Trade Show TalesBlog

Posts Tagged ‘display design’

The “Why” Can Greatly Impact the “How” in Exhibit Design

October 20th, 2017 COMMENTS


Several weeks ago, we shared 15 Essential Exhibit Design Questions. These are questions every designer should ask their client before designing the ideal trade show display. In response to the blog post, a designer sent me an email. He wrote,

Here are a few questions we always ask. If the client walks in just thinking about the nuts and bolts of the project, they may miss an informed conversation on why they are exhibiting in the first place and that can fundamentally affect the design of a booth. The Why can greatly impact the How in Exhibit Design.

At that Classic distributor, the designer is usually included in the initial conversation with the client. Depending on which designer you talk to that’s either a bonus or a burden. The questions he shared gauge whether the exhibitor has identified their trade show marketing goals. That’s critical. And yet, it’s easy to skip those questions because doing so can make the potential exhibitor uncomfortable if they haven’t done their homework.

Personally, I’ve been in meetings where merely asking those questions caused the client to consider not buying an exhibit. More often than not they would come back. But not always. Not everyone should be an exhibitor. IMO — If your client intends to purchase or rent an exhibit, they should be prepared to answer these questions.

3 Essential Trade Show Marketing Questions

1. Why are you exhibiting at XYZ Conference?

What does this conference provide that is a benefit for you as an exhibitor? 

2. How would you qualify a successful event?

Expanding brand awareness, generating new sales leads, successful client meetings? 

3. Who is your target attendee at XYZ Conference?

Meeting new prospective clients, reinforcing established relationships?

We often grumble that drayage or labor or freight or show services is killing the trade show industry. However, the single biggest barrier to trade show success is an unprepared, unmotivated, and uninformed exhibitor. It’s easy to blame them for not doing their homework, but honestly, we’re equally to blame if we don’t ask the right questions, guide them to the right resources, and offer professional trade show marketing expertise. After all, we’re the professionals.

Do you have any other “essential” trade show marketing questions? Please share.

–Mel White


Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, hybrid, and custom exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or

Trust Me. Your Design Staff Will Thank You!

September 8th, 2016 2 COMMENTS


STOP! Before you read another word or are tempted to press “delete,” forward this to your design staff. Trust me. They will thank you!

Design Requests

Affordable Island Trade Show ExhibitThere’s rarely a logical flow to how many design requests you receive. One day, you are scrambling to find business. The next day, you are absolutely swamped.

For any Design Department, it can be stressful when the busy season hits because design takes time. But if you are a Classic Distributor, we have a nifty solution that will save you save you time and close sales faster.

All those nice-looking designs on Classic’s website or on your branded EDS website are available to you as 3d files. At no charge.

We have those 3d files at our fingertips, and we are happy, happy, happy to share. Your designers know the time it takes to create a visual presentation. They also know it’s drastically shorter when they have an existing model vs. designing EVERYTHING from SCRATCH.

That’s the beauty of our 3d models (and our business model). You can customize anything and everything. Go ahead and make changes, and then allow us to quote your customized design.

Many Classic Distributors enjoy using our design services. But many have their own design staff. For those distributors, our 3d file-sharing service is a godsend since you can respond to your customer’s requests in real-time.

So the next time you need to create a 20×20/10×20/10×10 design in one day, don’t stress. We can easily show you ten different Classic designs with that capability. We’ve done the legwork, and these kits are ready to sell.

Katina Rigall, Designer

Here are a few other ways you can work with the Classic Design Department:

  • Use us as your design staff if you don’t have in-house designers.
  • Use us as your overflow design staff when your internal designers are beyond their capacity.
  • Have us on phone calls with your clients. We are happy to be introduced as YOUR designer. Hearing what the client wants firsthand ensures the best design quickly.
  • Did you know we design and build custom wood exhibits? Not just extrusion and fabric. We can do it all.

Lastly, I just want to give Mike Swartout a nod, because our portfolio of kit designs would not as organized and comprehensive without his 16 years of design work. Assuming the title of Design Director, which was Mike’s for so long didn’t feel right, so that title has been retired, and I am the Creative Director. Mike is irreplaceable. No question about that.

Please let us know if you have any questions. And contact us if you need any Classic Exhibits 3d files.

Katina Rigall, Creative Director

“I’ll Know It When I See It” | Every Designer’s Nightmare

December 18th, 2014 7 COMMENTS


For the Classic Design Team, nothing is more fun than delivering a design that meets all the client’s needs:  functionally, aesthetically, and fiscally. Collectively, we have 24 years of industry experience designing trade show exhibits. We know most clients are not immersed in exhibit design, so the process can be challenging. But it doesn’t have to be. We are here to help!

Occasionally, we get an ambiguous request that requires us to practice Mind Reading. Which is understandable. We all come from different levels of experience, and learning how to pre-qualify takes practice. Thankfully, we are pretty good at addressing these requests before they become frustrating for everyone. But . . . that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few “Design Red Flags.”  Here are some we’ve identified over the years.

