shows & other face-to-face events.  She heads up the Trade Show and Event Division of Imprinted Originals.  You can follow her on twitter at @D_Elms or visit the Imprinted Originals Facebook page.


You Want My What Code? (PMS, RGB & CMYK Color Systems)

RGB, CMYK, and PMS – Trying to Capture Color in a Code

If you tell me you want a green table throw, a green backdrop, or even a green logo — how will I know which color you mean?   Even if you give me a standard description, like “Kelly Green”, how can you be sure you will get the color you want?

How can we be sure we reproduce the color you’re expecting?

What we need is to define colors using a system that can be communicated and then used and re-used consistently.

The way this is done is with codes.  As it turns out though, we need more than one way to describe color.

There’s one set of codes used for when dealing with images carried by light (TV or computer monitor), another for printing, and another entirely when we’re dealing with “spot” imprinting on t-shirts.

These codes are called RGB, CMYK, and PMS.   Each of these is important for different marketing projects.  We run into a fair amount of confusion on the meanings and uses of these codes, so I thought I’d give a basic tutorial here.  I’m not a graphic artist, however, so my definitions and examples are definitely based in the products used in tradeshow displays and event products.

RGB (Red, Green, and Blue)

RGB stands for Red Green and Blue.  If we mix – i.e. overlap – light of these three colors, we will get white light.  You might remember seeing a demonstration of this on a trip to a science museum.

Colors which when you add them together get lighter are called “additive colors”.  By defining how “bright” each of these colors is, on a scale from 0 to 255, you can “add” them together to get different colors.  (255,0,0) is pure Red, (0,255,0) is Green.

RGB codes cannot be used to define and reproduce all colors, only those that can be created by “adding” these three colors together.

An enhanced version of RGB coding is used for computer monitors, television screens and other electronic devices which are “colored” by means of rays of light.

Have you ever experienced surprise when your printer prints a “different color” than what you see on your monitor?  Or discovered your company website colors look different on your home computer monitor?  It’s because one issue with RGB is the codes are not device-independent.  The same code combination on one device will NOT look exactly the same on another device.

Also, if your graphic artist is most familiar with designing for computer websites, they may naturally try to provide you graphic codes for your logo using RGB.  These codes are not useful for the printing processes used for the paper, vinyl, or fabric materials used in trade show and event products.

CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) – also known as Process Color or “4 color printing”

You can create a wide range of colors by using different combinations of the colors cyan, magenta and yellow.  Adding these three colors mixed together in equal amounts creates a color near black; these are called the three subtractive primaries.  Including true black as a fourth color gives you a more realistic result.

With CMYK printing, a series of dots are printed, in layers, of each of these colors with the net result creating a complete picture.  This is often called “process color” or “four color” printing.

It’s actually possible to add more standard color dots to create a wider range of final color, so you will sometimes see “six color” or “eight color” printing.  For instance, by breaking cyan into light cyan and dark cyans, and the same with magenta, you will have “six color” printing, which allows your printer to produce yet more realistic color.

Process color is used for printing photographs and graphic images.   Because it can reproduce complex colored images, including shading, gradients, and drop shadows  – it is often referred to as “full color” processing/

If you’ve ever seen a picture where one of the plates used for printing is off, even a little bit (perhaps — back in the day — on the funny pages of a newspaper) you know  how much this process depends on exact alignment to create the effect using the mix of colors.

In the tradeshow and events world, digital printing or dye sublimation (which both use process color/CMYK) are typically used for your display graphics, whether they are printed on vinyl, solid substrate or fabric material.

Spot Color Printing Using the Pantone Matching System (aka PMS codes)

With spot color, a precisely pre-mixed color of ink is directly applied to the paper or fabric material.  This allows the use of a relatively exact color which can be replicated time after time.  PMS Codes are normally used when a small number of precisely defined colors are needed.

Spot colors are used to replicate logos consistently.  They cannot be used for artwork with gradients, shading, or drop shadows.

The most common system used to define spot colors is the Pantone Matching System a.k.a. PMS codes.  Pantone(R) provides a system for carefully calibrating colors across a wide range of printing processes and printing machinery.

Sometimes both Spot and Process are used together — for instance on company brochures or catalogs – when precise colors are needed for logos, and a wider range of colors are needed to represent the company’s products.

Examples in the tradeshow and events world include screenprinted items such as T-shirts and table throws, and padprinted promotional items.

