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The Exhibition Booth: Materialization of the Idea

When speaking with business people, one is sometimes surprised with the variety of attitudes and approaches towards exhibitions, and their objectives and efficiency. Virtually always, this powerful marketing tool is looked upon as a "professional party", or a place to make new contacts with prospective partners. Only some of those business people understand that the main profit from participation is the positive image gained by the exhibiting company, which remains in the visitor's perception after the exhibition.

Of course, this image is the result of many factors, and the exhibition booth itself is probably not the most important among them. However, the first and the final communicative "note" in the exhibition forum the communicative environment is still formed by the exhibition booth, with its accurate concept and professional implementation in other words, with its technical, organizational, and aesthetical characteristiscs.

Getting both the idea right for the booth, and the implementation right in the whole environment of the exhibition hall, is undoubtedly a success for the Designer, which is in turn a precondition for the Exhibitor's success. Aleksandr Miasnikov, Director of the Agency of Commercial Graphics, talks here about the stages of creative interaction between these two players.

step 1: getting to know the exhibitor

Creating the architectural and artistic image of the exhibitor starts with analysis of information on the exhibitor. The booth designer should do an in-depth study of the exhibitor's existing corporate image (corporate style, trademarks, slogans, advertising publications, video material, examples of participation in other exhibitions, etc.), to learn about traditions and established priorities. Wishes, conditions, and requirements put forward by the exhibitor should be specifically defined and written down. This allows avoidance of many misunderstandings later.

The lack of corporate style (for example, for first-time participation in an exhibition, or for new companies), usually does not significantly affect the process of designing the booth. In reality, in such cases, design proposals are oriented towards the planned future corporate style. Sometimes, elements of a "one-off" style, specially developed for the exhibition, have been used.

It is necessary to emphasize that a corporate style is an important component of the exhibitor's image. Therefore, dealing with it carefully and skillfully pre-determines to a large extent whether the concept and final architectural and design solution will be a success.

step 2: analysis and functional mapping of the exhibition space

In our situation, choice of booth space is made by the Exhibitor, without coordination with the booth designer. This choice is mostly determined by the exhibitor's budget. When the designer can influence the selection of the exhibition space, the result is almost always both lower costs and higher quality of work done.

Analysis of the booth space enables the designer to do the following:

  • to fit the design to the particular site, checking more precisely the size, type of surface, and height of the hall;
  • to get all information on the availability and location of water, power supply, and other technical installations;
  • to coordinate the planned technical arrangements and to tie construction work to existing constructions and non-functional areas (e. g., pillars, distribution switchboards, and hatches), located within the booth space.
Additionally, this analysis allows classification of the booth in terms of location in relation to other booths at the exhibition, and to decide whether the booth is:
  • a booth in a row, exposed to one aisle only;
  • a corner booth, i. e., a booth located at the end of a row and exposed to two aisles;
  • a peninsula booth, which is also located at the end of a row, but is exposed to three aisles;
  • an island booth, or, in other words, a separate booth, exposed to four aisles.
The next part of this project implementation stage is analyzing the items to be displayed, determining the quantity of them necessary, combining them into groups, and determining display requirements for them. Additionally, this stage includes determination of the required display space, facilities for negotiations, and accessory space.

It is clear that the size of the presentation space directly depends on the quantity and sizes of the items to be displayed, as well as planned numbers of visitors and booth personnel, and all these numbers are determined based on the objectives of participation in the exhibition. The display space includes all surfaces (not only horizontal ones), which are used to display exhibited items or to advertise them, including information panels, monitors, projection screens, etc.

Negotiation facilities within the booth can be in the form of separate cabins, corners to sit in, or big office rooms. In addition, facilities to be used for communication at the booth can include tables to receive visitors, bars, reception desks with information services, and mini-cafes.

Accessory space within the booth includes a kitchen, storage space, a place to keep advertising material, staff rooms, changing rooms, etc. The number and type of accessory rooms can vary depending on the booth function and the objectives of participation in the exhibition.

Furthermore, it is necessary to decide what is most important for the exhibition booth:

  • product orientation,
  • information orientation, or
  • orientation towards consultations and negotiations.
On this basis, the ratio between the display space, space for negotiations, and accessory space is determined. The percentage of all these types of space allows classification of booths into the following groups:
  • "image booths" more negotiation than display aspects,
  • "trade booths" more display than negotiation aspects, and
  • "mixed-type booths", with approximately equal proportions between negotiation and display aspects.
The right classification of the booth in terms of the sizes of its functional areas significantly influences, in turn, the booth concept, as well as the architectural and design solution.

