5 Steps to Take Before Designing a Trade Show Exhibit
Bartech exhibit with video

When it comes time to plan for a new trade show exhibit, you may not want to jump immediately into designing the specifics of the booth. Many of the booth’s details will depend in large part on the planning and visioning you complete before you ever sit down to discuss room sizes and display cases with your exhibit company. To help you create a display that works for your business’ unique needs, here are five steps to take before you hit the design phase of your trade show exhibit.


Bartech exhibit with video


Select the events where you plan to use your trade show exhibit.

One of the first steps you need to take when thinking ahead to a new trade show exhibit is what events you plan to attend with it. For example, do you plan to go to just one or two events a year, or multiple shows? Multiple shows are more cost-effective when you are considering the costs of purchasing a custom exhibit.

In addition, it is likely that who your target audiences are will depend upon the show you attend. For example, a show focused on healthcare equipment is likely to draw different attendees than a show focused on healthcare professionals. Knowing which shows you want to attend, and who will be going, can help you narrow down the focus and messaging your trade show exhibit should have. And that can help you create a design that speaks persuasively to your target audiences.


Reserve your booth space and note any special space needs you have.

Once you know which trade shows you want to attend, you will need to reserve your booth space for each. Doing so well in advance (often a year ahead of time) will help you to lock in the lowest rates and save the best spaces for your trade show exhibit.

In addition to reserving your booth space, you will need to note any special space needs you have. For example, be aware of any oddities in the shape of the space, and any regulations from the venue that restrict the height of certain walls, limit the types of lighting you can use, and so forth. Know where your electrical outlets are, and how high you can hang materials. All of this information will allow you to design a trade show exhibit that does not break any rules or prevent you from fully using the booth on the day of the show.


Identify the target audience you want to reach with your trade show exhibit.

This step goes hand-in-hand with the first step of selecting which shows you plan to attend with your display. As mentioned above, every show will have different audiences you may wish to target. Determining who will be attending your chosen shows, and who from those groups you most wish to target, is important to developing a trade show exhibit that will attract qualified leads.

For example, that healthcare event focused on professionals may attract both executives and doctors. However, your business may be most interested in attracting the executives who have the power (and the budgets) to sign off on the purchase of your medical equipment.

Knowing who you want to target can help you to develop a trade show exhibit that speaks to their pain points, needs, and desires in order to convince them to come find out more about the medical equipment (or other products and services) your company has to offer.


Create your trade show exhibit budget.

The cost of a trade show exhibit can vary widely, depending upon the type of display you choose, its features, its size, and much more. For example, a custom-built 20×20 display is going to cost more than a 10×10 portable trade show display.

Knowing how much you can spend on making your exhibit dreams a reality depends on your budget. As a result, before you sit down to design your booth, create a comprehensive trade show budget. Do not forget to add in major expenses, like display transportation, space reservation costs, and airfare and lodging for staff, as well as hidden costs of a trade show, such as drayage, cleaning services, and rigging.

It is not uncommon to spend anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of your total budget on the display itself. These percentages can vary depending on factors such as custom trade show exhibits vs. rentals, the cost of the hosting city, the distance to travel, the number of staffers, and other factors. Once you have that number, you can work with your exhibit company to determine the best (and most affordable) trade show exhibit options for your budget.


Clarify your trade show exhibit strategy and vision.

Finally, you will need to clarify your trade show exhibit’s strategy and vision ahead of time. For example, using the information you have about your target audience and your own company’s needs, you should be able to build a picture of what you want to accomplish with your display. Setting specific attendance, lead, and messaging goals can help you both to measure the success of your trade show exhibit and allow you to develop a look that makes it easier for you to meet your goals.

At Imagecraft, you always have the chance to sit down with our design services and flesh out your vision for your exhibit. This meeting allows you to communicate your company’s unique brand values and needs, as well as the specific goals you have for your display, in order to ensure that we design just the right look for you.

