exhibition design brief advice

AKA: “Just tell me the $&%£* budget!”

By Mark Powell


What makes a good Exhibition Stand Design Brief?

The exhibition stand design brief is a central part of the industry.  Every event starts with a written brief, but just how much thought is given to crafting a good design brief?

In thirty four years of designing I’ve seen stand design briefs written [literally] on the back of a fag packet, and fifty page essays with a hundred page brand identity appendix! So, what makes a good stand design brief?

cost effective exhibition stands

All good things take time!

Designers just love working weekends and late nights; they hate having more than 24 hours to turn around a set of drawings – said no designer EVER!

Whatever the industry, having enough time to do a proper job always helps, and your exhibition stand contractor is no different. 

Yes, we can design stands in a few hours, and build them in days, but the design process will be rushed, and the workshop will cut corners, often resulting in a less than optimum quality stand. 

Plan to brief your stand company at least four to six months ahead if possible.  This will result in a better thought-out stand design and less stress for all involved.

Make your design brief concise and relevant.

Ten pages of company history followed by three lines of information on your stand is not a great brief, but I see it all too often.  If I want the history of your company, I can go to your website and read up on it.  Sorry, but in most cases it’s totally irrelevant. 

Your stand designer needs to know what you want the stand to do and how you want it to look. 

What are your event objectives?  Long sit-down private meetings with prospects, or 5 minute demos and email collection?  The designer can’t make your stand work for you if they don’t know what you need.

Details of stand content are the most important – the ‘nuts & bolts’ – followed by some direction of the image you are looking to portray at the show.  If you have information on products and services to be shown, then include all relevant brochures and website links.

exhibition stand design NEC Birmingham
exhibition stand design ideas

Tell me what you like.

No, not Rick Astley & Take That! 

If you want your stand to look a certain way, or want a particular item or feature, be specific. 

Take photographs of stands that you like at shows.  Do a Google image search for ‘exhibition stand designs’.  Take a look at stand company portfolios like the one at the top of this page.  Sketch out your ideas, however badly drawn they may be!

If you’ve had stands before, include some drawings and photos, along with a list of what worked and what didn’t work.

Designers are a very talented bunch, but not many read minds!

Give your exhibition stand designer what they need.

No, not a six-pack and a bag of weed.

I’m talking about artwork.  Logos, images, graphics, corporate guidelines…. the stuff we need to do the drawings. 

A designer’s time is better spent designing rather than searching the internet for images and logos that may or may not be correct. 

You don’t need high resolution artwork and vector logos at the design stage, although that’s great if you do have them.  Just decent resolution, relevant images and logos that can be used at the design visuals stage. 

And cake.  We like cake.

Especially after the six-pack and a bag of weed…


exhibition stands
exhibition stand costs

It’s good to talk.

Emailed briefs have become the norm, but as with any written communication, it’s difficult to convey detail and nuance with text alone.  A phone or video call to run through the brief and flesh it out is better than just sending it by email. 

Even better, a good old-fashioned face-to-face meeting.  A briefing meeting will save so much time further down the road in two ways.  Firstly a good designer will throw ideas at you with their sketch pad in the meeting, skipping a few revisions later on.

Secondly, and possibly most important, you can get a feel for the person you’ll be working with for the next few months to deliver your event.  Can’t stand to be in the same room after 2 minutes?  Get the feeling they’re a bit of a sh*t who’d sell their granny for crack?  Find out they don’t like cake?!

It can be hard to get those vibes from a phone call alone, but a hand shake and a coffee will often tell you that this person is the right fit for the job.  And it’s an opportunity for cake.

You wouldn’t hire a staff member by email, but you’re hiring a temporary, very important person to take charge of your event, so maybe a phone call is the least you can do.  Think you don’t have the time?  You’ll have much less time dealing with the wrong person.

It’s my experience that the easiest and best projects to work on are those where I’ve met the client face-to-face to craft the design together with them.

Same goes for the design presentation.  The company has spent days of time, money and effort crafting a proposal; the least you can do is give them a few minutes to run through it with you.

Have a realistic budget.

Exhibition stands are a bit like cars: if you have the budget for a second-hand Ford it will not buy you a brand new Ferrari.

£10,000 will not get you a 100 square metre double deck exhibition stand with flashing lights and dancers on top.  And not telling your exhibition stand designer your budget won’t make it go any further; it will just waste time when they come back with a proposal that is either over or under designed.

If you genuinely haven’t got a specific budget figure, at least give a guideline ‘between X and Y’ figure.

Designers design to a budget, so please tell them what it is!


So, in conclusion, a good exhibition stand design brief will be given out well before the show starts, be to the point and relevant and give an idea of how the stand should look and the objectives for the show.  It will come with logo and graphic files and a realistic budget.  In a perfect world it will be discussed in person, or at least over the phone.

Cover these bases and you may just end up with an exhibition stand that your company is proud of, and a happy, stress free, stand contractor.

exhibition stand budget

Violet Exhibitions Ltd  |  Alpha House  |  Coventry Road  |  Fillongley  |  CV7 8ET      tel: 01676 248 498

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