Trade Show Graphics on a Budget

Here’s a cool solution for an inexpensive trade show, retail, or chamber of commerce event display: a retractable banner with its own stand that can be set up at three different heights. You can get them from a lot of different vendors, but we’ve had success with this one from Smart Exhibits, based in Chanhassen, Minnesota:

Like a window shade, the banner collapses into its casing when you’re done using it. Lightweight poles slip into the back to set it up, the number of poles you use determines the height. The whole thing packs up into a little suitcase about the size of a gym bag when you’re done. They’re pretty affordable: this model is $379.

Designing for retractable banners can be tricky, since most clients want the flexibility to use them at any of the three heights. As a rule of thumb, I usually keep the logo at the top, with bold supporting graphics in the lower 2/3. One of clients purchased three to set side by side. We made sure the key information and images were on the upper left of the three graphics so he had the flexibility to use just the one if that’s all he had room for.

In considering what to include on your graphic, think about how you’ll be using it: to signal someone across the room? To give a feel for your products? Or will someone be standing next to it and pointing out specific bullet points? As a general rule of thumb, keep the graphics large and simple and the text to a minimum.

Here’s an example of one we did for Russell’s Catering. This client wanted to use it to set up in his restaurant when a potential catering customer came in for a tasting, to show the range of entrees they had to offer. He also uses the banner for Bridal shows. You can see how it looks at the three heights:

FULL HEIGHT

MEDIUM HEIGHT

SHORT HEIGHT

A last word on these—many printers of retractable banners offer design services as well. If you care about your brand, don’t take them up on this service! Your designer has the advantage of knowing your company’s brand, colors, design elements, history, market positioning, target audience and more. Using your own designer ensures consistent branding and messaging to your audience.

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