As confusing as it is, you will sometimes be asked for your “PMS numbers” even when working in a medium that does not use them – i.e. CMYK digital printing.  This is to provide a “sync up” point, to try to get certain especially important colors (i.e. for your logo) using the more universal system, in order to get as close a match as possible, within the limits of the other systems.

Conversion Between Color Codes

It is not possible to convert precisely between these different color code systems.

Sometimes a piece of art prepared according to one of these color-coded systems must be used on a project which requires a different code.  It is rarely possible to make a direct match between these code systems.

This is why you will sometimes see “close PMS matching only”  on a product description — for instance, when your logo is being printed digitally (using CMYK or 4 color processing).

Of course, our production artists are trained and work hard to make as close a match as possible so your marketing materials and tradeshow products will work together, but there are limits to what we can do.


Occasionally we find that a graphic artist you have hired —  who typically works on one type of project which uses one kind of color code — is not familiar with the others.  They may  try insist that we should be able to use what they provide.  Now you will know better!

You should now be better prepared to understand why a particular project we’re working on for you requires your artwork to be prepared in a particular manner.  Less mystery for you and we can work with you more easily to get the results you are looking for!



Deborah Elms, CEO of Imprinted Originals, will be co-presenting at the HIA (Hauppauge Industrial Association)’s Pre-Trade Show Seminar on April 28th.

Her topic will be “Effective Exhibiting – Designing Your Graphics and Setting Up Your Booth For Success”.

Other presenters will include:  Arthur Germain, Principal & Chief Brandteller- Communication Strategy Group & Rich Isaac, President- Sandler Sales Long Island.  Additional information on tradeshow setup and organization will be provided by the HIA Staff; Marty Greenstein- Event Pros Group; and Adam Michelin- SmartSource.

Note: The Hauppauge Industrial Association is the largest industrial park East of the Mississippi.  It will be holding its 22nd Annual Long Island Business Trade Show and Conference on May 27:  http://www.hia-li.org



There’s a lot to designing a tradeshow display.  Start by understanding these 5 key points, and you’ll be on your way to a better discussion with your large format graphic designer.

Key #1: “Seize the Moment”
Three to six seconds. That’s how long it takes for someone to walk past your booth. A well-designed booth will actually help attendees “pre-qualify” themselves by doing three essential things quickly: capture the attention of appropriate prospects, set the tone for future interactions, and signal to others not to stop.

Key #2: “Know What You Want”
Before design can begin, you must identify your goals for the show, establish what success will mean, select your target audience, and define your message or theme.

Is your primary goal increasing market share? Introducing new products? Extending product awareness? Does success mean exposure to the most people? Or just to those who match your best prospect profile?

Key #3: “Design With The End in Mind”
Everything in your booth must reflect the message you have chosen. Your theme could be about a product, your company’s profile, or a specific benefit to your clients.

Let’s say your theme is “Working With Us Is Like Taking A Vacation”. This will drive a number of decisions besides your graphical design – ranging from clothing to lighting to giveaways and even possibly the equipment in your booth. Develop a plan with your vendor based on your goals, target audience, type of show, and budget. It is far better to have one simple, well-developed theme than a hodge-podge of splashy effects.

Key #4: “Don’t Confuse Booth Design With Anything Else!”
Your booth is not a brochure. Don’t include too many details and don’t overdo fancy fonts or effects. It’s also not an advertisement.

Don’t expect your booth to “sell” – trade shows are rarely about closing deals on the spot.  It is there to start a dialog between you and appropriate prospects.  Or to inform current customers about new ways you can serve them.

Be wary of having the same person who did your brochure or web design trying to tackle designing your display.  There are different design principles.  Make sure they understand “large format” design before starting, or hire someone for whom that is their specialty.

Key #5: “Look with Your Customer’s Eyes”
You need to understand how a display is “read” – much like a webpage – starting at the upper left and then across to the right and downwards in a Z-like fashion. Approaching prospects look for clues about whether to stop. Give them a “headline” in the top third of your display area, with your name, major brand, or tagline.

They will then look for product or service category and major benefits. Finally, they may want to see “trust indicators” such as industry credentials, a client list, or testimonials.

Keep all text and important pictures above the sight line, use photos recognizable at a distance, and size your lettering about an inch for every three feet it must be read.

Don’t use too many words, and better to use a few perfect photographs than too many.

No suprise, but the best way to balance all these requirements is to use an artist experienced with large format design, such as we have on staff.  (And we’re happy to work with your designer if they understand these key points as well)