Planning ahead can save you a world of frustration down the road. And with an investment as significant as a trade show display, you want to be sure that it will effectively serve your needs for years to come. Do not hesitate to reach out to Imagecraft to get help planning for and creating a trade show exhibit that meets your needs in an effective, profitable, and long term way.

trade show display


Trade show displays are true investments. The money and effort you put into them up front will reward you for years with trade show traffic, brand awareness, leads, and conversions for your business. In fact, the average trade show exhibit lasts anywhere from 3 to 7 years. As time goes on, however, even the best displays wear out or lose their usefulness and must be replaced. Following are a few signs that it may be time to buy a new trade show display.

trade show display 

Wear and Tear on the Old Display

Your display’s appearance is vital in capturing the attention of trade show attendees. In fact, when you designed your display, you and your exhibit company likely spent a great deal of time creating a look that would stand out on the exhibit floor. Because your display’s appearance plays such a large role in convincing trade show attendees to visit your booth, anything that detracts from that look can potentially harm your trade show success.

This is why signs of wear and tear on your display signal a need for a new trade show exhibit. While some things (such as burned out light bulbs) can be fixed, other kinds of damage (such as stains, dents, and scratches) become permanent parts of your display. And, a damaged display can call your professionalism and expertise into question in visitors’ minds. As a result, if you notice wear and tear on your display that cannot be easily fixed, you may need to consider replacing the display.

New Products and Services

Chances are, your current display is focused on specific products and services offered by your company. This focus is a smart marketing choice, because it allows you to inform visitors about the specific benefits they can gain from your company. People will naturally be drawn to a display that represents new, innovative, and unique products and services that they can take advantage of.

However, if your business releases new products and services, your display may quickly become outdated.

An outdated display is a reason to purchase a new one, because it is an inaccurate representation of your business. By using it, you will miss out on customers who could use your new products, and you may attract visitors who are looking for something you no longer offer. As a result, consider a new display anytime your company’s offerings begin to differ from what is represented in your display.


New Branding

If done correctly, your trade show exhibit should reflect your company’s branding and personality. Logos, colors, and overall feel should all accurately represent what your company is about. If your branding changes, therefore, it is likely that your display will need to change as well. There are a number of reasons that your branding (or messaging) might change.

For instance, occasionally, businesses will undergo a rebranding that introduces a new logo, changes the colors or styles of the original brand, etc. In these cases, your old display will quickly become outdated. In addition, you may occasionally find yourself with a new marketing message that can change the overall appearance of your display.

You may also find that your branding changes when your business undergoes major changes, such as mergers and acquisitions. These changes mean that your business becomes part of another business. It may adopt the branding of the other business, or receive entirely new branding that merges your company’s brand and the other company’s brand. In these cases, your display will need to change in order to reflect these shifts in your brand.


Competition Success

Even if your booth is up to date and reflecting your most recent products and services, you may still need a new trade show exhibit if your old display is not meeting your marketing goals at trade shows. In particular, you may need to consider a new display if you find that your old display is being ignored in favor of your competition’s booths.

If you notice that your competitors are regularly bringing in noticeably more business, visitors, and attention to their booths at the same trade shows you are attending, you may need to revamp your own display in order to better compete with theirs. You can do this by using an exhibit company’s design services to create a new display that incorporates and improves upon many of the features that make your competitors’ booths stand out.



Finally, you may need to consider replacing your current trade show display if you find that it is inconvenient to transport, install, or dismantle. For transportation, drayage, and other trade show expenses, pricing is often based on weight. The heavier the display, the more you will pay. If you want to cut down on the expense of getting your trade show exhibit from place to place, you may want to consider a new display that is lighter and easier to move.

In addition, set up time can cost you money (and stress) on the exhibit floor. If you find that your display is taking a long time to set up, or causing headaches during installation and dismantling, you may need a new trade show exhibit. Exhibit companies today can create relatively lightweight and portable displays that can make your set up and tear down experiences much less stressful.

If you think you might benefit from a new trade show display, consider hiring an exhibit company to help you think through the possibilities for a new display. Whether you choose a rental exhibit, a portable display, or custom exhibits, obtaining a new display can help you to better meet your marketing and trade show goals.

museum exhibit

museum exhibitMuseum exhibits are a powerful way to take a topic and make it visible and tangible for museum visitors. A successful museum exhibit design will enthrall visitors with rich information and a compelling display. While there are a number of qualities that define an excellent museum exhibit, perhaps the most important is an engaging story. Weaving the elements of your design into a fascinating narrative allows you to capture visitors’ attention in a way that no other technique can do. Following are a few of the ways you can use your museum exhibit design to create a compelling story.

