The Dos and Don’ts of Tradeshow Design

Do-Dont-Tradeshow-DesignWhen it comes to tradeshow exhibit design, the biggest and most expensive booths are not always the most memorable ones. The difference is often in how well the exhibit is designed, how it maximizes space and how effectively it conveys a message.

When redesigning or creating a new tradeshow booth, be sure to keep these dos and don’ts in mind.


  • Do start the planning process early so there is enough time for a quality product.
  • Do discuss your tradeshow goals with the booth designers so they can design based on your company’s specific needs.
  • Do ensure your booth has design elements that make a quick, visceral impact.
  • Do check to make sure signage is visible from all sides of the exhibit. Your logo should be visible from 25 feet, headlines from 10 feet.
  • Do use your design to reinforce your company’s brand and messaging.
  • Do let the size of your booth dictate the scale of your graphics. Large-scale single graphics can make a booth appear larger while multiple pictures and text blocks can make it feel smaller.
  • Do use only high resolution images. While the photo you’ve selected may look fabulous on your website, it will fall apart when it is blown up to six feet tall. Large scale images require high-resolution photographs.
  • Match your colors to the Pantone scale. What you see on your monitor may not be what comes out of the printer.
  • Do pick one or two fonts, maximum. Too many fonts create a business that confuses your viewer. Avoid italics, all caps and centered text.
  • Do consider a flexible or modular tradeshow design so you can use it for multiple events.
  • Do use multimedia (animation, video, audio and interactive kiosks) for attention grabbing impact.
  • Do consider the weight of the materials used in the booth. While steel may give you the industrial look you want, it will cost you a fortune in shipping and drayage. Work with your designer to select materials that accomplish your design goals without breaking the bank.
  • Design for durability. Use materials that are easy to repair, maintain or refurbish.
  • Do understand that design renderings are conceptual and are not exact. What is fabricated will most likely vary somewhat from what is depicted in the conceptual renderings.


  • Don’t forget to integrate your exhibit design with your other marketing and promotional materials for a lasting impact.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of lighting as a design tool. Well-placed lighting can set a mood that attracts and counterbalances the harsh exhibit hall fluorescents.
  • Don’t try to say too much. Effective tradeshow design uses minimal words. Let photos, illustrations, color and light do most of the talking for you.
  • Don’t get so into the design that you lose sight of the products and services you are trying to sell.
  • Don’t place product displays or important visuals down low. Place your most important visuals at eye level or higher.
  • Don’t rely on your in-house graphic designer to design your exhibit. Exhibit design and building is a very specific skillset. Leave this one to the professionals.
  • Don’t include trade sensitive information in your exhibit graphics.
  • Don’t assume that your first design concept will be your final design. The design process is an organic one and what you first envision may change over time.
Peggy Swords

About Peggy Swords

Peggy Swords is the founder and president of Excalibur Exhibits, a $10 million Houston-based exhibit manufacturing and production corporation. Excalibur Exhibits designs, builds, delivers, assembles and disassembles as many as 300 exhibits per year. Swords was named as a finalist for NAWBO Houston 2003 Woman Business Owner of the Year and 2005 Enterprising Woman of the Year Finalist. Additionally, Excalibur Exhibits is a five time member of the Inc 5000, a three time member of the LSU100 and a two time member of the Houston Fast 100, a list of fastest growing privately held companies.