Trade Show Exhibit Design Tips & Examples

Exhibit Design
January 30, 2023

Let’s be honest. Trade show exhibit design isn’t a skill someone should casually dabble in every two or three years. It requires a professional because trade shows are expensive, and the pressure is intense for a quick return on the investment. Trade show exhibit designers spend years honing their craft, learning how to design custom trade show booths using a diverse set of materials. 

All too often, however, exhibit designers are asked to translate a client’s vague trade show marketing objectives and limited budget into an amazing design. Most of the time, they hit a triple if not a home run on the first try. Which, frankly, is astonishing! 

As an exhibitor, you have the power to ensure the design process goes smoothly. How? By coming to the design intake meeting fully prepared. Does your company have an existing design vibe? What are your specific goals at the show? Is it launching a new product or service, meeting with existing customers, finding new suppliers, or educating/informing an audience about your company? And that’s just the start. The designer wants to hear and see what you like or don’t like from previous shows. What excites you and your clients, and what’s the best way to communicate your objectives to potential clients? 

It’s a lot. So, let’s start with the basics along with some examples. The rest you’ll have to learn from the exhibit professionals you select to be your trade show partner. 

10 Trade Show Exhibit Design Tips

#1. Simplicity is Key 

When it comes to designing an exhibit, simplicity is key. Utilize a limited selection of materials, such as metal, wood laminate, and fabric textures that compliment your brand colors, to create a cohesive and visually striking aesthetic. 

#2. Feature Your Brand’s Identity

It is important to have a clear understanding of your brand’s identity and how it should be represented in a three-dimensional space. This includes being familiar with your brand’s Pantone colors and selecting textures and materials, such as flooring and furniture, that complement your brand.

#3. Plan Your Design

The design of your exhibit should not only showcase your brand to the world but also facilitate meaningful interactions between your staff and attendees. As your company evolves and trends change, be sure to take note of what worked and what did not at the end of each event, and make adjustments accordingly.

#4. Do Your Research

Understand your target attendees and what you want them to take away from their experience with your company. Also, be clear on what you hope to gain from the attendees. Every show has different audiences. What worked at Show A – graphics, booth design, etc. – may not work at Show B. 

#5. Have a Budget

Nothing is more frustrating to an exhibit designer than designing the Taj Mahal only to learn the client can only afford a bungalow. It’s a waste of time and talent. The exhibit designer needs to know if your budget is $10,000 or $100,000. And even if your budget is $100,000, they’ll design based on your marketing criteria first  while using the budget as financial guardrails.   

 #6. Get Noticed

Utilize various marketing channels, such as email blasts, social media, and word of mouth, to generate excitement and attract attendees to your exhibit.

 #7. Get Your Hands Dirty

Whether you purchase a custom exhibit that requires show labor or a portable display you can assemble yourself, you need to take a hands-on approach. At most shows or facilities, you can assist with the unpacking, assembly, disassembly, and repacking of your booth. 

#8. Be Your Guest

 Put yourself in the attendees’ perspective and anticipate the conversations and interactions that will arise between them and your staff.

#9. Know Your Designers

Yes, designers plural. You’ll be working with an exhibit designer who has expertise in creating an effective 3D design. You’ll also be working with a graphic designer. Ideally, the two need to work together to ensure the structure and graphics work seamlessly.

#10. Learn from Your Mistakes

Not every show or every design goes according to plan. Take the time to list the pros and cons of each show then use them to make improvements. Some may cost a little money, but others, not a cent, and simply be a change in strategy or presentation. 

4 Custom Trade Show Exhibit Design Examples

1. Verity

verity solutions trade show exhibit design

As they approached the 340b Coalition Winter Conference, Verity Solutions wanted an exhibit that could engage their clients at multiple levels with a big impact. Using a combination of custom fabrication and systems components, Exhibits Northwest’s designers and fabrication team were able to meet all those expectations and more. 

The exhibit design included large format SEG fabric graphics, lightboxes with backlit fabric graphics, a large tension fabric structure with 3D LED edge-lit logos and interior globes, custom pergola structure, and multiple demo areas with LED monitors that were all packed in custom-built crates. 

This design also went on to win EXHIBITOR Magazine’s 2020 People’s Choice Award.