Organize your story around a single objective

Effective storytelling in a museum exhibit is focused storytelling. The narrative you create should have a single purpose around which it is organized. For instance, it can encourage visitors to act, emphasize a particular aspect of your company, or recount historical events from a certain perspective. In order to determine what to focus your exhibit on, ask yourself what the central message is that you want to convey to museum visitors. What do you hope to accomplish?

For instance, say you want to create a museum that tells the history of your company. You could choose from among objectives such as emphasizing your company’s ability to innovate, teaching visitors about your philanthropic goals, or focusing on your business’ longevity and expertise. Each of these objectives will result in a slightly different museum exhibit design. Once you know what the organizing principle of your design will be, you can more easily create a compelling narrative.

Visually highlight the most important parts of the narrative.

Organizing your story around a single objective is only the first step in creating a compelling museum exhibit design. Once you know how you want to organize your story, you will need to visually highlight its most important parts. By allowing certain elements to stand out (through techniques such as larger text, technology, etc.), you allow visitors to quickly understand the basics of your narrative, no matter how briefly they stay.

The parts of your story that are the most visible in your museum exhibit design should be the broad points of the narrative (i.e. major company milestones). This does not mean that you omit the details that enliven your story. These details can be included in layers (such as longer presentations and smaller text) for visitors who want to spend more time exploring your display. This technique allows visitors to quickly grasp the broad outlines of the story if they wish to pass through quickly, or to take time to delve into the more detailed narrative if they want to learn more.

Create a logical flow.

Any story you tell needs to have a logical beginning, middle, and end. In addition, good stories all contain the essential elements of a plot, such as rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. The story you tell through your museum exhibit design is no different. Each element of your design should contribute to a logical narrative arc.

For instance, if you want people to quickly pick up on the story’s progression, you might consider dividing your exhibit up based on the beginning, middle, and end of your story. In order to help visitors understand the arc of the story, you can use lighting, technology, and graphics to convey the rising action, the climax, and the resolution of the narrative. The key is to make sure that your exhibit is arranged logically so visitors can easily follow the story as it unfolds. When moving through this type of exhibit, visitors will be more engaged, delve more deeply, and remember your story longer.

Engage visitors’ senses.

One of the most important elements of a museum exhibit design is that it provide a stimulating experience that captures visitors’ full attention. While there are many ways to do so, one of the most effective is to engage visitors’ senses. A story that is only conveyed through writing may be interesting for visitors who enjoy the written word. However, it may lose the attention of others who are more tactile, or aural, or visual. In addition, visitors who have certain disabilities (such as blindness or hearing impairments) may not be able to enjoy the story if it is only told in one way. As a result, the most effective museum exhibits engage all of the senses.

For instance, instead of simply writing down information on a placard, consider adding compatibility with a screen reader, or provide technology to have the information read out loud to the visitor. Add elements (such as millwork or statues) that can be felt or manipulated by visitors. Include interactive technology (such as kiosks or mobile apps) that will interest more technically-savvy visitors. By creating a museum exhibit design that engages all the senses, you will create a truly immersive, and accessible, experience for all of your visitors.

Use compelling graphics.

Finally, never shy away from using quality graphics in your museum exhibit design. The graphics (such as placards, signage, photographs, and images) are the elements that bring the story to life. They are the elements that explain and interpret the artifacts and objects that are on display. As a result, they need to be high-quality, clear, and compelling in order to create a museum exhibit that will effectively tell a compelling story. For instance, the basic elements of good graphics include clear, readable fonts; relevant and stunning images; plenty of white space, and a balance of complementary colors. In addition, your exhibit company’s design services should be able to guide you regarding the exact graphics that will best represent your story in your display.

A museum exhibit is a unique opportunity to tell a story that people need to hear. Using effective storytelling techniques can make it easier for you to convey your story in a compelling and memorable manner. By organizing your narrative around a single goal, highlighting the most important parts of the story, creating a logical flow, engaging visitors’ senses, and using compelling graphics, you can tell a story through your museum design exhibit that visitors will remember for the long-term.

