All About Poster Exhibits

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Why We Print

Fat Pencil Studio produces and delivers most of our work in a digital format; so when projects leave the screen, we get excited. Printed graphics provide a special sense of satisfaction for us, but more importantly, they offer some unique advantages to the legal team.

Slide presentations don’t have quite the same authority as a printed poster board– this tangible object, propped on an easel or spread on a table, always available for reference and inspection, with no need to jiggle a mouse or swap computers. A judge won’t be frustrated by technology delays, and a jury won’t feel rushed to read all of the text on a Powerpoint slide. Also, poster exhibits are easy to bring back to the jury room for deliberation.

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This poster board was used during depositions to capture accurate position details from eyewitnesses. The bus model was 1:50 scale, which made the board about 12 feet long! This exhibit was also used many times in trial to great effect. [Read more about this case]

How Big is Big?

When we use the term large-format printing we are talking about something larger than one can typically print in the office. Most desktop printers max out at tabloid size (11"x17") paper. Many commercial print shops have machines that can print on rolls of paper up to 60" wide, and flatbed printers that can print on rigid boards up to 48"x96".

In choosing a size to print, consider:

  • The content - How much information will the print convey? Will your images appear too blurry when printed on a large poster? Is too much information being crammed onto a small poster? We aim for a not-too-much, not-too-little Goldilocks Zone of visual information.
  • Your audience - At what distance will they be seeing the poster? How good is their eyesight? When preparing poster layouts, we often step back 8-12 feet from the computer screen to see how easy it is to read the text.
  • Delivery - How will you get the posters from your office to the courtroom? Will they fit in your car? Will they fit through the door? Extremely large exhibits may need to be hinged for folding, and have a table or multiple easels to display them.

These are the print sizes we turn to most often:

In most cases, printing at these sizes will cost somewhere in the range of $5-$10 per square foot of material.

Materials We Like

PAPER

  • Thinner papers are less expensive and appropriate for internal uses or draft prints.
  • Thicker papers are best for final prints, for durability and to prevent show-through when multiple exhibits are stacked.

BOARDS

  • We usually specify 3/16" gator board which has a polystyrene foam core, and a rigid exterior made of wood fiber veneer that is water resistant and will not easily break or warp. It is somewhat more expensive than basic foam boards that have a thin paper veneer.
  • Environmental consideration: polystyrene foam is not easily recycled, particularly when glued to another material. So when you are finished using the poster exhibits, they go to the landfill.
  • Many print shops stock (or can order) recyclable printing substrates including corrugated cardboard and a more expensive option called Falconboard which has honeycomb shaped paper core.

VINYL

  • This is the most common material used in billboards and the retractable banners that are ubiquitous at trade shows. We’ve created some retractable banner exhibits for use in court, printed on vinyl.
  • Environmental consideration: see Blue Vinyl.

Interactivity

Want to go beyond just pointing, and have the option to add or change information on your exhibit while using it? Here are some options to consider:

MARKERS

  • The simple act of adding words, circles, and check marks to an underlying image can make an exhibit more authentic and persuasive.
  • Cost: $0-$5 for the pens, but you might want backup copies of the exhibit in case you mess up the markups.

DRY-ERASE LAMINATION

  • A clear coating, compatible with whiteboard markers and cleaning fluid.
  • Ideal for iterative brainstorming or real-time labeling by multiple witnesses.
  • Be sure to take a picture of your marked up exhibit before erasing!
  • Cost: $3-$5 per square foot

MAGNETS

  • Use a magnetic whiteboard as a base for your display. Be sure to confirm one will be available for your presentation, or better yet purchase your own, practice with it, and then bring it with you.
  • Print a poster on lightweight paper the same width as your whiteboard. Use very strong, neodymium magnets to hold the poster in place. Binder clips can be used in a pinch, but they don't work as well or look as nice.
  • Use standard magnets of varying shapes and colors to represent people, vehicles, locations, etc. These can be easily repositioned by witnesses.

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Red magnet icons used to mark incident locations on a map. Image has been cropped to correct perspective in photograph.

VEHICLE ICONS (2d)

  • Accurate drawings of vehicles, equipment, or other relevant objects scaled to match the roadway in your exhibit.
  • Can be printed on permanent or repositionable labels, and affixed to poster board to provide some depth.
  • Printing expense is negligible, but sizing and cutting adds significant labor cost, typically 2-4 hours.
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SCALE VEHICLES (3d)

  • Die cast cars, made of metal and plastic
  • Great variety available on Ebay and Amazon but it can be difficult to find an exact match for the vehicles in your case, and order turnaround time may be long.
  • Think carefully about how large of a poster exhibit will be necessary to match the scale of the model vehicle you want to buy. A 120 foot stretch of intersection printed at 1:24 scale would require a five foot long board.
  • Average cost: $0-$40 per vehicle… hey, you might have some in a box in the garage!
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Comparing model vehicle scales. Image: Toy Wonders

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Yana Stannik is a technical illustrator at Fat Pencil Studio.