Another Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them story…

Quality check of finished banners before they shipped to Squeaky Green Organics

In part 1 of my trade show displays crash course, I discussed vendor and manufacturer considerations.

In Part 2, I will share with you the many questions that I’ve discovered are crucial to ask before designing or producing a display that will work well for the user and for the trade show.

Disaster Avoidance Tips for displays

Ask the end-user… If possible, talk directly to the people who will be using the displays in order to understand their needs. Ask these questions to determine longevity, display environment, and intended use for the displays:

  • What are the display environments? Indoor? Outdoor? Small or big booth setting?
  • Is there a layout plan for the booth or display environment?
  • What’s the desired lifespan of the displays?
  • How often will they be set up and taken down? Frequent rolling and unrolling cause wear and tear that will take some materials and inks out of the running.
  • How long will the displays be on display?
  • Will they be exposed to direct sunlight, wind, or rain? Some inks are not water-fast!
  • Who will be setting up and taking down the displays? A display that works easily for a tall man with long arms might be a challenge for a short woman to maneuver!
  • Will viewers be able to see both sides of the display, or just the front?
  • For a table-top display, will anybody be standing behind the table? If so, both the person’s height and the height of the display come into play.
  • If the display will be single-sided, is it desirable for light to shine through from the back? If an outdoor banner will be attached to a dark-colored building or not have a light-colored wall directly behind it, mesh or see-through fabric could look washed out. Some banner materials have a light-blocking layer sandwiched between layers of outer fabric. Others have sufficient opacity without the light blocker. This is one of the places where the expertise of a vendor experienced in outdoor signage is is crucial.
  • Will the group of displays always be displayed together, or mixed and matched? This will matter when you’re deciding on the sizes and configuration of travel cases.
  • Will the displays be transported to events by car? By air? Size and weight limits for air travel must be considered. Some displays are heavy, too. Will they need to be carried far?
  • How compact do the displays need to be when collapsed? Must they be carry-on size?

Ask the display vendor… Share with the vendor what you’ve learned from the end-user and discuss the considerations. Before settling on a display product or approach, ask:

  • What fabrics do you recommend for this use?
  • What inks do you recommend for this use?
  • How long will the colors last before fading? Will the printing be water-fast?
  • What hardware, structure, or installation options do you recommend and why?
  • Is the suggested fabric or substrate a good match for the hardware, desired lifespan and frequency of use? For example, will the hardware fit the thickness of fabric you are recommending? Other considerations here are fraying, curling, creasing, rubbing, bunching, stretching, and wrinkling.
  • What’s your recommendation for constructing an outdoor display to handle wind? Mesh fabric? Slits? Weighted hardware?
  • Are you personally familiar with the display hardware you are recommending?
  • How easy is it to put together and take apart? One stand I selected was impossible to disassemble without damaging it!
  • Can I examine the hardware in person before you order it?
  • What is your (or your distributor’s) hardware return policy?
  • How much lead time will you need to order the hardware?
  • Have you confirmed that it is REALLY available?
  • What is the estimated shipping cost?
  • How long will manufacturing and assembly take? If the printing and proofing facilities are not local, be sure to factor in time for shipping proofs out and back and for shipping the displays to the customer.

In the course of producing several display projects, I learned that it’s all too easy to leave out one or more of these important questions. I now know firsthand how important it is to work with a knowledgeable vendor who will ask these questions, along with others I haven’t thought of.

What questions or advice would you add? Please leave your ideas in the comments section below.

© 2011 • Nani Paape

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