Exhibition or display designers produce designs for exhibition and display stands used at showcase events, trade shows, conferences, galleries and museums. They base their designs on their interpretation of their client's ideas and requirements and also provide their own ideas in relation to product concept and likely customer appeal. These activities may sometimes be part of the remit of a graphic designer.
Designers must create a stand that works on several fronts. It must:
- have aesthetic appeal;
- be practical;
- communicate the client's message, concept and image to visitors;
- meet the limitations imposed by space and budget.
Designers also have responsibility for overseeing the implementation and building of the exhibition or display stand.
Typical work activities
The work varies between roles and employers, and larger firms may specialise and have account managers handling initial negotiations with the client, but tasks typically include:
- liaising with clients to discuss the brief (themes, ideas or products to be promoted);
- discussing the brief and design concepts with the design team, finalising proposals and presenting these to clients;
- developing a genuine understanding of the organisation's brand, products, needs and objectives, as well as the motivations behind customers' buying decisions;
- working on quotes - once the design brief and concept are established, the costs need to be calculated to make sure the project is financially viable;
- gathering product information from the client;
- creating initial design sketches and computer-generated three-dimensional visuals, sometimes building models and prototypes;
- doing a variety of design work (graphic design and artwork) for different displays and exhibitions;
- taking financial responsibility for a project in terms of meeting budget constraints;
- deciding whether a proposed budget is realistic against the client's brief and negotiating this as necessary;
- attending meetings to discuss the status of current projects and to be briefed on new projects;
- responding to emails and telephone calls from clients, and answering technical questions;
- liaising with the workshop manager to ensure the project is within budget, on schedule and meeting the client's requirements and that it complies with health and safety regulations;
- handling production orders for materials and site services, e.g. electronics;
- meeting with and briefing suppliers;
- transporting displays to exhibition sites and installing and dismantling exhibition displays.
You are likely to have several different one-off projects in progress at any one time.
The role may also include project management, which is likely to involve responsibility for aspects such as furniture, stock-panel, lighting and rig rental or hire, pre-event marketing, packaging, delivery and storage.
Museum exhibition designers design and prepare plans for museum exhibitions in consultation with commissioning departments. The work involves many similar activities to those outlined above, but some activities which are specific to museum design may include:
- ensuring all exhibitions and displays have a definite link to the museum's other collections and overall theme;
- making sure that the exhibition is compatible with the museum's own materials and conservation requirements;
- travelling to other galleries and museums to find exhibitions to buy in;
- ensuring exhibitions, whether bought in or curated in-house, are of the right size and quality;
- liaising with curatorial staff to produce outline plans to specification and supporting material, such as catalogues;
- working with members from other areas of the museum, such as marketing, education, conservation, front of house and, most crucially, the curator;
- liaising with graphics and other designers, audiovisual and animatronics experts, graphic video producers and multimedia specialists, even actors, to create a sensory experience for the visitor.