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Why Design Matters
Exhibiting at a trade show or an industry event provides the opportunity to meet and engage existing and potential customers. But what best drives this process to ensure successful outcomes?

At Exhibitus, we believe the foundation for any exhibit program is DESIGN - design that captures attention and facilitates the engagement of all target audiences. Corporate goals, exhibit goals and professional goals are all within reach with a well-designed exhibit structure and program.

In a universal sense, design is a roadmap to achieve desired outcomes. The process starts with the imagined future based on goals and objectives and then works toward expectations with intelligence and creativity.

Design quality is often thought of as subjective and can be confused with art. Art primarily serves as the artist's expressive purpose, whereas design is uniquely different. Design is practical in nature, servicing a specific objective - a craft of strategic function, not self-expression.

Design-oriented organizations invest in thinking about the components of a design approach. They put design at the heart of their company to guide innovation, to improve offerings and to enhance marketing efforts. Customers see these brands as both progressive and customer-centric, leading to differentiation, customer loyalty and higher profits.

For companies exhibiting at trade and industry events, the goals are many but they typically lead to one overarching objective - getting attendees to act in a desired manner. To evoke action and movement, positive emotion along with genuine excitement are required. Good design can be the stimulus needed to inspire event attendees to consider and, ultimately take, the desired action.

Using certain principles of design - balance, proportion, emphasis, unity - to create an exhibit structure is the critical first step. Then applying these principles so that the message of the exhibit is expressed to appeal to the target audience must follow.

The State of Design

Research shows that all businesses, no matter what they make or sell and no matter how they market those products or services, should recognize the power and financial value in all processes.

This link was first confirmed by the UK Design Council in 2005. This research group looked at the impact of design use on a number of key business measures such as competitiveness, market share, sales and employment. They also tracked the number of design and innovation awards received and the level of training offered to staff. This initial research showed that these companies outperformed their peers over a 10-year period by more than 230 percent.

The Design Management Institute also found similar findings in the U.S. where design-driven companies outperformed the S&P by 228 percent in the ten years ending 2013.

To be valuable, good design must encompass all aspects of a company's brand and marketing activity. But nowhere is it more fundamental, and visible, than in the experiential arena of trade show marketing.

Unfortunately, as the economy deteriorated into the great recession, it seemed many companies resorted to more generic exhibits that primarily served as a bulletin board for product information. For executives already skeptical of the return on investment, the budget and time commitment required for the quality level of design needed to enhance the attendee experience were significantly reduced. For those that understood the value of design, they took this opportunity to gain market share as their competitors retreated.

But now the economy is improving and companies are again looking for ways to differentiate their marketing efforts. A well-designed exhibit should be a foundation of that effort.

The Back Story

Every company has a brand and a story to convey about that brand. A trade show environment is meant to showcase the brand in a 3-dimensional, experience-oriented setting.

A well-designed exhibit is a communication vehicle. It is the bridge that gets the attendee into the company's world. It provides the opportunity to develop an emotional relationship with a brand. The confluence of color, shape, negative space, lighting, materials, product and messaging all help to tell the brand story and to reinforce a belief and feeling that a prospect or customer has about the brand. Good design for a brand is recognizable even without the company's name on the environment.

But often at first glance, a trade show floor appears chaotic. It is easy to be overwhelmed which quickly overpowers a person's ability to think rationally and take action in an efficient manner.

Relying on a design approach that balances form and function provides a sense of control to the environment. It allows attendees to think, to feel and to tap into their own imagination, to be amazed or enlightened, creating in their mind the why and how a company's offerings can be of value to their own world.

The Beholder's Eye

It is generally accepted that Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder. And that is indeed the case on an exhibit floor. Attendees will have their own preference as to what appeals to them at first glance. But well-considered design takes over after the initial impression and delivers on the promise of engagement and relationship building.

Design as a deliberately applied discipline aims to create a simpler, more meaningful and rewarding experience for customers. A designer strives to keep form, function and the aesthetic quality in balance.

Collaboration is the Key

To assure that requirements of good design are met, designing an exhibit requires close collaboration with the creative team. Designs produced only from a list of written criteria with very little input and direction are typically more costly and less successful at meeting show objectives.

Working side by side through each design stage produces a dynamic environment that encompasses intent, creativity, communication and purpose. For the few seconds an exhibitor has on the trade show floor to capture the interest and hopefully the imagination of an attendee, good design based on productive collaboration is described in our Four Stage Approach is the key.

To get the full white paper, including concepts for good design and our Four Stage Approach, visit us here for download instructions: exhibitus.com/why-design-matters.

Brad Falberg, President

As Founder and President, Brad is the driving force behind the Exhibitus corporate philosophy: "DESIGN MATTERS." An award-winning custom exhibit house, the company specializes in 3-dimensional design for trade shows, corporate events, user conferences, permanent installations, museums and corporate interiors.

Brad's commitment to excellent design has led him to develop and champion a process that measures the link between design and trade show success. His expertise in consulting with clients and working with design teams from a clean sheet of paper to a final design guarantees beautiful, unique and relevant environments that engage audiences and create measurable success. Also, he has ensured Exhibitus' long-term success by investing in state-of-the art facilities, client-focused technology and the best people in the business.

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