Design Red Flags

I Need This by Tomorrow (#1)

Good design takes time. Great design takes even more time. Think back to college. Did cramming for that psychology test result in an A? Probably not. There’s a process. Not to mention there are other design deadlines already in the queue. It’s not that we can’t do it if our schedules allow. And we want to, but we want to do it right.

high_fiveMy Client Wants Five Completely Different Options (#2)

Clients like to see options, and this can be achieved by showing them portfolio images, discussing their objectives, and defining a budget. In the end, the client is only going to buy one booth, one that matches their marketing goals and budget. One spectacular design is better than five OK designs, if it is on point and includes revisions. Choose a designer who can delve into the project and deliver exactly what the client needs.

If I Like It I’ll Find the Money to Buy It, So Design with an Unlimited Budget! (#3)

No client has a truly unlimited budget. They might have lots of resources, but there will be a limit. Our advice, throw out an exhibit budget number and gauge their reaction: $50,000 for a 10×10? Either they’ll nod and say “Go for it!,” or they’ll take a big gulp and reveal their actual budget — $8K, $15K, $25K. Perfect, now the designer can give the client the best 10×10 they’ve ever seen within their budget.

I’ll Know It When I See It — aka IKIWISI (#4)

Design is not a poker game where revealing your hand is a disadvantage. Most clients have an idea of what they want, or at least what they want to achieve. At a minimum, they know their product/service and how it should be presented. Every designer loves the opportunity to be creative, but a guessing game is the exact opposite of creative. Whether you are paying for design or not, there is a cost. The cost can be as simple as frustration, revisions, and unmet expectations.

The Client Wants a Rental, But I’d Like to Show Them a Purchase Option (#5)

re-9017-1We understand the motivation. A purchase is more expensive than a rental. But it’s not a very good sales strategy. It’s another way of saying, “I don’t really know what my client wants so I’ll give them multiple options.” See Red Flag #2 above. Designers like to design, but what often gets forgotten is that designers want their designs to sell. We want our work to mean something, to come to fruition. When our designs sell, it validates our talent and our efforts.

So what’s the exact opposite? Clear communication and specific goals. At Classic Exhibits, we want you to succeed. We know you don’t live in exhibit design every day, so the process can frustrating. We also know that your best path is to work with industry professionals and to tap into Exhibit Design Search for ideas. Exhibit Design Search is a terrific place to see ideas and price points.

Over the years, we’ve learned there are three keys to a winning design and a happy customer.

  1. Understand Your Trade Show Goals and Have a Budget in Mind.
  2. Work with a Trade Show Professional Who Can Guide You.
  3. Whenever Possible, Communicate Directly with the Designer.

Best of all, no nightmares . . . for you or for your very favorite designer. Have questions about exhibit design, give us a call or send us an email.

Mike Swartout, Katina Rigall, and Trina Broten
The Classic Exhibits Design Department


Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or


Why Our Brains Love Curves

December 28th, 2013 3 COMMENTS

Katina Rigall, Designer

In my last blog post, “Exhibit Designs that Sell,” I offered some tips on how to achieve a nearly 100% success rate. This time, I want to delve into a design element that connects to a deep-rooted preference in many people — graceful, mesmerizing curves!

There are two reasons why your client may be drawn to curves. The first is biological. A recent scientific study tested how the brain responds to curved vs. linear designs. In the study, the part of the brain linked to emotion was more stimulated when participants were expressing a greater affinity for the curved designs they were viewing.

It appears many people have a positive emotional pull to curved spaces. In the insightful article Why Our Brains Love Curvy Architecture, Eric Jaffe explains why curved designs tug at our hearts. Curvature appears to affect our feelings and signal safety or a lack of threat.

When it comes to exhibit design, the second reason clients may be drawn to a booth with curves is the elevated status that is associated with it. Curves are more difficult to manufacture. They require more labor because the materials, whether metal, wood, or plastic, must be modified from straight to curves. Because of this, curved booths have historically been designed for clients who can afford curves and other custom features.

Our Design Department continues to receive custom design requests for curvy booths (and thankfully budgets that allow for them). But more notable is the huge increase in requests to re-brand our existing kits from Exhibit Design Search, such as VK-1320, TF-5202, and VK-5095. From 10×10’s to large islands, curved structures are selling because there is a recognition that branding on these structures offers bold and eye-catching surfaces for creative graphics. These designs attract attention and, as you know, attention is everything on the trade show floor.

The Classic Rental Department recently added many new curved island and inline designs. I spoke with Jim Shelman, GM of the Rental Dept., who is thrilled about these new rental options. As we all know, curves have typically not been an option in the past. To preserve small budgets, straight lines were predominant. According to Jim, clients are excited about getting a curved rental booth because these booths are both upscale and affordable.

One of my resolutions for the Classic Design Department in 2014 is to continue producing designs that will “Wow!” your clients . . . and sell like hot cakes. Watch for creative new designs in Design Monday. I see twists and turns and lots of curves in our future!

When your client’s budget allows for curved elements, do they prefer a curvilinear booth or a linear design aesthetic? Let me know in the comments section below. I look forward to hearing from you!

Katina Rigall