Interior design isn’t just about making a space look good.
This complex creative process aims to find what works on a practical and emotional level as well. It seeks to create a place that inspires, boosts productivity, and provides an environment where everyone wants to be.
And while it is more traditionally associated with building interiors, such as homes or offices, smart exhibition stand designers are already using interior design thinking and techniques to ensure their stands deliver maximum return on investment for their clients.
Want to do the same? Here’s what you can learn from interior design to make your exhibition stand more successful.
1. Pay attention to spatial awareness
The founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, once famously said, ‘Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works.’
In other words, it’s how a space might work with regards to the people using it and their relationship with the objects in it. Is there a natural flow through or around the objects? Does it feel too sparse or overcrowded? Does it convey the story or feeling you want audiences to grasp?
In other words, it’s how a space might work with regard to the people using it and their relationship with the objects in it.
With cheaper, pre-erected ‘shell’ stands, you might not have much choice in arranging where things go. But those opting for a bespoke stand will have the perfect opportunity to create a powerful experience for their visitors through the smart use of space. Don’t waste it.
Think about how people might need to move around your stand, considering what you will be showcasing, and how best to optimise the floor space. If you don’t, you could end up with the best looking stand in the world, but one that’s unpleasant for attendees to visit − which means they definitely won’t hang around and could even warn others off. Consider this: a study by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research found that trade show visitors will on average tell at least six people about their experience.
How to apply this technique to your exhibition stand
Spatial awareness is not just about creating a look, but an experience. Ask yourself what you want people to feel when they visit your stand, as well as identifying what ‘objects’ will need to be accommodated − such as meeting rooms, tables, charging desks or product staging areas. Remember that a cluttered stand can make visitors feel stressed or uncomfortable. Conversely, if it’s too sparse (unless this is a deliberate design choice) it could feel cold or unfriendly.
You should also consider the stand location and orientation, which might affect how you can best use the space you’ve been given (for example if it’s facing an entrance/exit or is near a big attendee attraction).
2. Be clever with your use of colour
In the book Colour Design, author and leading authority on colour psychology, Karen Haller, states: ‘Our reactions to colour are largely unconscious, yet it has the power to affect our quality of life and our wellbeing.’
The psychology of colour has been used to great effect in interior design for decades now, mostly at a subconscious level. Think back to the last time you saw a hospital interior and you’ll probably remember crisp whites and soft blues, used to promote an impression of calm and cleanliness. In contrast, a 2011 study by Andrew Elliott and Henk Aarts published in the journal Emotion found that the colour red causes people to reach with greater speed and vigour – something to bear in mind if you want to create a dynamic mood.
Clever use of colour is a must for any exhibition stand. Because not only does your stand need to reflect brand identity, but it also needs to be able to attract attention, draw certain people in, and encourage them to feel a certain way. It should be noted too that appropriate colour choice is directly tied to a space and can’t be taken from a template, because the size, shape and content of a particular stand will affect what colours need to be used (and where). For example, if you have a smaller, more enclosed stand you may want to have lighter colours to give a more ‘spacious’ feel.
Planning which colours to use needs a great deal of thought and care. As interior designer and author John Pile has argued: ‘Just as one would not start construction of a building without construction drawings and plans, one should not start working on colours in interior spaces without careful planning.’
So make sure you have profiled your clients: consider the type of audience you want to attract − and the atmosphere and ambience you would like to create − early in the process of choosing colours. Once you’ve identified your target audience, decide what kinds of colours are likely to create the desired mood and get them in tune with your brand. After all, a study by researchers at the University of Winnipeg, The Impact of Color in Marketing, found that 90% of instant judgments on a product are made based on colour alone.
3. Don’t underestimate the power of good lighting
Just as with colours, lighting is an atmospheric tool that can influence visitor emotions and behaviour on a more subconscious level. A study by researchers at Sheffield Hallam University found that the importance of lighting in retail settings was very clear – even though people may not actually be able to consciously tell the difference between lighting styles.
While they might not be aware of it, people have been found to be drawn to light and it certainly draws attention to products. The same research also indicated that bright lighting conditions lead to a greater examination and touching of products compared to when they’re displayed under dim lighting.
While they might not be aware of it, people have been found to be drawn to light and it certainly draws attention to products.
Experiment with how lighting your stand in different ways can affect the ambience and atmosphere, and the mood of visitors. Brighter lighting in certain areas can help draw attention to important products and even encourage visitor engagement – so think about the priorities for your stand and vary the brightness of lighting around the structure accordingly, helping to guide visitors towards the centerpiece or end goal.
4. Design for the client
An interior design for a home or office is tailored specifically to the brief of the client who will use it. Similarly, the look and feel of your exhibition stand needs to work for the people you want to do business with – your potential clients. According to Demand Gen’s 2016 B2B Buyer’s Survey, 94% of buyers would choose a winning vendor if they have demonstrated a strong understanding of the company’s needs. This is relevant because this same understanding can be shown not just through the products you offer, but the overall design and ‘feel’ of your booth.
So yes, a successful stand needs to be true to your brand identity, reflecting who you are and what your values might be. But it is also critical that the thinking behind your brand identity takes into account who your audience is – those you want to attract and encourage to spend as much time with you as possible.
For example, targeting up-market clients simply won’t work if you have a shell stand that looks and feels cheap. While opting for bright, dazzling colours and interesting textures might put off older attendees. So, wherever possible, opt for a bespoke stand that allows for some design flexibility in tailoring for your audience.
Make sure you work with an exhibition stand design team that asks you questions about your brand right from the start. Be suspicious of any company that claims they know what you want right away before they’ve taken the time to learn about your target audience. You can then create a design brief packed full of insights about your potential customers, including their pain points (what causes displeasure) and other factors that will help increase your chances of success with the stand.
Make sure you work with an exhibition stand design team that asks you questions about your brand right from the start.
If you already have a brand style guide and tone of voice document (which should have been written with your audience in mind), make sure these are also passed to your designers in order to give them the best chance possible of creating a stand that resonates with your audience.
What we’ve learned
The theory and practice of modern interior design has been around for decades and it plays a key role in exhibition stand design. With good reason too – because it works. The best exhibition stands will often be a product of designers or their clients taking the time to make sure that each design is perfectly suited to both the client and (most importantly) the audience they hope to attract.
In my opinion, this makes it vital for companies who want the best return possible from their exhibition investment to pay serious attention to the lessons interior design has to offer.
TGP is one of the Middle East’s leading design and production companies, focusing on exhibitions, events, interiors, graphics, and audio-visuals for various industries. For more information or to meet the team, please call +971 50 636 7774, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or click here.