Here are some basics every event organiser, marketing professional or graphic designer should know when it comes to designing trade show graphics.

The Three Second Rule
There’s a rule of thumb within the exhibition industry that says that you have about three seconds to grab the attention of people walking by and communicate key messages.

With this limited time frame, a display’s graphics must offer engaging images to support those messages. To really get your point across, your display needs more than just images. Try colourful, suitable images, readable typefaces, and succinct text that delivers the solution to the problem on most attendees’ minds: What’s in it for me?

The best size of exhibition visuals depends on the size of your exhibition space, intended purpose of the graphics, type of graphics, distance from which the graphics will be read, and of course, your budget.

The graphics’ purpose, size, and legibility will dictate their placement within an exhibition display. For example, signage that facilitates locating exhibitors on the show floor — and often features the company’s logo — are called long-range graphics. Such graphics are typically displayed at the maximum height allowed by show management to increase visibility.

Mid-range graphics are the signs and images used to further identify your company and its products/services. The graphics’ intent is to lure attendees from nearby exhibits and aisles into your exhibit. These graphics should have your company name, logo, tagline, and product names. Mid-range graphics are often positioned at or just above eye level.

To effectively communicate your message once attendees are in your exhibition space, short-range graphics are used. These graphics include signage and text legible only from close distances. Content is heavy on information, and can include product benefits, features, specifications, applications, pricing, and perhaps even complex charts and graphs. These signs should be mounted at eye level. This height helps prevent blockage from anyone that could be standing in front of the graphics.

Exhibitors have an inclination to put an excessive amount of content on their graphics. If you’re going by one of the basic rules of billboard readability, six words or less is ideal. Statements containing greater than six words are less likely to be read. Graphics that can’t be read in three seconds (the amount of time that is required to walk past your booth) have far too much text. It is important for you to communicate your key message in as few words as you can while keeping it simple and clear.

Graphics messaging should concentrate on your target audience’s needs by concisely conveying product benefits (not features). Go for brief benefit statements that answer the infamous “What’s in it for me?” question, over copy-heavy diatribes extolling every product specification. Test your graphics messages by asking, “What problem do attendees have that they’re attempting to solve?” “Why must attendees want our product?” and “What exactly makes our product different or better than our competitors’ products?”

Colors and Contrast
For effective exhibition graphics, select text colors that provide a sharp contrast to the background color. This could be achieved simply by using light hues over dark, or dark over light colors. Avoid overlaying text directly on a busy background, textured surfaces, or images, all of which can result in visual noise and decrease the legibility of your message. Furthermore, use a maximum of three colours inside the display to maintain a cohesive look, and stay consistent with colors used on other corporate marketing pieces to ensure an integrated look. It will ultimately help prospective clients and current customers easily recognize you on the sometimes hectic floor.

What’s on your graphics? Is your logo so well known that there’s no requirement to pair it with the company name or tagline? Or will a photograph with a strong benefit statement function as the ultimate bearer of your message? If you’re using images, which kind of image best conveys your message? mages of attractive, diverse people utilizing your product will attract more attention than product “glamour shots.”

The overall quality of the image used and its subsequent output speaks volumes when joined with your corporate message. Making use of a low-res image will result in pixelated, grainy, or blurry output.  Discuss with your graphic designer on specific requirements to be certain you have usable, high-res images in standard file formats such as .jpg or .eps. Even better, get your graphic designer to put your display artwork together for you. When you begin searching for stock images, always buy the biggest, highest resolution file available.

Fonts act like voices which can express an entire series of emotions. They can yell or whisper your key messages. The selection of fonts are organized directly into one of three major font families: serif fonts such as Times Roman or Garamond, sans serif fonts like Helvetica or Arial, and decorative fonts such as Comic Sans or any of the script fonts that resemble handwriting. Serif and sans serif fonts are typically the most readable.

Along with these choices, you have to choose the most appropriate voice to convey messages to your audience. The type on your graphics should be easy to read based on its location in the exhibit and distance from the viewer.

Even with everything that can go wrong, designing and producing effective exhibit graphics certainly isn’t too difficult. By paying attention to color, placement, and messaging, you’ll be well ahead of the graphics game.


Spyder Displays offer full graphic design from concept to print management to help you achieve your goals. Talk to one of our friendly staff in our graphics department today.