Trade Show Graphics: An Expo's Greatest Splendor
In theory, anyone with a wide-format inkjet printer can print trade-show graphics. Dozens of materials are available to digitally print graphics for pop-ups, retractable banner-stands or tabletop displays. While inexpensive, portable displays are still popular with small businesses and organizations that rent 10x10-ft. spaces. Exhibitors seeking to make a strong brand impression at a trade show typically need multiple types of graphics plus display systems for bigger spaces.
The large booths that dominate the center rows of a trade show floor create immersive and interactive brand experiences by using a mix of hanging signs, backlit displays, towers, backwalls, podiums, tables, customized carpets or floor graphics, digital displays, iPads and in-booth meeting rooms. Large, branded trade-show booths are used for product demonstrations, client meetings, press events, in-booth education, end-of-the-day receptions and corporate video production.
Print service providers (PSPs) that cater to brand marketers often go well beyond printing and finishing trade-show graphics. When marketing managers hire a PSP to create trade show graphics for a larger booth, they expect the printing firm to act as a project manager and problem-solver. Working with a single, trusted vendor gives the marketing manager more confidence that all of the requested materials will be delivered to the show on time and the colors will be consistent.
In the following examples, note that some companies produce and sew dye-sublimation fabric graphics in-house. But it’s not essential if your shop has great project management skills, the ability to produce a wide range of other trade-show-related marketing materials, and good working relationships with display companies that can print superwide fabric graphics.
Benchmark Imaging & Display
Benchmark Imaging & Display in Elk Grove Village, Ill., is a one-stop shop for custom trade-show exhibits, interior and exterior graphic projects, retail displays, banner stands and backwalls and more. Founded as a photo lab, the company has been producing enlarged photographs for trade shows and exhibits for decades. It is among the few labs that still uses a Durst Lambda photo imager to output high-quality continuous-tone digital images on traditional photographic papers and backlit films.
To keep pace with the changing demand for trade-show graphics on vinyls, rigid substrates and dye-sublimation-printed fabrics, Benchmark Imaging has been an early adopter of many wide-format imaging technologies. One of their newest purchases is a 98" HP Latex R2000 latex hybrid inkjet printer that prints high-resolution graphics on both rigid and flexible substrates.
In addition to printing wide-format images and brand graphics, Benchmark Imaging helps clients with custom booth design, structural engineering, shipping, logistics, installation and dismantling at the event site.
When Tunnel Hill Partners waste-transfer-by-rail business wanted to make a splash at its first trade show, it hired Benchmark Imaging to produce a custom display for its 10x20-ft. booth. Because Tunnel Hill didn’t have an in-house graphic designer or marketing team that could handle the design and shipping of the booth, it relied on Benchmark Imaging for help.
Tunnel Hill’s senior VP of business development wanted a modular design that could work in either the 10x20-ft. booth for its first show or a 10x10-ft. space at future shows.
To enable Tunnel Hill executives to preview the design before any elements were built or printed, Benchmark’s design team used CAD software to create a 3D rendering of the proposed design. After the booth design was approved and built, Benchmark’s team crated it and arranged freight services to deliver it to and from the expo. The crate included multiple felt-lined tiers and jigging to keep each booth element secure during transit. When the booths were shipped back to Benchmark’s climate-controlled warehouse for storage, the graphics team inspected the booth for any missing or damaged parts. Benchmark can easily print and install new graphics before the booth is used again.
For companies that don’t have the budget for a custom booth or installation services, Benchmark Imaging often recommends versatile, portable backlit fabric pop-up displays. The LED ladder lights that provide the even backlight and the fabric graphics are both mounted on a scissor frame that unfolds in seconds.
Because Benchmark Imaging & Display has been in the trade-show business for so long, it continuously seeks innovations that will help brand clients stand out at a show. As its website notes, “With the rapid-fire development of our industry, what we can do is always a few steps ahead of what we have done.”
D’Andrea Visual Communications
D’Andrea Visual Communications in Cypress, Calif., originated in 2005 as D’Andrea Graphic Communications. At first, it specialized in lithography. Since then, the company has added in-house grand-format printing and custom fabrication of exhibits and displays.
Today, D’Andrea Visual Communications creates visual marketing materials that help brands get noticed. Services include: premedia and retouching; design and construction of aluminum frames, light boxes and printed fabrics; litho printing; cold-foil printing; large-format printing; custom packaging and graphics installation. The G7-certified facility can help brands produce color-consistent marketing materials and large-format graphics for retail stores, branded environments, events and trade shows.
