For all the time and money that has been poured into trade shows, exhibitions, and other marketing fairs, you’d think it’d be a universally accepted truth by now that design is crucial to success.
And yet, far too many well-intentioned brands show up to the event with a booth that looks like this:
...and they wonder why the experience felt like a waste of time and company resources.
We hear you: elaborate booths simply aren’t feasible for every brand at every event. But great design doesn’t have to be elaborate, time-consuming, or expensive. Consider these 5 design rules that stunning trade show booths, both big and small, both edgy and conservative, get right.
Draw attention upwards
Maximize your allotted space by pushing the borders of your booth area. Sure, you can’t expand outwards without encroaching on the space of others, but you can go up.
The area above our heads is packed with unused potential. Not only can trade show booth design elements like overhead hangings, high-flying banners, or towering structures catch the eyes of attendees across the conference hall, they can also imprint positive brand associations. We all tend to subconsciously assume that taller equals bigger and bigger equals impressive. By playing with the vertical dimensions of your booth, you can instantly make your brand more impactful.
Easy ways to incorporate this into your booth: Balloons, hanging lighting fixtures, streamers, banners, fabric structures, decorative ceiling hangings.
Create pleasant lines for the eyes
Lines are the single most basic and versatile design element of all. Yet even this simple and fundamental design element is too often forgotten.
Lines come in all shapes and sizes, which means they can be bent to your will. You can lines to divide and organize your graphics, grouping certain elements together to create order. Lines can also simulate textures, like smooth or jagged, or elements in nature, like water or air. They can also direct guide the attention of onlookers: diagonal lines moving from left to right create a path for the eye to follow.
Easy ways to incorporate this into your booth: incorporate lines into graphics to simulate motion and progress; space angled panels such that their appearance changes depending on where the viewer stands; use contrasting lines and negative space to emphasize the primary message.
Make use of the backdrop
The backdrop is not just a barrier that delineates where your booth ends. Transform your backdrop into a crucial aspect of your overall booth design.
Making productive design use of your booth’s backdrop is among the best choices you can make in terms of maximizing available space. Step-and-repeat banners, large format graphics, and other two-dimensional images require only an inch of floor space yet pack a powerful visual punch. But three-dimensional backdrops can also bring dynamic textures to your booth without taking up much floor space at all. You can even line the backdrop of your booth with shelves stocked with colorful variations of your product.
Easy ways to incorporate this into your booth: a printed or handmade collage backdrop; a living wall from plants, art, or branded objects; illuminate a fabric wall; a repeating product wall.
Draw people in
Obviously you want people to visit your booth. Peak their curiosity with design elements that beg for a closer look.
Your design can appeal to attendees’ senses in a number of ways. First, you can elicit questions with edgy statements that leave them wanting to know more. Second, you can incite their desire to explore by creating closed environments that they’ll want to enter into. Thirdly, try to appeal to their basic physical needs by providing things like comfortable, dynamic seating and a relaxing atmosphere. Your booth design needs to act as bait if you’re going to lure anyone in.
Easy ways to incorporate this into your booth: create an enclosed space like a nook or pod structure; offer lots of attractive and cozy seating to make your booth a socializing hub; incorporate bold rhetoric into the textual elements of your design that will elicit a reaction.
Reinforce your message with props
Repetition is one of the key elements of effective marketing. Whether what you’re selling is a tangible product or an abstract intellectual service, props go a long way to repeat and reinforce your message.
Your products themselves make for fabulous props. By displaying them in eye-catching ways within your booth, you are showcasing the heart and soul of your business. Whether through a repeating product wall or by creating an oversized replica, this design element is a great way to drive your brand message home.
If your product can’t be displayed so literally, you can still use props to bolster your message. Vintage vehicles, for instance, are a great way to evoke lifestyle associations for your brand. The tools and materials used in your line of work can also be displayed to reinforce associations of craftsmanship and quality.
Easy ways to incorporate this into your booth: display a repeating product wall; park a vehicle that fits with your brand aesthetic in the booth and decorate it; display an oversized scale replica of one of your products; use secondary imagery to convey abstract concepts.
Joe Robison is the Marketing Director of Coastal Creative, a large-format printing company based in San Diego that specializes in trade show graphics and booth design. He is also the founder of Green Flag Digital, an SEO consulting agency.