So, it is at this stage of project implementation where the booth space is divided into functional areas, after which we plan how these areas will be filled with display equipment and other design elements of the booth.

step 3: development of the concept, and the architectural & design project

Having planned the functional areas of the booth, we start the next stage, being probably the most crucial and decisive stage development of the concept, as well as of the architectural and design project. The purpose of this work is to propose a single design for the booth and to develop the architectural and design solution to satisfy the exhibitor. The concept, as well as the architectural and design project are determined by the following factors:

  • objectives of participation in the exhibition,
  • the planned result,
  • creative potential of the booth designer,
  • range of products and services to be exhibited,
  • planned numbers of booth personel and auxiliary staff,
  • corporate style and traditions,
  • existing corporate image,
  • technical and organizational requirements to the exhibition booth, its size and type,
  • technical characteristics of the displayed items and quantity of them, and
  • the exhibitor's budget.
The concept of the booth is the architectural and design idea itself, that is to say, the designer's plan, or the intended image. This is what makes the booth unique, giving it a specific aesthetical quality and atmosphere. This means a creative search for a design solution which will harmoniously join together the intended artistic idea, the exhibitor's image, what is technically possible to implement, and the required minimum set of design elements. Most important, however, is that this solution should make the exhibitor stand out among competitors and draw visitors' attention to the exhibitor's booth, and the displayed products and services.

The architectural and design project is the practical implementation of the concept. It is the main document specifying the display, constructive, and artistic solution. Its content allows finalization of the method, creative tools, size, volume, materials, and constructions, all necessary in order to build the exhibition booth, to place displayed items, to hold negotiations and to direct visitor traffic.

The architectural and design project includes drawings of the booth in the necessary projections, sketches, and the intended architectural layout using off-the-shelf exhibition equipment or custom-made constructions.

step 4: development of the technical project

The main purpose of technical design is to produce a complete set of technical documents necessary to materialize the concept, i.  e., to create the booth.

The technical project includes:

  • technical calculations, working drawings, and documentation to produce all custom-made constructions, and decorative and mounting elements;
  • circuit diagrams to hook up lighting, equipment, decorative elements, and displayed items;
  • layout for acoustic systems placement in the booth;
  • water supply and drainage diagram;
  • assembly drawings for off-the-shelf exhibition equipment.
In the context of Ukraine, most booth constructions are standard shell schemes (OCTANORM, PROSYSTEM, etc.), meaning that within the technical project, only some specific technical and artistic design elements need to be developed. Therefore, a technical project quite often means tying custom-designed technical and artistic details to the exhibit shell used. In some cases, however, when talking about special booths to be used more than once, based on custom-made constructions, technical design is of much higher importance.

Currently, there is a trend towards minimizing the use of standard display equipment. It is used to "build" accessory premises and to create work surfaces and areas to be then decorated in accordance with the concept developed.

As a result, it is possible, through "hiding" a standard shell, as well as through broader use of technical know-how and special design methods and items (wooden coverings, mirrors, sculpture, installations, suspended items, etc.), to implement a booth which, in terms of its all-round potential, comes close to one based on custom-made constructions, while keeping the budget relatively low.

A wide choice of construction and decoration materials, latest technologies for making design elements, use of special computer equipment, cutting and printing plotters, various light sources, lightweight colored plastics, etc., allow implementation of virtually any artistic ideas with top quality.

Technical design ends with the booth cost estimate and any further cost adjustments due to the exhibitor's budget and other factors, of both technical and creative nature. In many cases, booth cost reduction can be achieved, in practice, through the right choice of materials and equipment, without affecting the functional and artistic characteristics of the booth in any way.

In this way, the exhibitor gets the complete architectural, design, organizational, and technical information on its booth, and it is now possible to start the next stage of project implementation building the booth itself.

final step: making and installing the booth

As we said before, in most cases the booth is constructed from standard modular shell systems. These can be divided into frame-based and frameless ones. In frame-based systems, there is a combination of vertical items (posts) and horizontal items (beams), using various systems of joints ("ball-tube", scaffold-type joint, etc.). Frameless systems include screens, stayed constructions, and several other types of constructions.

It is important to emphasize that all constructive and decorative items should be made in such a way that the booth installation process does not take a long time, and does not require a lot of special equipment or workmen. Usually, the time allowed by the show organizers for installation varies from several hours to several days.

Finally, I would like to emphasize that everything mentioned above is a generalization of the practical experience the author has gained over recent years, while working professionally on exhibition design. Here we just describe some general approaches towards creating an exhibition booth, and outline the structure of this process, and its determinining factors. Outside the scope of this material are quite a lot of special issues which require detailed discussion.

In the author's view, the above methodology of exhibition booth design and construction, based on creating a single architectural and design concept, allows one, in most cases, to find a unique solution for any type of booth, to satisfy various tastes, and to create the festive atmosphere which should accompany every exhibition.

As examples from recently implemented projects, I have chosen the following:

  • a booth in a row, exposed to one aisle only, with three sides of the booth closed - the DatArt-Ukraine's booth at Dream House '98, of 100 sq. m;
  • a corner booth at the end of a row, exposed to two aisles Asta Medica's booth at Pharmacology '98, of 24 sq. m;
  • a peninsula booth, located at the end of a row and exposed to three aisles - Boeringer Ingelheim Pharma GmbH's booth at Public Health '98, of 30 sq. m;
  • an island booth, or a separate booth exposed to all four aisles Bosch-Siemens Hausgeraete GmbH's booth at Dream House '98, of 208 sq. m.

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