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Composing the Perfect Display

AuthorRecently I was asked to elaborate a bit on what visual marketing meant to me personally, and at first I knew there was something there that went a bit deeper than my now-distant background in web design. But I couldn’t nail down what it was. And then it occurred to me – there is actually a tangible relationship between exhibit design and my background in music. For those who are not aware, I have a Master’s degree in French Horn Performance and used to play professionally in orchestras, and even once got to play a solo concert in Carnegie Hall. I’ve also written national award-winning compositions.

So you might ask – how could these disciplines be even remotely related? How could an art form as archaic as classical music have any relation to the world of visual marketing and tradeshow graphics? The answer lay in how the parts play together. Any good tradeshow exhibit shares many characteristics in common with a well-composed symphony.

AuthorLet’s build it from the ground up.
First you have your bass section. In a performance setting, a good bass section does nothing to stand out; it quietly functions to hold everything together and support the main theme, but should rarely be a focal point. The same could be said for any underlying framework of a well-designed extrusion system. Just like a good bass line serves to support the melody and provide a basis for the harmony, a good frame system will simply form a foundation on which the graphics can thrive, and never distract from the main message. For this comparison I’m specifically reminded of our Panoramic system, in which the graphics actually conceal the entire framework.

Then you have your middle strings, the cello and the viola. These instruments are intended to weave together the high and low voices, and create texture and movement within the music. The same could be said of supporting elements in an exhibit: items that are not the main attraction but support the overall ambience. I’m thinking floor graphics, kiosks, counters, lights, furniture, etc. If the middle strings are out of tune (or out of taste or boring) in a symphony, the result can be quite lackluster. Same with a tradeshow display, if those supporting elements are off, your booth will come across as just somehow missing the mark but nobody can necessarily put their finger on why.

Lastly you have your violins – your melody, your message – or in the case of a display, your graphics. A symphony will never make the history books unless its melody is memorable. In any display, no matter how good the underlying structure and supporting parts might be configured, Authorif you lack graphics that rise above the ranks in design and execution, nobody will take a second look.

The unifying principle here is that whether you’re dealing with a symphony or an exhibit, the whole is always made up of its parts and if even a single element is off, the overall impact will be lost.

How would you compose your perfect display – are you conservative like Mozart, a rebel like Beethoven, or a romantic like Tchaikovsky? Tell us in the comment section below, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

About the Author

Kat Andres is the Inside Sales AE and Sales Development Rep at Optima Graphics.
She has been in the Trade Show industry since 2014.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, other Authors, Optima Graphics or Taylor Corp.

  1. Bob Drapeau
    February 5, 2016 at 2:19 pm


    Thanks for your wonderful email.

    Bob Drapeau

    Perimeter Exhibits Ltd.

    • Kat Andres
      February 5, 2016 at 3:14 pm

      Thank you Bob, I appreciate your kind note!

  2. February 5, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    Very nicely said. I use a similar description and like yours way better than mine.

    • Kat Andres
      February 5, 2016 at 3:15 pm

      Thanks Stephen! I’m curious, what was your description like?

      • February 5, 2016 at 3:40 pm

        Much less elegant. It starts with matching the hardware system to the image the company wants to project. Lawyers and insurance companies usually want a more staid image, based in reliability and a steady hand, tending toward murals. Tech, sports, and community wants action and variety. Therefore, often that’s the difference between a panel system and Xpressions. Then try to get the ancillary items to support the look and message. Yup, like yours better.

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