6 Best Design Tips For Creating A Successful Trade Show Display

6 Best Design Tips For Creating A Successful Trade Show Display

Your company has finally chosen and purchased a display configuration, Congrats! Now all you have to do is create an eye catching trade show display design that will captivate your potential customers.   

Don’t worry, we can help you with this. We’ve compiled a list of the best practices to create a successful and impactful display. All of these tips come from the MODdisplays in-house graphic design team. These tips will not only help with your design but hopefully they help you add value and increase your company’s return on investment. 

1. Focused Design

First things first - figure out what message you want to convey and who is your target audience. Pick one key message and focus on that. 

While it’s tempting to showcase your many advantages over your competition, too many tag lines and wordy displays become overwhelming and cluttered. If you have too much text, nobody will read any of it in a fast-paced show setting. Your message needs to be clear within the first few seconds. 

10x20 Serpentine Kit with Standroid
10x20 Serpentine Kit with Standroid with a focused design and simple text

With that being said, you surely have a lot of information you want to share with your customers and that's great. Put this information in your brochures or loop on a monitor in your booth. Use apps to set up appointments or contact your guests after the event to share more information.   

Trade shows tend to be cluttered and full of people and you don't want to get lost in the information overload. Remember that your display doesn’t sell your product or sign customers up with new service contracts. The goal is to give your team an opportunity to meet guests and build relationships. Let your staff go into detail about your company but keep your display design clean and to the point. A cluttered display can do more to repel guests than entice them. 

2. Design To Maximize Your ROI

Displays are not cheap purchases and you should look to maximize your investment. You want to find ways to use your display as long you can and in as many ways as you can. Your design can really impact your total return on investment (ROI). 

Most of the time it’s a good idea to create a clean design that takes a more holistic brand approach as opposed to being too focused on one product or service. This allows you to use the booth much longer without needing to update your back wall graphic. It also opens up the option to use the booth for company events, company videos, networking events, office lobbies and more. 

10x10 XVline 10.01 Kit
10x10 XVline 10.01 trade show display being used as a presentation backdrop
10x10 XVline 10.01 Kit
10x10 XVline 10.01 Kit showing a single logo design

This isn't to say that a specific product or feature design is necessarily wrong for your company. There are many examples of how strategically promoting a specific offering at a specific event can really boost your company’s investment. Just talk with your team first and understand how you plan to maximize your investment before starting on your design. Check out our post for questions to ask your team before you purchase your exhibit. 

Waveline Media 10.15
Waveline Media 10.15 showing how one panel can be a branding panel while the other can highlight a product

Remember using a multi-panel booth like the Waveline Media kits or adding a branded display like a Wavelight Air Backlit Tower can be a great way to have a general branded panel and a product or feature specific panel if needed. This way when you swap graphics in and out based on the event you are attending without having to replace the entire back wall. Adding a monitor to your booth can also be a good option if you want to promote a specific product or feature without sacrificing your general branded graphic. The biggest concern with either of these options is that your aesthetic must be cohesive among all the graphics and/or digital content. 

3. Placement

Your design needs to make it easy for people to see the necessary information, quickly. A fun image and interesting aesthetic alone don’t do a lot for your brand if nobody knows who you are or how you may be able to help them. 

Make sure your logo is in a visible location and keep all of your main images at eye level (about 4-6 feet above the floor). Put your tagline, or whatever you want to be seen from furthest away, at the top of the display. This way, it doesn’t get missed behind visitors and representatives in your booth. 

10x10 Exhibitline 10.05 showing good text, logo, and image placement

If you have monitors, hardware, or tables, keep those in mind as you design, so you do not obstruct any key images or info. Some trade show exhibits use “floating” monitors on the back wall of their booth. Know what size monitor your company plans on using and where exactly it fits into the back wall. 

Be sure to leave some negative space for the design to breathe. The industry standard recommends about 40% of negative space. These can be simple areas of color only, or where a large background image spans without any text. You want to avoid tight alignment of words and text.

Use our template recommendations and keep within the safe space. Any words or graphics too close to the edge might end up warping slightly or getting caught in a seam or cut off. Small print and stitching misalignments can be avoided by staying within those regions.

4. Text and Readability

Having a text font that is hard to read or a confusing tag line are the kinds of the things that can sink your show. Your text has to be concise and easy to read or your would-be guests will keep walking. 

Your tagline or should be short, sweet, and visible from a distance. Based on client response research, you want to have a message that can be read within 3 seconds. If your tagline is longer than this, you may need to brainstorm how you can make your main message clearer.

Waveline Media 20.06
10x20 Waveline Media 20.06 showing how a simple tagline is effective on a display

To ensure the tagline and text is readable, a good rule of thumb is that your font should be 2 inches tall for every 3 feet away it will be viewed. The easiest types of fonts to read would be sans serif fonts, with their clean lines.

Examples of four easy to read fonts for you trade show display

  • Gotham
Example of Gotham Text
  • Helvetica
Example of Helvetica Text
  • Futura
Example of Futura Text
  • Poppins
Example of Poppins Text

Try to use no more than 2 different fonts per graphic panel. Any more than that will make your display message look unfocused and scattered.

5. Images and Color

Anytime you are working with large scale prints and graphic design, images with good resolution can be hard to obtain.