Display text tops

One of the first things trade show attendees see when they look at trade show displays (whether custom displays or rental displays) is the text. The message conveyed in this text is often what will convince them to explore a trade show exhibit further. As a result, the text you choose is an important element in creating an effective display. Following are a few of the steps you can take to create powerful text for your next trade show display.


Display text tops


Keep your text short.

Trade show attendees typically only glance at a display for a few seconds. If they encounter a cluttered display with lots of text, they will likely ignore it in favor of one they can read more quickly. As a result, one of the keys to creating effective text for your trade show displays is to keep it short. Ideally, your messaging will consist of a single phrase or sentence with a maximum of six words. When you keep your text brief, you enable attendees to quickly understand your message, even if they only spend a few seconds looking at it. The result should be greater interest in your booth as more people read your message.


Send a single message.

Because your text is one of the first impressions trade show attendees have of your business, it can be tempting to put multiple messages on your exhibit. However, as mentioned above, visitors need to be able to read and understand your messaging in a matter of seconds. Trying to communicate two, three, or more points at once can leave attendees confused about your main point and frustrated with the time it takes to read your text.

As a result, it is important to convey a single message through your trade show exhibit. What that message should be will depend upon your business. For instance, some businesses may want to emphasize their low prices, while others may wish to emphasize their experience. Focus on the message that best captures what you want your booth visitors to know.


Create memorable text.

Brevity and focus are key ingredients in effective trade show display text. However, a short and focused message will do little good if attendees find it boring. As a result, it is also important for your text to be memorable. The uniqueness and power of your message will not only encourage trade show attendees to enter your booth, but also help to keep your brand in the forefront of their minds after the trade show is over.

There are a few ways to create memorable text. For instance, you can employ clever writing to state your message in a catchy and unique way. You may also choose to write about an element of your business that is unique. In addition, you should try to avoid jargon and clichés in your text, because these will immediately make your text less interesting. Instead, focus on telling your message in a new way.


Highlight your brand and products.

One of the main goals of your trade show displays should be to increase awareness of your brands and products. This means that trade show attendees should learn, simply by reading your text, something about what your brand can offer them.

The best way to do so is to choose brand values or products to highlight in your text. For instance, if your brand focuses primarily on customer service, then you should create text that communicates this information. If you have a new product to offer, you may choose to put this product front and center on your display. The result should be a message that gives visitors an idea of what they will get when they interact with you.


Make sure your text is easy to read.

Regardless of how short, focused, interesting, and branded your text is, it will do little good if trade show attendees cannot read it. As a result, all of your trade show displays should possess text that is easy to read from a distance.

Your exhibit company’s design services should be able to help you figure out the best way to maximize your message’s visibility. In general, however, it means that you will need to use fonts that can be read from afar. Use these fonts in place of fancy text that may not be as readable. In addition, make the font large enough to be read easily. The result should be text that attendees can read quickly, even at a distance. By doing so, you should reach more people within the crowded exhibit hall and, subsequently, enjoy more visitors to your booth.


Be prepared to provide more information.

Finally, be prepared to back up the message on your custom exhibits with more information inside the booth. Your text, by necessity, will be limited to a single, brief, message. However, that message will be sufficient if it is engaging and readable enough to get people into your booth. Once they are there, you will have the opportunity to give them as much additional information as they want.

As a result, make sure you have a savvy and knowledgeable sales team in place to answer questions and pitch your products and services. In addition, have literature to hand out, and technology with which visitors can interact. These employees and informative material can help ensure that booth visitors maintain the interest in your brand that your trade show display first sparked.

Creating powerful text for your trade show displays requires creativity and thoughtfulness. By keeping your message short, focused, memorable, branded, and readable, and by providing more information in the booth, you will maximize the impact of your trade show exhibit.