2. Sole. Financial

sole exhibit design
Sole Financial provides a new and cost-effective way to pay your employees through payroll cards. This offers the user immediate access to their wages and a simple digital tool to manage their money. No bank account is needed.

At the American Payroll Association (APA) Annual Congress Expo they wanted to give the attendees an impressive and memorable experience. Having an open and approachable design layout was a key aspect of the exhibit’s design along with including natural organic finishes with plants and wood flooring.

The exhibit design included large format Silicone Edge Graphics SEG fabric graphics, custom iPad stations, an overhead hanging sign, a presentation area with audio and video, and plenty of storage. 

This design also was nominated for Best Island Exhibit fewer than 600 square feet by EXHIBITOR Magazine’s 2020 Portable Modular Awards.

3. La Panzanella Artisanal Foods

custom trade show exhibit design

La Panzanella Artisanal Foods Co. (A Madrona Specialty Foods, LLC Brand) is a leader in hand-crafted artisan crackers using wholesome, Non-GMO certified ingredients with your family’s snacking needs in mind.

Madrona Specialty Foods needed to showcase multiple products and brands in a single space at The Winter Fancy Foods Show. The exhibit also needed to re-configure to 10×40, 10×30, 10×20, and 10×10 inline designs. Exhibits Northwest’s designers and fabrication team were able to meet all those expectations and more. 

The exhibit design included large-format SEG fabric graphics, LED-lit product shelves, lots of accessible locking storage, high-end durable finishes, in-booth refrigeration, and open areas for attendees to meet and discover all the great products.

4. Odyssey Foods

trade show booth design

Odyssey Foods wanted attendees to sample their unique products in an intimate yet approachable experience that mimics an authentic Seattle bistro. An effective chef demo was critical, including seating for buyer conversations and a large menu board to showcase recipes being prepared. This demo area needed easy access to a private prep and storage area. Additionally, the client required real and engaging display areas to showcase the array of Odyssey products. The ongoing menu and product updates required multiple large areas for signage that could be easily changed.​

A Seattle Bistro experience was created by combining natural reclaimed wood, faux ivy, industrial fixtures, tall modern compound curve towers, and walls with mounted dimensional halo-lit logos. The fresh seafood display counters and a cladded bunker freezer were reminiscent of Pikes Market. The chef demo area incorporated a large curved bar and tasting counter with a chalk artist menu and a formed metal countertop with a sizable storage and adjacent food prep area. Large informal bistro meeting areas on floating decks were flanked by LED L\lightboxes, hanging canopies, and pendant lights. A 20 ft. diameter circular hanging sign provided top-level branding. These graphics, along with the other fabric graphics in the booth, were lightweight and easy to change.  ​

3 Rental Trade Show Exhibit Design Examples

1. KPA — 20 x 20 Island

rental Trade Show Exhibit Design

Relaxed yet highly visible and vibrant 20 x 20 Island Exhibit. The rental design includes:

  • Custom reception counter with LED accent lights and locking storage
  • Bar/Demo counter with a large monitor display
  • Tower with walk-in storage
  • (2) Double-sided LED lightboxes with kiosks
  • Casual seating area with charging coffee table with graphics and LED perimeter lights
  • Round overhead hanging sign
2. SAFR — 20 x 20 Island

custom trade show exhibit design rental

Modular island exhibit with an open floor plan. The rental design includes:

  • (3) Workstation kiosks with tapered counter and locking storage
  • Storage closet
  • Table and chairs
  • Square overhead hanging sign
3. Reperio — 20 x 20 Island

trade show booth design rental

 Soaring island rental with large format graphics. The rental design includes:

  • Custom reception counter with LED accent lights and locking storage
  • (3) Double-sided lightboxes with fabric graphics
  • Canopy header with lighting
  • Walk-in closet storage
  • Demo/presentation area with a large monitor and seating
  • Table and chairs

Trade Show Exhibit Design with Exhibits NW

At Exhibits NW, there are three steps to every successful exhibit design and trade show marketing execution. First, we start by having a conversation that will help us begin to understand your goals and brand identity. Next, we design and build a custom solution that meets your needs and budget. Then, we manage everything before, during, and after the show so you can arrive confident and show-ready!

Whether you’re looking for exhibit design assistance on an inline, an island, or just a trusted partner to ensure your success, contact the Exhibits NW Team so we can help you exceed your trade show goals!

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.