Great Lighting Sets the Mood for your Trade Show Displays!

Trade show lighting can be one of the trickier aspects of visual design to work into trade show displays, partly because a lot of booth designs barely think about lighting at all. Far from simply being a utilitarian question, the proper lighting can absolutely enhance the mood of a trade show display, helping to cement your brand message while making your trade show booth look enticing to those passing by.Segue hybrid lightbox display with tension fabric graphics and builit-in trade show lighting

It’s a shame when we see booths that ignore lighting because, by and large, a few lights are extremely inexpensive compared to the overall costs of an exposition display. With a little creativity and the right lights, you can add a lot of atmosphere to your booth without much extra expense.

So, we wanted to talk a bit about trade show lighting options, and how different lighting setups can create distinct moods within a booth.

Effective Trade Show Lighting Sets The Stage At Your Expo’s!

For a “Clean” look…

If you’re looking for an Apple-like experience of bright light and shining whites, plain white incandescent lights are probably the best choice. These create uniform lighting, and a few lights are usually enough to provide plenty of illumination for a room.

One note – incandescents have been the primary lighting choice for many years, but recently some shows restrict wattage to reduce the risk of fires. Be sure to check with your show management for any restrictions.

One of the main elements of a very clean design is a lack of shadows, so don’t simply hang a few naked light bars. You want to diffuse the light somewhat, by using shades or white plastic panels, so that there are few obvious light sources.

White LEDs are another option, since they’re cleaner, safer, and use less power than fluorescents. However, LEDs can be extremely bright, so they’re often deployed as spotlights rather than primary lighting.

Speaking of which,

To emphasize your wares…

Look to spotlights, like LED bulbs. You’re looking at fairly traditional “stage” lighting in this scenario, with a few smaller lights precisely aimed at the items you want illuminated, with few other light sources in the booth. When done properly, this can create a chiaroscuro effect, with deep shadows punctuated by bright lights.

This sort of lighting scheme is bold and dramatic, and can sometimes border on melodramatic, but is extremely effective in drawing the eyes of trade show visitors directly towards the elements you most want seen, while obscuring everything else.

To create pathways through your exhibit…

If you have a larger exhibition display that people will be walking through in a semi-guided fashion, some LED light strips may be perfect for defining the path. They give out small light on their own, but they’re clear enough that people know instinctively to stay on the path you’ve laid out. People won’t walk on lighted strips if they can help show lighting examples-resized-600

When combined with a spotlight based approach, you can create a very theatrical booth, with the look primarily defined by the lighting. This makes an immediate impression on people and helps invite people to your booth. However, the darker elements may obscure your branding, so be prepared to reinforce your brand in other ways.

For a ‘three-dimensional’ display…

One problem with small trade show booths is that, well, they’re very small. When competing with larger, more impressive exhibition displays, small booths are often bypassed because it doesn’t seem like there’s much to experience with them.

If you’re having to deal with a small space, having several different clear light sources will add dimensionality to your booth; a sense of depth that it would lack with flat overhead white lighting. You’re looking to throw shadows in multiple directions with this lighting plan, so you’ll want the lights aimed in different directions while still lighting the entire booth.

The shadows being thrown around trick the eye, and make the booth seem bigger than it is. You might be surprised at how much extra traffic just a couple extra light sources can bring.

To set a specific mood…

Work with colored lights if you want to really emphasize a color scheme within a booth. While direct colored lighting can work – and produces very interesting shadows if you use multiple colors – it’s usually best to use diffuse, indirect lighting. Setting up a white fluorescent or LED light behind a simple colored plastic panel is a great way to throw colored light across your booth without having shadows everywhere.

Alternately, colored fabrics work great for creating lighting effects as well. There are many color choices available for velcro receptive fabric. You can also use a combination of backlight displays to diffuse the lighting even further in your trade show booth, creating highly atmospheric spaces. For a really cool-looking and simple effect, you might try loosening the fabric slightly on a backlit tension fabric display, and then stick a small fan behind it so that the fabric ripples and distorts the light a bit.

If you decide to light your booth heavily with one color, just keep in mind that colors do have a psychological effect on people, especially if they’re exposed to the same color for a long time. For example, we strongly advise against a booth lit in red, as that tends to make people aggressive. On the other hand, “cool” colors like blue and green tend to have a calming effect.So, pick your colors according to the reaction you want, as we discussed previously.

Plan Ahead When Designing Your Trade Show Lighting Schemes

One word of warning worth repeating when you’re thinking about your trade show display’s lighting scheme: be sure to call ahead to the exhibition hall to find out exactly what power sources they have, and how much power you’re allowed to be using in your booth. Extra lighting can often cause power consumption to go up considerably, and may even risk breaking local building codes.

Most venues handling a large exhibition should have plenty of power for any lighting you want to install, but not all. Also, as mentioned above, some shows restrict the wattage of individual lights to reduce the risk of them overheating and causing smoke or fires, so this is a case where you definitely want to check ahead of time, rather than showing up with a rack of lights and discovering you have nowhere to plug them in, or that you simply won’t be allowed to use the lights you brought.

Lighting really is one of the best-kept “secrets” of great exhibit design, and if you’ve been ignoring it until now, we’d suggest you try thinking a bit more about your trade show lighting for your next exhibition appearance. It can make a world of difference between a plain, unexceptional trade show booth and one that’s mysterious and evocative enough to bring in extra visitors.

And, for more advice on lighting from experts, or to discuss any other trade show booth design ideas, don’t hesitate to contact us! We’ll be happy to share our tips and tricks for creating the best possible booth for showcasing your company!

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