Let There Be Light: Exhibit Lighting and Human Response

From the glare of the afternoon sun to the cool luminosity of moonlight (you can’t fight it!), the warm glow of a candlelit dinner to the harsh, unforgiving fluorescence of the department-store dressing room, lighting—much like music—has the undeniable power to set a scene, influence our mood and affect how we think and feel in any given environment or situation.


Science backs this up. For instance, long-term studies have started to define the relationship our exposure to light has with the patterns of our everyday life, and too little exposure can lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder, which affects as much as 4-5% of the non-equatorial population, affecting our overall mood and motivation.


But while lighting is important for health, we’re not here to play doctor or plug $150 SAD lamps. Instead, we’re here to present learnings from a key episode of Echelon’s 12 For 12 audio podcast (listen above) series (now a video series!)—and beyond—to teach you how, when properly utilized at conferences and trade shows, lighting can really help your exhibit… um, shine (sorry).


LED the Way


“We’ve gone through an amazing transition in technology,” claims Ryan Wurtz, a lighting application engineer from Display Supply and Lighting Group and the featured guest on this episode of 12 For 12. “Not since we’ve changed from gas lamps to the electric light bulb have we seen such an evolution in the lighting industry.”


The evolution Wurtz is referring to is the development of LEDs, which, unlike fixed incandescents, allow you to customize your lighting in cooler or warmer tones. This allows you to choose lighting that works best with the aesthetic and atmosphere you’re trying to cultivate, and if any of that changes between events, hey, no problem.


“If we like a nice, warm environment, we’ll be able to get that with our lighting,” Wurtz says of the continuously improving technology, “and if we want to change that and make it bright and white for an event, we’ll be able to do that as well. More and more, the technology will allow us to create spaces that we want to be in.”


One final perk: According to Bambu Global, “LED lighting typically emits less heat, lasts as much as 25 times longer and is far more energy efficient than incandescent and fluorescent light sources.”


A more efficient, environmentally friendly option? We’ll give it the green light!


Shine the Spotlight


As Canadian power trio, RUSH, once said: “The trade show is a stage, and all the brands merely players…” or something like that.


The point is that much like a spotlight is used in theater to draw attention to a person or area, lighting can be used to draw attention to your booth and, more specifically, to the most important area within your booth.


“You want to be able to give those visual destinations,” Wurtz explains. “As a designer, I say, ‘What is important about this space? Where do I want people to congregate?’ Maybe it’s around that new product, and so that product is lit in a special way that makes it the most prominent, visual thing within the booth. We [also] need to attract attention within that booth space… so that as an attendee is walking past, they stop, they look… and the sales team can step in and begin to engage them in a conversation.”


While a visually appealing display or cool, cutting-edge product are interesting on their own, it’s not enough to draw attention in a chaotic, visually noisy trade show environment. Lighting accents that differ from the ambient serve as the icing—or, in this case, candles—on the cake that is your booth, creating visual importance and giving exhibitors and attendees a visual destination within the general space. (Trust us: they will follow the light.)


Psych Yourself (and Your Space) Out


Once you’ve decided what mood you want to evoke with your booth and what feelings you’d like your customers to have when they think of your product or service, it’s worth considering the psychological effects that certain levels of brightness and colors are said to have on our, and our customer’s, subconscious.


For example, according to Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, lighting majorly shapes our decisions, affecting whether, in some cases, we make a more utilitarian or “hedonic” choice. (Unsurprisingly, people opted for the more pleasurable, less practical, option in darker settings).


Color makes an impact as well. From the Philips lighting blog, here are a few examples of shades with particular impacts:


  • Yellow: is a warming color, which can evoke feelings of happiness or joy, as well as spark muscle energy and mental activity… In hospitals, warm tones of yellow lighting are used to create a relaxed and cozy atmosphere.


  • Orange: is a welcoming color, creating a friendly atmosphere… the color orange can also increase oxygen to the brain, therefore triggering increased mental activity.


  • Green: is a calming color, conveying hope, soothing and healing. The color green is the most visible and sensitive color to the human eye… Green light can also enhance learning and concentration.


As aesthetic choices, attention-drawing tools and providers of psychological cues, color and brightness serve as key marketing differentiators that could just make that future client take notice — both consciously and subconsciously.


(For more on colored lighting and its subliminal powers of persuasion, check out the full post from Philips.)


Be Lighthearted


Beyond highlighting your display and brainwashing conference attendees (just kidding… kind of), lighting has the power to really showcase your brand’s personality and inject a level of playfulness and fun to your display.


Get your logo in lights, your brand name in neon. Consider how you can implement inexpensive and eye-catching options like string lights or work in motion-detecting lights to scare the hell out of capture the attention of passersby. Look at lighting as more than a simple utility and—just as you would with other design elements—instead consider it an opportunity to go big, get creative, really express your brand and make your business stand out.


That being said, maybe save the strobe lights for the conference after-party???


We’ll catch you at the Courtyard Marriott?

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