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How to Create an Effective Display Design

How to Create an Effective Display Design

With so many factors at play during a trade show, taking control of the parts you can impact is crucial. Few things are more important to the potential success of your trade show than getting the design on your booth display right. A trade show is essentially a competition over the attention of attendees. Some businesses invest heavily in having the biggest booth. That’s certainly one way to get attention. For those companies with a more modest budget, getting the design right can be both cost effective and more strategically impactful in reaching your target audience.

Display design is a great way of qualifying the people who approach your booth. With a compelling tagline, you can signal your company’s purpose and intent. With powerful imagery, you can express your brand without words. With smart design, you can let the visual express the emotion behind your product or service. And by positioning your display to evolve, you can more easily deliver relevant messages at various events.

1. Create a Tagline Readable from a Distance

Using the concepts behind billboard advertising, we know that the fewest words can have the greatest impact when trying to catch someone’s attention from a distance while they’re passing by your booth. As a rule of thumb, your tagline should be less than 7 words. Even fewer can be better. If you’re a small or medium-sized business, your logo is secondary in the design. Your tagline is to define what your brand (and your booth) is about so try not to get too complex: use short, relatable words. Text should be 10” tall to be read 10 feet away.



Font choice should also be front of mind while insuring your message can be read from a distance. Clearly, if your brand has standards, you should maintain the defined font family. However, if you have room to choose, generally speaking, san-serif fonts such as Helvetica are easier to read from a distance and may be optimal.

2. Limit the Number of Images

While an image is worth a thousand words, a bunch of images can create a visual jumble when vying for the attention of time-crunched trade show attendees. In the case of a 10’ x 10’ trade show display, ideally only one large photo should be used. If an effective design can be created without a photograph, do it. As discussed in the previous tip, billboard designs are meant for high impact and ease of digesting the message. Do not clutter the design with extra photos. There’s a time and place for using all of those photos. Just not in your booth design.



If you plan to incorporate a TV monitor for video, presentation, or interactive graphics, be mindful of how the design of that element complements the rest of the booth design. Make sure the two parts are designed with one another in mind rather than designed in silos. This method will provide consistency and harmony in the overall visual.

Ancillary design materials such as small signs should be kept to a minimum to avoid diluting the overall message and distracting attendees from the larger message of the booth. Avoid the temptation of throwing multiple messages out in the hopes of one resonating. Maintain one large message for the booth design, and utilize changing graphics that are specialized depending on the type of show you’re exhibiting.

3. Leverage Solid Colors & Negative Space

Less really is more in trade show display design. A crowded design with competing taglines and photos can leave a display’s message incoherent. Provide ample space in the design for negative space or solid colors or background patterns. An industry standard is to leave 40% of the booth design as negative space. You can capture people’s attention without throwing photos and words at them. Leaving room for the viewer to understand the message is important.



Throughout the overall design, regardless of how many panels, counters, or stations included, there should be no more than three colors in the overall design scheme. More than 3 colors will cause the design to be overly busy and will become distracting.

4. Leave Room to Customize

Modular and portable trade show displays should be treated as evolving marketing opportunities. These modern booth panels are meant to be regularly updated. If your company uses tension fabric displays, create a panel that has multiple graphics so you can change the message or sub-header depending on the event. This strategy allows you to showcase different products, services, or programs depending on the audience you’re targeting at the event.



Let’s say you run a landscaping business. Your message in the spring will likely vary from your message in the fall as your services shift from lawn maintenance to winter preparation. For a small additional investment, you can have multiple graphics at the ready that are relevant and will resonate as more timely. In some cases you may not need extra graphics. With two-sided panels, you could simply create one graphic with a different message on each side, so you can just rotate the panel depending on the event and the messaging needed.

With these tips in mind, you can create a successful booth design that can change with the times while keeping your brand at the forefront. And if the idea of designing your own display seems daunting, we offer a flat-cost $100 design service that utilizes our designers to create your booth display design regardless of how many panels or how large your booth is.

January 10, 2019
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