If possible, try and use vector graphics when you can, so you may scale up without any loss in print quality. If this isn’t possible, try to use our art guidelines and keep the image at a minimum of 72ppi once it is scaled to full size. A good rule of thumb is; if you have an image that is 300ppi, it can be blown up approximately three times before the quality becomes too low for print. Keep your text and logos in vector as well for crisp and clear print.

Limit the amount of images used. Just like with the text and message, you want to be focused and concise. Keep in mind, most people viewing your booth will be from a few feet away, and you want to grab their attention quickly. Too many small images are hard to view from the passerby’s distance, and essentially become pointless.

For consistency in your colors (and reprints thereafter), find out the Pantone codes for the solid colors you will be using. This way you know what hue to expect on your printed material and makes it easier to create matching artwork for replacement graphics. If you have any questions about Pantones vs CMYK colors, read this quick post.

10x20 Waveline Media 20.06 Kit with monitor stand showing how to place a logo, use large images, and a consistent color scheme

Another good rule of thumb regarding color - use no more than 3 colors for your booth’s scheme. For best results, use a color wheel to see which colors are complementary - these combinations will give your booth an extra bit of effective contrast, especially for text on colored backgrounds.

6. Designing Across Multi-Panel Displays

Multi-Panel displays are so useful in the fact that you can connect a few panels to make one larger display or they can generally be used as stand alone panels in various size spaces. While these booths offer excellent value and versatility, there are still a few useful tips that can help you get the most out of your set.

As tempting as it may be, do not span your headline or text across more than one display. It’s best to keep each message on its own panel or banner. This will allow you to use it on it’s own, as well as to match it up with other panels depending on your trade show booth design. Additionally, if you have concerns about the exact alignment of an image or design, it would be best to avoid spanning that image or design beyond more than one panel. 

Wavelight 10.01 Kit
10x10 Wavelight Kit 10.01 showing how two panels without a continuous design can create a single back wall

If you really want to create a continuous design over two or three panels, try and use an image where overlaps and alignment are not as noticeable. While we try our best to ensure precise alignment from the digital file to the final print, some movement and variation is likely during graphic installation from show to show. 

10x10 Waveline Media 10.04 showing continuous design elements across two panels
10x10 Waveline Media 10.04 showing continuous design elements across two panels

A good use of banners would be to make sure one has your contact information and logo, while the others have trade show specific information. This way, you can use the singular banner on it’s own for small events, and add or renew the additional ones as different needs approach.


Designing for Backlit Displays

The popularity of backlit displays has grown substantially over the past couple years and it’s no wonder why. When designed correctly, they give your booth an exciting visual experience that guests can’t ignore. We’ve got a few tips to achieve the best results on these fun displays.

Use high contrast images and text. Dark backgrounds with high contrast light areas work really well with these displays. For example; night time images with stars or city lights, underwater images, or anything that has simulated glow or light. Bright colors have even more impact than usual when backlit. 

Wavelight Displays showing how well black and bright color contrasts work with backlit displays
Wavelight Displays showing how well black and bright color contrasts work with backlit displays

Try and focus more on the image and visuals when designing for this booth. The imagery used on these booths packs more punch as opposed to a regular display. Text will be inevitable in some designs, but a lot of text will not have the same impact as a great backlit image. 

8x10 Wavelight Display showing well bright colors and large text work with backlit displays
8x10 Wavelight Display showing well bright colors and large text work with backlit displays

One thing to be aware of is color variations in backlit prints. Even if you use your brand’s Pantones, keep in mind that the addition of lights behind the printed fabric can cause it to look a little different than usual.

Double Bonus!!

What "Vector Art" Means and Why You Should Use It

Vector art is created using a computer program like Adobe Illustrator. The design is created using internal mathematical formulas by the computer to create shapes, lines, and colors. Most graphics you see in games, apps, and digital illustrations are vector based artwork. They usually come in file types ending with .ai, .eps, .svg, or even pdf.

Benefits of Vector Art

1. Vector art can easily be resized without losing resolution or quality

2. Vector graphics take up significantly less memory space

3. Vector files are extremely versatile. This art is often used for promotional products, paper prints, large scale display prints, mobile apps, games, website design and more

Regular images such as photos or those created in non-vector programs, are known as “raster” images. Raster images mean that the artwork is created by many tiny pixels to create one large image. Usually, you cannot see these little pixel squares in the image until you start expanding or zooming in on the design. This same issue can arise when you want to use a photograph. The photo may look fine in a typical print size, but pixels will begin to show when the image is enlarged. You will start to see the edges become jagged or blurry. 

Vector Art vs Raster Art at 400% Zoom
Vector Art vs Raster Art at 400% Zoom

In comparison, a vector image is created using formulas, allowing it to be scaled up and down as necessary. The computer can adapt the artwork as needed. A raster image may not always be capable of scaling to the size you need.In today’s modern trade show marketing world, vector graphics are essential. They save you space, time, and always promise a clean, sharp, image. Raster images still serve their purpose, but a good brand should always have vector art on hand.


Designing a great booth that your company can use and enjoy for a long time can be very rewarding. It’s always nice to see your smart design garnering a strong return on your company's investment. Use the tips and examples above as guidelines when creating your next display. Our in-house graphics team uses these same principles when working to create successful display designs for our customers. If you have any questions, our design team is available and happy to help. Feel free to call us at 877.663.3976 or email us at Info@moddisplays.com.

February 8, 2021
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