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Creating booth graphics that pop!

Clients often ask me why they can’t use pictures from their website or photographs from their personal camera to create the 8-foot mural graphic on their tradeshow display. They don’t understand why the images they used on their brochure can’t be blown up and used for their banner stand. If you are not versed in the art of graphic design, it is difficult to figure out which artwork and images have the correct resolution to be blown up large enough to look great on a display.

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The key to a fabulous result is realizing that your final artwork is only as good as the files and photos from which it was created.

The other concept that is difficult to grasp is the fact that having the properly formatted artwork is not enough. When you work with an exhibit company to create graphics for your tradeshow display it will require four steps before a designer can get the final, finished display graphics delivered to you.

Step One:
Provide the company logo, photos and text messages you want to use on the design. Give input on the specific font styles and background colors you desire. The more information you provide the designer about your concept and desired outcome, the easier and faster it will be to transfer those ideas from your head to the designer’s mind and into a fabulous graphic.

Step two:
The designer will sit at the computer and conceptualize, create, size, format, crop, edit, composite, color match, assemble, layout and finish all the elements of your artwork to make it look professional and ready to print. A digital proof will be sent to you by email for approval or you can request a test strip. This is an actual slice of the printed graphic you can color match and check for resolution quality.

Step three:
The artwork goes to production to be enlarged and printed and mounted if needed. Production time usually requires three to seven business days from your approval of a proof, but it can be expedited for an additional fee.

The key to a fabulous result is realizing that your final artwork is only as good as the files and photos from which it was created. In this age of the digital camera, everyone assumes that the gorgeous photograph you took on vacation, that great graphic you have on your website or those wonderful images on your brochure can be magically enlarged.

There is a huge learning curve associated with understanding how digital graphics are designed and how artwork resolution impacts the appearance of the final image. The simple truth is, unless you have pictures, logos, fonts or illustrations originally created in a format that can be properly scanned or digitally manipulated, you will not be able to turn a 3-inch by 4-inch picture from your brochure into a 6-foot mural for your tradeshow booth. The dots per inch, or DPI, impact the resolution of the image when enlarged. The closer the dots are, the clearer the image will be. This resolution determines whether your words and pictures will look crisp and beautiful or like a blurry, jagged mess.

To ensure perfection, your photos must be taken with a high-resolution camera, and the images you select for use on your display should be created originally for large-format reproduction in design programs, like Illustrator, InDesign or Photoshop, by someone with graphic art and design knowledge who understands your goal is to enlarge them for use on your tradeshow display.

Remember that graphic artists charge by the hour, and the clock starts ticking the moment the designer sits down at the computer. Make a plan to brainstorm with your sales and marketing teams about the graphics and sales messaging for your display. Draw a rough sketch of your design and mark where each element will be, which colors go where, which fonts to use and which company benefits to highlight. Request assistance from your exhibit consultants, as they have the expertise and insight on what will look the best and attract your target audience. They will save you time and money by helping you conceptualize a preliminary layout and marketing message before it goes to the designer.

Gather useable artwork from the printer who printed your business cards and letterhead or purchase large-format stock photos on the Internet. Whether you hire the designer to create your display graphics or use the graphic design services provided by your exhibit house, expect to pay from $80 to $150 per hour for this service. The rate may seem expensive, but a professional can do the work quickly, and upon completion, the artwork will be yours to use on your website, flyers, brochures and advertising.

Taking time to plan for and paying careful attention to the clarity of your photos, the quality of your design and the impact of the words on your signs and graphics will guarantee your company will make a positive impression on guests who visit your booth.

Susan Ratliff is the “Exhibit Expert” and an award-winning business owner, author, informative speaker and event producer. She is a recognized authority on tradeshow marketing and booth design. To hire Susan to speak to your group or consult on display products reach her at Susan@SusanRatliff.com 602-828-1177 www.SusanRatliffPresents.com. Reproduced by written permission only. © 2012 Susan Ratliff. All rights reserved.

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