Keeping up with trends in trade show booth graphic materials can be a challenge. But it’s a must for in-house printing groups and print-service providers.
For many businesses, trade shows are key components of their marketing strategy. A trade show provides an unbeatable opportunity to raise brand awareness within target customer groups, publicize new products, sell products, and meet face-to-face with strategic business partners, journalists, and current and prospective customers. A well-run trade-show booth can also help boost social-media follows and subscriptions to email newsletters.
So, even if a trade show is often the single largest expense in an organization’s marketing budget, the payoffs can be substantial. With creative communications before and after the show, a trade show booth can generate returns long after the event has ended.
Fabric graphics in HP booth. Photo: Brand Management Group
If your company will be exhibiting at a trade show this year (or printing trade-show graphics for other companies), here are three trends in trade-show booth materials you should consider:
Print on Fabrics. Signs and images on inkjet-printable fabrics are called “soft signage” because they have a warmer, more inviting look than more rigid, laminated graphics. Plus lightweight fabric graphics can be easier and more economical to ship. HP recommends these two fabrics for trade-show graphics: HP Light Fabric and HP Durable Backlit Fabric.
Recyclable trade-show graphics on HP materials. Photo: Brand Management Group
Create Branded Walls. Use the wall space in your booth for branding. Custom-printed wallpaper with brand graphics can create an inviting space for demonstrating and discussing your products and services. HP recommends HP PVC-Wall Paper
Freedom Paper offers a huge assortment of wide-format inkjet media for trade-show graphics. For information and recommendations, chat with one of our wide-format experts online or call 866-310-3335.
Portable banner stands are popular because they provide a very economical way to deliver a message. Use them to display promotional messages or set them up to direct foot traffic through a store or event.
In Module 4 of Sihl’s Summer Series of videos, Andreas deGroot talked about some of the inkjet banner materials and other media that can be used for portable banner stands. Below is a quick summary of some of his tips.
The base material provides most of the physical properties the graphic will have. Choices today include:
PVC banner materials
semi-rigid multi-layer combinations of PVC films and polyester films
textiles or textile-like products
PVC banners are pliable, and durable and range in weight from 8 to 15 ounces. They can be ordered with or without a light-blocking layer.
“The quality of these products is highly variable,” says deGroot. And lightweight banners tend to curl at the edges when the display is set up.
Semi-rigid lay-flat PVC films have three layers —two extruded sheets of PVC on the top and bottom and a layer of polyester film in the middle. The PVC sheet provides a very smooth surface for imaging; the polyester film provides the stability that keeps the graphics flat when displayed.
Polypropylene films are thin, lightweight, and smooth. “The imaging is quite spectacular,” notes deGroot. But polypropylene film tears more easily than PVC, so these films aren’t recommended for displays in high-traffic areas. The quality of polypropylene film also varies depending on the manufacturer.
Textiles and textile-like products provide a softness and texture that can enhance the emotional appeal of a powerful visual message. Printed textiles are also easier to handle and store that semi-rigid films or laminated graphics.
Polyester films are used for high-end display applications that require a high level of durability and scratch-resistance. For example, a polyester film might be a good choice for banner stands that will be viewed by people standing in line at a bank.
Poster papers protected with laminating films can also be used to make banner-stand graphics. But this approach is better suited for longer-term graphics, because you must factor in the higher cost of the materials and the time required for lamination. Laminating large display prints can be tricky if you have never done it before.
Match the Media to the Application
Choosing the right material for the banner stand depends on where it will be displayed and how long. Consider questions such as these:
How many times will the banner be pulled in and out of the retractable display? Will the display be carried to a series of events where it will be rolled up and unrolled each day?
Will the display be exposed to lots of sunshine over a period of time? Or will it be displayed in an indoor meeting room for a day-long or weekend event?
Will you need media with a light-blocking (blockout) layer? A blockout layer is helpful if the graphics will be displayed in a trade-show or retail location where lights are shining form all directions. When light shines behind a banner-stand graphic without a blockout layer, the support structure of the banner stand will cast a shadow that will be visible on the front of the graphic.
A blockout layer adds to the cost of the media and its grayness can also diminish the white point of the imaging surface. This can affect the final look of your image.
“If you’re not going to have any light behind the graphic, forego the blockout layer,” says deGroot. “You’ll save a couple of dollars and get a better quality image.”
Consider the Coating
Ink doesn’t bond well to polyester and polypropylene films without some sort of ink-receptive coating.
