Crash Course: Custom Trade Show Booth Design

Custom trade show booths are perfect for exhibitors looking for a one-of-a-kind exhibit solution to reflect their brand’s personality on the show floor. In this post, we cover several important areas of trade show booth design to help you create a high-impact exhibit tailored to meet your trade show marketing needs.

Your Goals Inform Your Trade Show Booth Design

Your trade show booth is a tool that supports your trade show marketing goals, so making sure your goals are properly outlined is a key step in designing your trade show booth.

Common Trade Show Goals Include:

  • Generating leads
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Generate Sales
  • Attract Visitors
  • Promote products and services

Make sure you clearly communicate your trade show goals to your exhibit design partner so they can create an exhibit around your objectives that will help you reach your objectives.

Your Exhibit Budget

Trade show booths are a major expense, accounting for 10% of the average trade show budget. This does not include the exhibit space itself, which can typically amount to 30% of your overall budget. Below are two essential tips to help you control the costs associated with designing your exhibit.

Prioritize Booth Elements That Help Achieve Goals:

During the consultation phase of the trade show booth design process, prioritize which design features are most important for you to achieve your goals. Cross off features that are more expensive and less essential to your overall exhibiting objectives to keep costs down.

Prorate Booth Cost Over Estimated Lifespans

To determine the overall lifetime cost and potential return on investment of your exhibit, estimate how many years and at how many shows you per year it will be used. The average lifespan of trade show display hardware is five years. For graphics, the average lifetime is one year.

Trade Show Booth Design Considerations

Before you head into your first meeting with your exhibit partner, research design components that are best suited for your goals.

Search online for custom trade show booth designs for inspiration and make a list of the key components you want to include in your booth.

Common design elements include:

  • Hanging structures
  • Towers
  • Backwalls
  • Counters
  • Meeting spaces
  • Media kiosks
  • Product shelving and displays
  • Storage spaces (counters, closet, etc.)

Trade Show Graphics

Graphics are arguably the most important element of a trade show booth design. High-impact graphics are the key differentiator between capturing the attention of attendees and drawing a high volume of booth traffic versus having your booth relegated to being just another exhibit on the crowded show floor.

Check out our post on trade show graphics to learn more about the options and considerations around designing goal and brand-focus graphics.


Flooring is one of the most important pieces of a great trade show booth design and often gets overlooked. Trade show flooring can create an inviting appearance for your booth and it can also provide comfort for your staff and visitors while standing for extended periods of time.

In-Booth Media

Incorporating multimedia as visual or auditory elements can enhance the overall experience for attendees visiting your booth. From the visuals attendees see to the music they hear, multimedia plays a major role in setting the atmosphere and communicating messages that help exhibitors achieve their goals.

Multimedia can be used to support product demonstrations and contests and enhance booth graphics via monitors, touch-screens, video walls and augmented reality.

Decide early what types of technology you wish to incorporate into your booth so they can be a considered in the trade show booth design process from the beginning.

Finding the Right Exhibit Partner

Selecting the right exhibit partner is crucial to designing a successful trade show exhibit. Below we outline the keys to selecting an exhibit partner that can meet your company’s exhibiting needs.

Research Exhibit Partners Early

The process of finding the right exhibit partner can take time, and it can take months design and build on an exhibit. Begin your exhibit partner search early so as to find the right fit while leaving enough time to design and build your trade show exhibit.

Know Your Needs

When speaking with a potential exhibit partner, be upfront with your needs, budget and deadline. Research each potential partner’s capabilities to ensure that the companies you are considering can meet your desired budget, timeframe and trade show booth design requirements.

Look for Experience

Experience is everything when it comes to selecting the right exhibit partner. Exhibit partners with a long and successful history have experienced teams of exhibit designers and builders who work as a cohesive unit, minimizing miscommunication and leading to an overall easier design and building process.

Check References

Ask for and follow up with references from each potential exhibit partner. Contacting references allows you to learn more about the experiences others have had with the services you require, how closely an exhibit partner can follow budget, direction, how they resolve issues and the level of customer service they provide.

The Trade Show Booth Design Process

There are four core steps in the exhibit design and creation process, including:

  1. Needs Assessment

Complete a needs assessment form. The needs assessment form is a list of questions your exhibit partner uses to better understand your creative vision. This information will help guide your exhibit partner regarding what materials and design techniques to use when designing and building your exhibit.

  1. Review and Refine Initial Concepts

The exhibit designer will provide you with rough sketches and concepts of an exhibit design. Once you agree to a design, the exhibit designer will then create line drawings and 3D renderings of your exhibit to give you a better understanding of how your exhibit will look once completed.

  1. Establish Exhibit Details and Framework

The exhibit designer will then turn over the design to exhibit detailers who use CAD software to outline the building blocks of your exhibit’s framework. The exhibit detailer provides project managers and exhibit builders with complete specification of parts, materials, finishes, and construction methods to work from. Then graphic specification are finalized and converted into templates for graphic designers.

  1. Exhibit Preview and Approval

After your exhibit is built, you will have the opportunity to preview the booth at your exhibit partner’s facility. During the preview you can ask your exhibit partner to make tweaks and adjustments to your booth if needed.

Once you sign off on your exhibit, your exhibit partner will pack up and the exhibit to your event.

Create a Killer Trade Show Booth Design

Creating a killer trade show booth design requires careful planning and skillful execution. If you want more exhibit design tips and ideas for your next exhibit, download Nimlok’s Exhibit Design E-book. Learn how to complete an exhibit design needs assessment, design your trade show graphics and more with this free comprehensive guide.