D’Andrea’s trade-show services include project management, design and structural engineering of aluminum frames and light boxes, CAD drawings, structural engineering stamps, fabrication, large-format printing, on-site installation and logistics.
It can print graphics for fabric light boxes, booth carpeting, podiums, table covers, hanging signs, pillowcase displays and pop-up displays. With its HP Indigo press, the company can also print marketing collateral as needed for distribution into the booth.
“We are all about helping brands make an impact and being seen,” says Scott Powers, founder and VP of sales. “We always like to suggest ideas clients may not have thought about before going to the show.” In addition to printing experts, they employ project managers, designers, engineers, craftsmen and installers.
D’Andrea Visual Communications expanded its ancillary services after the company started its grand-format division in 2013. “When you print large-format fabric for a trade show, it is usually going to be installed on a framing system for booth wall or hanging sign. It just makes sense for us to build the frame structure too,” Powers says. “We design the frame to client specs, print the fabric and ensure that the fabric fits the frame properly.” If a client already has a frame, D’Andrea likes to bring it in house because fitting fabric to frame usually requires some tweaking. As Powers points out, “No one wants any puckering or waves in the display.”
“As a fabric printer we get requests from some very creative and complex frame structures,” Powers says. “When these frames become big and heavy, we need to ensure the safety of the structure, so we get approval from a certified structural engineer.”
Powers says being a single-source provider of both booth graphics and marketing materials give D’Andrea an advantage that their brand clients appreciate: “No one really wants to deal with several vendors when going to a trade show.”
Dealing with one PSP also reduces the risk that the colors in the fabric graphics won’t match those in the printed documents. “With our water-based dye-sub press, the color gamut is amazing,” Powers notes. “It allows us to match colors to other printed collateral.”
At BIG INK in Eagan, Minn., graphics printing is just one of its three pillars of services. It also promotes its extensive project management services and design lab. It combines the latest digital printing technology with design thinking to help brands bring its creative concepts to life. Most clients already come to BIG INK with a creative concept, but if a complete re-brand is needed, its designers can help with that as well.
When the marketing team at Remote Technologies Incorporated (RTI) wanted to give its island trade-show booth a cleaner, more sophisticated look, it hired Big Ink to help. It wanted a booth that would stand out on the show floor, convey a lot of information and provide a private meeting area.
“They had been using metal-framed wood boards to create a private meeting area within their booth,” says Janine Trutna, marketing director of BIG INK. “We suggested PVC boards that would look more modern and be lighter and cheaper to ship.”
Plus, RTI had been renting SEG components at each show and shipping the fabric graphics along with presentation boards, cabinets, monitors and other components to each event venue. BIG INK told RTI it could produce reusable SEG frames and printed graphics for about the same cost as renting the SEG frames at just one show.
BIG INK provided all of the packaging to ensure the shipment arrived in excellent condition.
Bayprint-Image 360, based in St. Petersburg, Fla., offers a range of services, including: printing and mailing; signs and posters; graphic design; promotional products; and trade-show displays. The company prides itself on dependability and its ability to help clients find solutions, particularly on printed products they might never have ordered before. It advises clients on how to make their logos stand out on all types of materials.
Bayprint-Image 360 uses HP wide-format latex inkjet printers to produce many of the replacement graphics that exhibitors install in their existing trade-show display hardware.
Although Bayprint-Image 360 doesn’t produce dye-sublimation stretch-fabric graphics in-house, the company is a registered dealer with several manufacturers. So, when clients seek a one-stop-source for all of the printed materials they need for a trade show (including marketing collateral and promotional products) Bayprint-Image 360 is ready to help.
Callyo, a manufacturer of mobile technology for law enforcement, exhibits at about 60 trade shows each year. They visited Bayprint-Image 360 seeking ideas for a 40x10-ft. display booth that included storage areas for literature, travel bags and other items. They also wanted monitor stands, a front counter and the ability to reconfigure various booth modules for smaller spaces at other shows.
“They also wanted their branding to speak loudly and clearly,” says Al Karnavicius of Bayprint-Image 360. “I did a lot of research and found a manufacturer that had a good solution for all of it.
“The client had the graphics designed to fit the templates we supplied. We had it produced and shipped to the trade show in about two weeks. The client was thrilled, and so were we,” Karnavicius adds.