Coatings are a must for all banner and display materials that will be printed on aqueous inkjet printers such as HP DesignJets, Canon imagePROGRAFs, and Epson Stylus Pros. The coating on the surface of the media acts like sponge. It allows the ink to be absorbed and also delivers properties such as color gamut, print resolution, dry times, scratch resistance, and outdoor durability.
The better the coating is, the better the performance of the printed graphic.
Uncoated PVC products typically work very well with printers that use solvent, eco-solvent, latex, or UV-curable inks. But even with these inks, a thin coating layer can improve the ink adhesion and produce brighter colors.
Call Us for Advice
Freedom Paper carries a wide selection of Sihl products that can be used for banner stand displays, including these four products for aqueous inkjet printers:
Are you preparing trade show graphics for the fall trade-show season? If so, you’re not alone. According to the 10 Times event services website, more than 13,800 trade shows will be held in the U.S. between September 1 and November 30, 2016.
Here are a few ideas to help you improve the process of designing and creating stand-out exhibits:
Think about the total experience. “A memorable, purposeful experience in your space is what really engages people and connects them to your brand,” says Skyline Exhibit Design Manager Scooter Hendon in an article about the future of exhibit design, “Showing up with nice architecture and graphics just isn’t enough to distinguish you from your competitors.” This doesn’t mean everything in your booth must be digitally based. Printed graphics can be creatively designed for visitor interaction.
Update outdated or damaged graphics. Show that your company cares about quality and relevancy by refreshing your graphics periodically. Use updated materials, finishing treatments, imagery, and messaging.
Follow a few proven design principles. In a post outlining “The 18 Hidden Rules of Trade Shows,” Mike Thimmesch says “The more words you put on your trade show booth, the fewer times they will be read.”
For ideas on how to communicate a brand message quickly, check out billboards, bus wraps, magazine ads, and other booths at the trade show. The visuals and typography are big. The copy is succinct. Use contrasting colors on the elements of the design that you want to stand out (e.g. your logo, tagline, or special offer).
Calibrate your monitor before designing display graphics. With a calibrated monitor and software such as Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, or Canon Print Studio Pro, you can use media profiles to get an accurate on-screen preview of how the colors will look when your design is printed on your chosen inkjet printer and inkjet media. If your monitor isn’t calibrated, a graphic that looks red on-screen may be pink or orange when you print it.
Choose the right banner stand for the environment. Portable banner stands are versatile. Use them as pop-up advertisements for special promotions or events in your booth. Or group several banner stands side-by-side to form an easy-to-ship backdrop to shows that in distant parts of the United States. Smaller banners are good for smaller, more intimate events such as a social gatherings. Use larger banner stands in situations where the message must be read from 30 to 100 yards away.
Get the best results from backlit graphics. The lightbox supplier Blue River Digital suggests several ways to get the best diffusion from your lightbox. For example, you can design busier graphics that minimize large, pale solids and include a variety of colors and shapes. Or, upgrade your diffuser lens or use a smaller display. The cabinet depth and lamp density can also affect the quality of light diffusion.
Most importantly, use a true backlit film instead of a translucent paper to create lightbox graphics. In Sihl’s Summer Series video on How to Choose a Backlit Film, Andreas DeGroot says the quality of the inkjet-receptive coating on the film is key to ensuring that the right amount of light shines through the graphic. The coating must also be free of pinholes that let the light shine through undiffused.
Do some pre-show marketing to get the right traffic to your booth. Send e-mails or free show passes to the types of clients you would most like to see in your booth. Your goal isn’t necessarily to attract as many people as possible to your booth. You want to attract people who are most likely to buy your products and services.
Train your staff. Trade-show visitors will remember the professionalism and expertise of your staff more than the quality of your booth graphics. Remind booth personnel to remain fully engaged, even during the waning hours of the final day of the show. Sometimes highly qualified buyers don’t visit the show until the crowds have cleared out and they can get the undivided attention of trade-show personnel for key questions.
Order trade-show supplies early. Whether you are printing graphics for your own company or for clients of your print shop, make sure you have enough ink and materials on hand to handle rush jobs.
Although trade-show marketing pros recommend developing booth graphics six to nine months before the scheduled event, some design decisions inevitably get delayed. Or the team comes up with some really fantastic ideas at the last minute.
Freedom Paper offers fast, economical delivery on a wide variety of inkjet-printable materials that can be used to create banner-stand graphics, lightbox displays, banners, posters, and signs for your booth. If you have questions, please contact our customer-service team at 866-310-3335.
If you have any additional tips or tricks about designing trade-show graphics, please share them! Send your tips and examples to: email@example.com