Skip to main content

Making an Impact with Design at Exhibitions

It’s not always about the size of your booth or even your budget, but by the power of design. Here’s seven tips to elevate the look of your stand so your brand gets the attention it deserves. Also included are real-life examples of cost-effective stands that deliver impressive results.


1. One Big Idea

Gets people thinking clearly about what your big message is. It doesn’t have to be a visual thing, just a bold idea or concept. In retail, there’s a power of three. If you look at the same pair of pants three times, you will probably buy them. In exhibitions, it’s the power of one. One focused idea will help your audience have confidence that you are good at what you do.

Make it naturally memorable. Here’s what that looks like when it’s done well: 

Making an Impact at Exhibitions - Design Tips


2. Don’t Give Too Much Away

Don't Give Too Much AwayThis is one of the more abstract things to talk about. You either love it or hate it. Curiosity is a powerful emotion. People buy off emotion, so add some suspense and intrigue. Try peep holes , or walls that block vision. Use the elements of fear, surprise, elation or empathy. All of this makes the exhibit naturally memorable. The underlying message is there’s more to come, come inside.



3. Humans Look for PatternsHuman Look for Patterns

Underpin an organic message with some definition. Try layering – get things to work together to make it more powerful: like projecting AV onto glass, using text over imagery or pile geometric and random patterns together.



4. Contrast and Texture

Contrast gets attention fast. It’s easy to see. Examples include: light and dark, rough and smooth, focused and blurred, shiny and dull, arty and technical. The contrast itself is the key.

Contrast And Texture


5. Scale, Comedy & Context

Scale, Comedy & ContextWhen people like to be entertained, they really like to be entertained. Try large elements, or juxtapose with small elements or vice versa. This creates powerful event marketing.

Some ideas:

  • Giant products, tiny models
  • Costumes, robots, the unexpected

More examples could be an English jam company using a giant jam jar, or a logistics company using a floor map, the seven wonders of the world as destinations and the stand visitors as “tourists.”


6. Do You See the Light

Do You See The Light


The easiest way to make a stand look poor is to badly light it, as the easiest way to make a stand look great is to light it well. It’s an old adage in exhibiting, that is lighting a noun or a verb? It’s a good way to think about it. Do you think about it as a functional item or as an effect?

  • Handheld moon, funky lampshades, glow-candles
  • Hanging lightsabers, neon
  • Be specific – pin spots in a limited form can work really well in a smaller stand
  • Slow-fade lights, LED fittings, battery-powered


7. Be Playful

Be PlayfulThis builds on several of the earlier concepts. Charlie Chaplin said that a day without laughter is a day wasted. Try gamification with your exhibits, to create entertainment on your stand with your visitors. Then when you are collecting the data, it makes it more interesting in the follow-up stage. You can treat the show as being part of a marketing program instead of the main event. Post-show prizes bring the memory of your exhibit back to the visitor.

  • Hide clues. Find clues. Reward finds.
  • Quality then collect. 90% of data is just noise.
  • Instant prize or post-show prize?



According to artist Milton Glazer, there are three responses to a piece of design: yes, no and WOW! So that’s what you are after, maximum WOW per square metre. You want people to walk away thinking, “WOW! That was amazing!” Think about the WOW as being a return on your investment for your brand and incorporate that direction into your stand design.

About the Author

Having spent 24 years in the exhibition & event sector, I have partnered clients on custom build projects in most industries, and many countries. Originally a 3D designer, I'm driven to understand both a clients wants and needs; to extract the best from all. The better the brief...the better the solution. I've had extensive past experience with modular systems, shell scheme and portable displays. I have worked on museum & visitor attraction projects in many fantastic locations, and also had great experience in live events, touring brand-launches and TV set-build projects. All different, all good.

Profile Photo of Andrew Hickinbotham