Creative Trade Show Booth Design Tips to Give You an Edge

Exhibit Design
October 21, 2021
The best exhibit designs make an emotional connection.

Trade Show Booth Design 101

Memorable trade show booth design doesn’t happen by accident. There’s no magic wand or crystal ball or creative epiphany. It starts with planning, details, and a thorough understanding of the exhibitor’s marketing goals and the show’s audience. 

It’s tempting (and all too easy) to start looking at exhibit designs. That’s the fun part, right? But it’s also a mistake. The display is simply a tool to achieve your trade show or event objectives. It’s critical to choose the right tool or tools to meet your goals. Knowing what you want will dictate what you need. 

Every exhibitor should ask themselves, “What’s my goal at this show? And how do I plan to achieve that goal? Are my objectives measurable? If not, then how do I plan to measure success, either qualitatively, quantitatively, or both.” There’s no one perfect answer. Every exhibitor has their own reasons for participating in a trade show, but without clear detailed objectives from you, an exhibit designer can’t design without guessing. And guessing can get very expensive, very quickly. 

Exhibition Booth Design Insights from the Experts

How do you create custom exhibits you love without multiple revisions? And one that attracts attendees to your booth? If you’ve done your marketing homework and know your objectives, the next step isn’t complicated.  

The designer and the exhibitor (you) should talk to one another. Directly. Not through a sales or account executive filter. No offense to either the salesperson or the AE because they are crucial to a successful trade show program, but designers ask questions that other people don’t. They’ll ask about colors, themes, culture, and past successes or failures. They’ll ask about exhibits that you liked at shows or a feature that sparked a positive (or negative response). 

Once they understand how you think, how you feel, and what’s important to you, then they can ask about the nuts and bolts, like shelves, storage, and seating. 

exhibition booth design

Common Exhibit Booth Design Mistakes

Mistake #1. Exhibit designers have years of experience creating 3D structures using a variety of materials and across a range of budgets. It’s a specialized skill, one you may or may not need. A simple 10 ft. display, preconfigured and with limited accessory options, probably doesn’t require the expertise of a 3D designer. However, custom inlines and islands require an exhibit designer whose expertise will save you time, money, and a whole lotta frustration. Almost immediately.  

Mistake #2. Lack of planning and unclear objectives. Designers can’t design based on a hunch or a shoulder shrug. Or worse, the “I’ll know it when I see it” approach. 

Mistake #3. The budget doesn’t match the exhibition marketing goals. The reality, which can be hard to understand at the beginning, is that over time the exhibit is one of the least expensive costs of trade show marketing. Unlike shipping, drayage, electrical, travel, hotels, etc., the booth cost is primarily front-loaded. 

Mistake #4. There’s a 100% chance your marketing message will change as you introduce new products and services. And unless you only participate in one trade show a year, the audience will be different at each show. However, many exhibitors bring the same messaging and booth design to each one. That strategy doesn’t work in print or electronic media so why would it work at trade shows and events?   

The 14 Basic Trade Show Booth Design Questions

You’ve done your homework and you’re ready to sit down with an exhibit designer. In addition to everything else that’s been discussed up to this point, the designer is going to ask you these 14 basic questions.  

1. Does your company have branding guidelines/logo or graphic files/website address? Can you share these files?

2. What size is the exhibit? Do you plan to reconfigure the exhibit for other shows? If so, what sizes?  Knowing this will guide both the design and the choice of materials.

3. What is the budget? Still undecided about an exact budget? The next best option is a workable budget range. No exhibitor wants to be surprised with a beautiful booth outside their budget or underwhelmed by a booth designed for a lower budget.

4. Do you want to purchase or rent? Or a combination of both? This assists the designer in choosing material and designing to a specific budget.

5. What physical properties does the exhibit need to have? For example, workstations, counters, slatwall, semi-private or private conference area, monitors, storage, etc? This information allows the designer to create a functional trade show design.

6. What type of display have you used in the past? Are you looking for something similar or different? What did you like or not like about the previous booth?

7. Are there any materials or construction methods you prefer? Are you looking for something similar or different? Many experienced exhibitors have a strong attraction or aversion to specific materials.

8. Are there any unusual dimensional restrictions? Can you provide show regulations? Some shows have unusual restrictions for the height of the booth or setbacks from the aisle.

9. Do you show product(s)? What are the dimensions and specifications? How do you prefer to show the products? Display cases, countertop, shelves, hooks, etc.?

10. Does the display need to be portable or modular? Does it need to ship via FedEx or UPS or are you OK with packing in custom crates? This will guide our use of materials.

11. Who will assemble the display: show labor or your own team? We have great solutions for both scenarios.

12. Do you have any images of design elements you like? Even if these “inspiration images” are not trade show related, they are very helpful. For example, architectural elements, finishes, colors, natural elements, retail environments, etc.

13. Design due date? Typically, designs are completed within a few business days. However, every project and every client has their own timeline. 

14. Show opening date? So very important! Creating the design and then building it depends on the time frame. Designers can make material selections that will go a long way toward meeting a three-week vs. a three-month window.

exhibit booth design

Let’s Start Your Booth Design Today!

As you can tell, we’re very passionate about trade show booth design and getting it right the first time. With nearly three decades of experience and thousands of successful projects, we know exactly how to achieve your goals and make sure you stand out from the crowd.

To learn more about our process or to get started on your trade show booth design, fill out the form below!

Schedule a Call

If you’re ready to take your trade show exhibits to new heights, fill out this form, and we’ll contact you shortly.

Schedule a Call
If you’re ready to take your trade show exhibits to new heights, fill out this form and we’ll contact you shortly.