Custom Exhibit for CSC

While there are many different kinds of trade show displays from which you can choose, most of them are limited by the amount of customization they allow you to achieve. While not every situation requires a display in which every element has been designed specifically for you, there are many benefits to a specially built exhibit. For customers who need this type of total customization, custom trade show displays offer a smart solution. These displays are built specifically for you with the help of a skilled exhibit company like Imagecraft. The process we use is designed to create a high-quality display carefully tailored to meet each of your trade show needs. Following is our process for creating your ideal custom trade show exhibit.

CSC trade show exhibit


Once you contact Imagecraft about creating a custom trade show exhibit, we will begin the process of designing and building your booth. Our design services begin with discovery, which takes place about 4 to 6 months before the date of your trade show. In the discovery meeting, we will work with you to flesh out your ideas for your trade show exhibit.

Present in this meeting will be your account executive and the designer. Your account executive will be your point person for the project, responsible for serving as a liaison between you and Imagecraft. The designer will serve as the creative resource behind your design, responsible for developing a look that meshes with both your needs and your budget. The goal of the meeting will be to formulate a concrete vision we can use to create a trade show exhibit design that meets all of your display needs.

Our role in this meeting is to listen to and to guide your thinking regarding your trade show exhibit. We will take as much time as necessary to flesh out what it is you need from your trade show booth design. We will listen to your goals for the trade show you are about to attend and ask you lots of questions to help us understand what your needs are. For instance, do you want to bring in more leads for your company? Increase brand awareness? Close sales on the trade show floor? Do you want to provide a comfortable space for visitors to relax? Utilize technology to inform visitors instead of relying on brochures and other handouts? What colors do you want to use in your trade show exhibit? Should we use your logo colors or select a different color palette? Each of your answers will provide us with information we can use to create the right trade show exhibit for your needs.

In addition, we will discuss your budget. We will find out how much space you have to work with, how much money you have set aside for the building of the trade show display, and where you may or may not be willing to make compromises in order to meet your budget. This information will guide us regarding what materials and design techniques to use to meet your trade show exhibit needs.

Finally, we will make suggestions to help you think through your design options and preferences. For instance, the designer may be able to offer you options for the layout of your trade show exhibit, suggest materials to use, or inform you about features we can include that you were unaware of. Through the expert guidance of the designer and account executive, we will work with you to create a clear picture of your needs and design preferences.


Once we complete discovery, the designer will translate the information you give us into a stunning and functional trade show display design. This design will take the form of 3-D renderings. In order to give you the most accurate picture of your trade show display, these renderings will be extremely detailed. They will come with seven or eight panels that each represent the trade show exhibit from a different angle. For instance, you will be able to view the display from the top, from the sides, as an elevated picture, and so forth. The goal is to give you all of the information you need to know how your trade show exhibit design will look when it is set up on the display floor.

Often, you will receive one set of renderings that encapsulates all of the information discussed in the discovery process. However, in some cases, you may receive two different renderings in order to help you make an informed decision regarding your trade show display design. For instance, if the designer feels as if there is more than one workable design that will serve your needs, he may create renderings for both designs. Alternatively, if budget is a concern, your designer may send you two different renderings at two different price points in order to help you find a trade show booth design that you both love and can afford.

Once you receive the renderings, you will have the opportunity to make two sets of changes to the renderings. During this revision period, we will discuss every detail of the renderings with you, from the material used to the color palette to the furniture, floor space, and wall placements within the trade show exhibit. At the end of the revision process, you should have a set of renderings that quite nearly matches your vision and needs for your trade show display design. The entire trade show booth design and revision process should take about two weeks.

SEE ALSO: Six Steps for Choosing the Right Exhibit Company


We here at Imagecraft recognize that creating custom trade show displays that meet both your needs and your budget is an important element in earning your business. As a result, we will take steps during the discovery process to determine your budget, and then to create a trade show booth design that meshes with your finances.

For instance, when creating your renderings, the designer will take the cost of materials, construction, and other details into account in order to deliver a look that works for your budget. By default, he will strive to provide innovative and creative solutions to your trade show exhibit needs. We never hesitate to think outside the box in order to come up with solutions that will create an impactful display within budget.

Once the designer has created an initial design, we will bring in an estimator to provide an estimate of the expense required to build the trade show display. We will then use this information to tweak the trade show booth design into a look that works with your budget. The end result will be a quote that reflects our efforts to deliver excellent results within your budget. You will receive this quote when we send you the 3-D renderings for your trade show exhibit.

