Hierarchy of graphic communication in the exhibition environment
Graphic Design might seem to be a relatively new term, certainly one that appears to have its roots in the latter half of the last century. Fact is, since time began people have processed graphic information and established a sort of graphic “language “. Cave paintings might often be Wildebeest sprinting majestically across a pre-historic plain but equally they were often patterns, spirals and lines very graphical in nature. People have a way of looking at and processing graphical information even though they probably don’t give it a second thought.
Do a search for “Graphic Designer ” and you will obtain thousands of results (well, 32 million in Google to be a bit more accurate) and most of those individuals will be competent, professional and effective. You may even have an in house designer who looks after your brochures and web design needs, but it is wrong to assume that “designer ” is an all encompassing moniker for someone who is a master of all mediums
Take the exhibition environment. What works for an A4 brochure doesn’t necessarily work on a communication basis for a three metre high graphic. On a technical level what works on the web certainly does NOT work for the same graphic, there is simple not enough resolution in the artwork to recreate at such a size before you consider the communication.
Exhibition space is rather an unusual communication environment. In a google search all the results are displayed in a similar format, that is the font style, size, quantity of information is all equalized EXCEPT for the positions of the results. Walk into an exhibition hall and the competition for attention is intense. I liken it more to a magazine rack at a news agents with colour, imagery, typography all working hard to attract you.
For this reason specialist skills are beneficial and there are some simple rules that can guide you in briefing and assessing your designers output.
Take a look at this roadsign. You have seen hundreds and you understand their language. There is a hierarchy working here. Only the most crucial information is given as the opportunity to read the sign is limited. There is also a priority in how you need the information. Where you are going is likely to be the most important value to you so “Nottingham ” appears at the top. You then need to know the road because that helps you find your way after the sign so it appear second. However sometimes you may be navigating by the road number so although it is second in the hierachy it is also a larger font than the place name to provide strength in its communication if that is your preference.
You then need to know how far it is before you turn so that you can begin your manouvre at the right time, therefore the third level is the distance to the junction. Note how the fraction has had the vinculum removed- have you ever noticed that there is no line between the numerator and denominator on road sign fractions?
Lastly but by no means least, the junction number appears in a different style, enunciated by its own coloured block. This is another way of separating this item of information because some people will be navigating by the junction number so it is important to distinguish it without it competing with the destination name. Its why it always appears in the same location.
Without this graphic order and “language ” signage can get confusing even in sophisticated countries…
In the exhibition hall environment the communication has to have a priority that it is easy to understand without thinking. This falls into the following categories:
This is who you are
What you do ASPIRATIONAL/MISSION IMAGING Stimulation through imagery
BODY COPY The way you do what you do
PRODUCT* Manufacturers in particular baulk at the fact we consider their product goes way down here but fact is the engagement with your product or service only begins as the visitor nears or even occupies your stand.
USPs Unique selling propositions that demonstrate your advantages over competitors.
SUSTENTATION Literature or giveaways that remind visitors of your company when they have left the venue. Examples are highlighted on the following example exhibition stand…
BRANDING REINFORCEMENT In addition this stand has additional branding at sub levels….
Summary: Using this simple method a good strategy for your graphic communication can be established in the order the information is required by the visitor. It is particularly useful when trying to control an enthusiastic designer keen on making your graphics look sexy to the detriment of the message. The perfect compromise is, of course to employ experts in achieving both objectives.
We’ll be talking about the quality of graphics and imagery in another article.