Learning the Language of Light for Trade Show Signage
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SignLab from CADlink


Learning the Language of Light for Trade Show Signage

Get some tips and tricks for communicating with the language of light so you can offer value-added advice to your customers.

By Jennifer LeClaire

Sign makers can cash-in on fabricating trade show signage, but if you don’t understand lighting, then that signage may not offer customers the desired return on their investment. Learn about lighting and become a signage consultant instead of just a sign maker.

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  • “Let there be light!” That is the cry of exhibitors looking for creative ways to make their booths stand out from the trade show pack. Lighting manufacturers are answering the call with new products designed with the trade show displays in mind ­ and sign makers can provide all-around service by understanding the latest trends.

    Indeed, lighting can make a dramatic impact on a trade show sign or exhibit. Lighting can be the difference between a good return on your customer’s trade show investment and a great return on his trade show investment.

    You can have the best products or services in the world ­ the best banners, digital signs and other marketing message vehicles ­ but if your customer doesn’t attract people to their booth then how can they close the deal?

    Armed with the knowledge of lighting trends, you can suggest the appropriate displays and signage, and you can also recommend the appropriate light that gets peoples’ attention to their booth. Therefore, your customers get a return on their investment and come back to you for the next round of trade show signage.

    “Lighting creates energy to attract people in an often very chaotic trade show environment,” says Howard Werner, a national lighting expert with New York City-based lighting design consortium Lightswitch.

    “You can really catch people’s eyes with lighting. Whereas older installations used to rely solely on overhead building lights, today we understand that lighting creates drama and reveals displays in a compelling way.”

    Overcoming sensory overload
    Lighting design is especially important at today’s ultra competitive trade shows where often times there are far too many displays for attendees to visit each and every one. Lighting can add depth and dimension to a display ­ and lighting on signage help draw attendees to the booth.

    You’ve spent a lot of time fabricating the sign. Don’t forget to use accent lighting to highlight that sign. Werner says a colored or white light in the right place can draw someone’s eye to a specific location. But no one is going to notice a sign in a busy trade show environment if it is not properly lit.

    Keep in mind that the display you fabricated is not only competing with other exhibitors, it is also competing with food stands, center stage activities, and a generally noisy atmosphere.

    While loud music and intermittent announcements over the audio system can be distracting, it is a scientific fact that light travels faster than sound. Combined with an attractive display, lighting can help your signage make a first impression on trade show attendees whose senses may be overwhelmed at a busy event.

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    “While good lighting design should draw attention to your booth, don’t forget that lighting is first and foremost functional,” Werner explains. “When you set up your lights make sure there’s no glare or reflections that make your graphics difficult to read. Too much light can be hard on the eyes.”

    Getting attention ­ and fast
    While you certainly don’t want to give lighting advice that would overload someone’s senses, you still want your customer ­ and the signage you fabricated for them ­ to get attendees’ undivided attention, even if only for a few seconds.

    The general rule of thumb in design is to grab the viewer’s interest within five seconds. If you can’t communicate your message concisely and quickly, then you may forever lose the opportunity.

    “Light should be the guiding principle in any exhibit design,” Werner explains. “Without light there is no color, there is no form, and there is no texture. Light makes colors more vibrant and helps define the marketing message.”

    Indeed, there are several design elements that play into the five-second rule, but lighting is the icing on the proverbial cake at busy trade shows. Even the most effective design can get lost in a chaotic environment. But the proper lighting can help focus a viewer’s eyes first to the booth and second to the marketing message.

    “Colored lighting can help communicate the mood you are trying to create,” Werner explains. “Are you selling health products? Green is the perfect color. Are you having a major clearance sale? Red gets attention. Color is one of the most effective ways to grab people’s attention.”

    Understanding your audience
    Werner says the use of lighting is so important because it helps to create a dynamic, exciting and inclusive experience for today’s demanding audiences. But that means different things for different companies.

    For example, Werner says Apple Computer wants clean and simple lighting. The goal is to highlight the product, not distract visitors. That strategy is much different for videogame giant Nintendo whose goal is to program lighting that is in synch with the music and video events. Werner says that means projecting color custom lights.

    “Moving lights are sure to get attention,” Werner says. “You can use twinkling lights, flashing lights, or some other effect. This is an easy and economical way to attract people to your booth. Just don’t go overboard. A little movement goes a long way at most trade shows.”

    Suggesting appropriate equipment
    Whether it’s a dramatic presentation or just a simple display, Werner says lighting is equally as important to the overall success of event signage. It’s important for sign makers to know that customers can achieve many different lighting looks with the same equipment.

    The task is to determine the appropriate level of lighting. Some companies, like Apple, just need flat, even lighting. Other companies, like Nintendo, need color and motion in a dynamic lighting scheme. Sign makers can collaborate with lighting designers and exhibit designers to help companies get the biggest bang for their buck.

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