Once we provide you with the estimate for your design, we will work with you to further mesh the design and your budget. For instance, we may provide you with a couple of design options with different costs from which you may choose. We may determine, in conversation with you, that certain design elements can be eliminated to save money, or, you may find that a particular design is worth a little extra money. Once a price is agreed upon, you will sign a Letter of Agreement (LOA) that encapsulates the final trade show exhibit design and price and that allows us to begin crafting your custom trade show exhibit.


Once you sign the LOA, approving of both the trade show booth design and the cost for building it, we get to work turning the 3-D renderings into a stunning finished product. The larger the trade show exhibit, the longer this step will take. However, in general, we will ask for 6-8 weeks to complete the manufacturing process. There are two steps to this process, both of which are essential to producing custom exhibit displays that exceed your expectations.


The 3-D renderings you viewed as part of the design process gave you a detailed visual of how the trade show exhibit would look once completed. In order to build the display, however, our shop needs detailed instructions regarding the placement, size, and color of every every wall, every sign, and every piece of furniture. These instructions come in the form of blueprints, much like the blueprints used for constructing a house. They provide the shop with all of the information they need to build the trade show exhibit design exactly as planned.

Booth Construction

Once the shop has the blueprints in hand, a team of experts comes together to build your trade show exhibit. Engineers, carpenters, and other experts comprise this team, all of them with the knowledge and skill in their field necessary to create carefully crafted custom exhibit displays of  the highest quality. They will use whatever materials are called for in the blueprints and design, from aluminum to wood to fabric, to construct a trade show exhibit that exactly matches the blueprints, and your specifications. Because your trade show display design is a custom job, we create every piece, from the ground up. These include the framework, conference rooms, hanging signs, towers, product displays, walls, meeting areas, and more. The result are trade show booth displays that reflect high quality expertise and meet your specific display needs.


Typically, your custom exhibit displays will be constructed in sections. Once these sections are completed, we will check our work by putting the trade show exhibit together in our staging area. In this step, we construct the trade show display as it will be on the display floor. The goal is to make sure that every piece of the trade show exhibit fits together properly. For instance, we will align segments of the trade show display, make sure the graphics fit, and try to anticipate any problems that may occur.

We will also send you previews of the display or allow you to come visit the staging area so you can see your trade show exhibit coming to life. All of this takes place within the 6-8 week manufacturing period. Once we are finished, you will have a complete custom trade show display, ready to be crated and shipped to the display floor, where it can begin earning you leads and business.

Transportation and Storage


Once your custom trade show display is complete, we take steps to ensure that it makes it safely from our warehouse to the display floor and back again. To do so, we craft custom   crates specially designed to protect all the pieces of your trade show exhibit. We then ship the crates directly to the trade show. The exact cost for these services depends upon the number of crates you have and how much they weigh, though we will have provided you with an estimate for these services in your LOA. In addition, we arrange for drayage (the transportation of the trade show exhibit from the truck at the conference center to your display space).

Installation and Dismantling

We also provide installation and dismantling services for your trade show exhibit. We bring in a crew to build your trade show exhibit on the floor. Once the show is over, we come back and dismantle the trade show display in order to transport it back to our warehouse for storage.


Custom exhibits are generally meant to be kept for at least three or four years. However, most companies lack the space to store custom trade show displays in their own facilities, and do not wish to pay for the shipping back to the exhibit company for the regular touching up and inspection that is necessary to keep the exhibit in good shape. As a result, we offer you safe storage in our warehouse for a minimal monthly fee. Before your next trade show, we will bring the trade show exhibit out to check for and repair damage, rework any messaging you wish to change, and make any other tweaks you desire.

Creating custom trade show displays requires careful planning and skillful execution. Through our discovery meeting, we learn what you need from your trade show exhibit. In the design process, we turn these needs into a detailed plan. In the manufacturing process, we create the finished product. From staging to transportation and storage, we make sure all the details come together to create a smooth display experience. From beginning to end, your input and needs take center stage, as we create a custom trade show exhibit that will contribute to your trade show success.