How to brief designers | Exhibition Stands

Briefing exhibition stand designers correctly. To brief a designer sounds easy? Yes, okay it is, with exhibition stands, designers are tasked with figuring out what is in a client’s mind. Although there are a few points that can help the designer come up with something you could absolutely love.

I am a designer myself, and will discuss:

  • Why briefs are important, my experience
    • What happens when I do what I want?
  • What to give the designer in a brief
    • General requirements
    • The overall concept / theme
    • What is your goal – what you are trying to achieve
    • Who is your competition
    • Your budget
  • The outcome design, how to view it

Why briefs are important, my experience

I have heard countless times:

“We need a design that stands out amongst the rest, with good height and lighting, and has our company message prominent” there, show me what you can come up with.

Wow, okay. Then there I go, researching the company via their website and online presence. Finding out what products or services they have. Often I will develop a design they would like, but sometimes it will be completely off the ball.

This just has a 50 50 chance. (I don’t like these odds)

Good, well thought out Briefs are important to have a higher chance in getting something suitable for your strategy.


What happens when I do what I want?

I personally don’t mind this, because I know what I’m doing. And this gives me the chance to design something I actually like. Though the most innovative and creative designs I have ever done are when the client gets involved a bit more in the brief.

Remember on average I do a design every 2 days, and I wouldn’t like to admit, but I do get comfortable with certain design features and implement the same from client to client, the “safe” way of designing. Innovativeness gets lost.


What to give the designer in a brief?

No this isn’t just a list of: 1 TV, 4 chairs, a counter and a storeroom.
You speaking with pro designers, not just a furniture placement person, we need a bit more insight in a brief.

General requirements

Yes, okay general requirement and quantity as the above list does help, though instead of the plain list above, supply information like, seating for 4 people, method of displaying video content, welcome area for passing visitors, storage for marketing material.

By doing this, leaves the designer open to creative ways of implementing these things, not just slapping in a chair. A designer would also keep space in mind, if there is no room for a storeroom, a different solution would come up.

  • Reference designs:
  • Other reference designs you have seen that you like (google images, pinterest, etc.), but we also need to know why? As there possibly would be a thousand designs on pinterest that you would like and all would be completely different in some way. Not very helpful. So it’s best to show us which elements you like of the references you’ve provided and why you like them.

    Information like: here is a design I like, I like how the there is a semi VIP area separated by glass, and here is another design, I like the wood effect so let’s go this way using timber.

  • Do’s and Don’ts:
  • Please say so before I make your floor pink.

    These come a bit more with experience, for example: “don’t have the coffee machine at the front of the stand, as last time everyone was just grabbing coffee and going, sales team were basically just coffee baristas”

    Share previous designs you have used, and criticize them. E.g.: “there wasn’t enough room around the product display”, after all, we are trying to improve the display method.


The overall concept / theme

This is probably the most important, and should be done is some detail. Saying “modern” and “interactive” isn’t really helpful. And this is everyone’s request, why? Well durr we are in a postmodern design era.


  • Are you trying to just showcase the company image, and hoping for visitors to be attracted by other means (e.g. a refreshment point, interactive fun attracting)?

  • You might want to attract visitors in a way that has nothing to do with the company, this is hard to explain, but often very big companies attend shows using the show as their service sector. Then they have a completely interactive display purely for general engagement and not concentrating on sales. Imagine sponsoring a trade show event, and having your branding everywhere (on the coffee bar, registration counters, organisers office), though not actually having a formal display or even a stand at all.

  • The level of the theme, basically how far to go with the theme?
  • I will use an example for this:

    Here an exhibitor said they want a stand that looks like a preschool class room. Okay that sounds cool. My first trail of thoughts were to go my normal method, research the company image, find out the products and so on, then implementing a classroom feel around their imagery. Going this way would have been a waste of time.

    They gave me a level of how much of a classroom feel. Basically they just wanted a classroom. They were targeting buyers in the children sector. They had given me types of elements to implement like book shelves, chalk board etc.

    Danone Stand (a nutrition company)


    If they hadn’t elaborated on the “classroom level” I would have done something completely different, missing the plot.

What is your goal – what you are trying to achieve

What is your goal, and how you plan on actually measuring it? No, I don’t want an answer like “we want as much from the show” or “we want more business”, that is obvious otherwise you wouldn’t be exhibiting.

There are strategies that companies might take, as you want to be remembered as professional, or fun, or easy dealings, quality company etc. You might want your brand to be interactive in general socializing, as in general people, not just industry related (please if you supply mining pumps this shouldn’t be your goal, as a mining company wouldn’t host a “night fun run” would they?)

Who is your competition?

Who is your competition at the show? My first instinct is to get you to shine brighter than your competition at the event, so I research them as well.

Your Budget

Generally, a touchy subject. Just remember I’m a designer, I don’t take interest of procurement and how much money you have. I just know that budget does limit me of what cool things I can come up with, without it I could be designing something that would never come to reality. Honestly I get really annoyed when I spend hours designing something awesome and then it doesn’t even fall anywhere near the budget point.

Let’s put it this way, you don’t walk into a Mercedes dealer looking for a luxury car with the budget of a Toyota Tazz. It doesn’t work and you just going to walk out without a key to a c-class Mercedes.

Budget is kind of a big thing, like I said I don’t really care how much money you want to spend, I just care about what I can do to fit in your budget. I’m not going to try sell you a million rand stand.

The outcome design, how to view it?

First thing to remember:

It is not about you at all, it is about your company’s imagery and the visitors, you need to accept that. You might love pink unicorns, but other people might get scared.

Remember a designer generally is a professional, and has experience with what works and what doesn’t. A trade show display is for a short time, and has different goals than your actual office building. So be open to weird and innovative ideas.

Designers want to make something you will love and matches your needs the best, this is rewarding for us. It’s one thing designing something that looks good on paper, but seeing in real like is even better.