5 design concepts for trade show booths that don’t bore you to death

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Think outside the booth

Or how to design it to stand out, with less buck and all the bang

Words by Joe Robison

 

Taking part in a trade show, exhibition, or convention is that thing we all kind of hate but still end up doing at some point.

When it happens, it feels very much like entering a competition for a few more seconds of attention than your neighbor. Attendees are, understandably, overstimulated and the task of standing out in all this busy chaos can be daunting.

But you don’t necessarily need to pull out all the stops to have a decent show booth that also stands out. Ultra-modern trade show booths that include expensive technology and elaborate structures are certainly eye-catching, but they’re not feasible or appropriate for every event or for every brand.

Luckily, if you follow some of the most basic concepts of design, your trade show booth won’t need to be showy or complicated. Many of the most effective trade show booths designs center on simple, tried-and-true choices in form and function. Here are five key elements of great design that you can work into your trade show booth without breaking a sweat or the bank:

1. The background is your focal point

The backdrop should not be considered a border that merely delineates where your booth ends. It’s actually the single most dynamic element of your design. Making good use of the background both functionally and aesthetically can go a long way in making your booth both attractive and successful.

Graphics or products positioned at eye-level against the backdrop will quickly become the focal point of small and medium booths, so it is important to choose these elements wisely. Two-dimensional backdrops like step-and-repeat banners, large graphics, or bold text take up virtually no space and can set the tone for your marketing message. Three-dimensional backdrops, like living walls, are similarly efficient in terms of space and can create dynamic textures as well as the chance to showcase your products.

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2. Draw the eye upwards

On a subconscious level, we all tend to assume that taller means bigger. Take advantage of this human misconception to push the borders of your allotted booth area.

Lights, streamers, or banners that hang overhead will play with the vertical dimensions of your booth. Not only will overhead hangings increase your visibility from a distance, but they can also serve as a visual frame for the parts of your booth that are at eye-level. If you take the time to hang many ornaments, you can evoke a sense of wonder for the visitors to your booth.

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3. Create pleasant lines

Lines, a fundamental design element, can quite literally be bent to your will. With lines, the possibilities are endless, but it is often the simplest designs that are the best.

You can employ lines in a booth design to cut down on visual clutter. For one thing, lines are often perceived as lighter, cleaner than static images. Grid-like lines can be used to group your graphics and create a sense of visual order. Textured lines can be used to simulate the elements of nature, motion, or a specific mood without being heavy. Especially when positioned at repeating intervals, lines can create vivid contrasts and play with onlookers’ sense of depth and perspective.

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How about having a design based on lines that’s also functional? With this wall letter display from  George & Willy  you can show a brand message, a call to action, prices, a menu – anything!

How about having a design based on lines that’s also functional? With this wall letter display from George & Willy you can show a brand message, a call to action, prices, a menu – anything!

4. Pull people in

The appearance and features of your booth should lure attendees in by appealing to either their curiosity or their basic physical needs.

There are many ways to design a booth that truly captures the attention of attendees. Creating a closed environment with a clear, crossable threshold is not only a great way to elicit exploratory impulses, but it also helps draw attendees to you, rather than leaving them hovering at the boundaries of your booth. Otherwise, providing amenities like comfortable seating, charging outlets, and refreshments is a strategic way to ensure that crowds linger.

How about free haircuts? It will definitely keep people around for long. Okay, that might not suit many brands or contexts, but it can serve as inspiration to create an experience for the people who visit your booth.

How about free haircuts? It will definitely keep people around for long. Okay, that might not suit many brands or contexts, but it can serve as inspiration to create an experience for the people who visit your booth.

5. Reinforce your message with props

Whether your brand sells a tangible product or an abstract service, reinforcing your message through strategic props is a powerful way to stay memorable. After all, repetition is one of the key principles of branding.

Reinforcement through props can be executed by displaying your product in eye-catching ways, like with a repeating product wall or an oversized replica. But props can be integrated into your booth design on a more abstract level, too. A vehicle of a certain make, model, or era can evoke lifestyle associations to match your branding. Another option is to artfully display or represent the tools used in your line of work, a design scheme that emphasizes expertise and craftsmanship.

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Since we didn’t have much expertise in this area of event production, we invited Joe Robison to write this guest post. He is the marketing director at Coastal Creative – a large-format printing company based in San Diego that specializes in trade show graphics and booth design. For more examples of great booth designs, check out their nine illustrated design ideas.