Condit Exhibits Design Team
04.11.2018 / Kevin Trainor

How to Build an Exhibit Design Budget


Whenever we start a project, our exhibit designer’s first question is always “what is the budget?” Our goal is always to see if we can get you everything on your wishlist for the amount you intend to spend. Sure it can be a challenge sometimes; if you tell us you want three conference rooms, eight product display areas and a hospitality bar, and you want to pull it off for $5K, we’re going to suggest a reality check. But overall, designers actually enjoy designing to a budget. Like everyone else in a good exhibit house, we understand that our client’s success is our success, so designing a fantastic exhibit that they can afford is our goal.

To that end, we feel like a little education can go long way. What’s expensive? How do you keep costs down? How do you make choices that will generate maximum impact at a reasonable price point? We’ve put together a primer that, from the perspective of exhibit design, should help. Here are some things to consider:

Curves vs. Angles

Curved and angled shapes are generally more expensive then rectilinear ones. Think about it: it’s easier to wrap that box of candy than it is to wrap a cowboy hat. That doesn’t mean you should eat candy all day long and never wear your hat. Just something to keep in mind. Certain brands depend on angles and curves to come to life. Nobody is telling Nike to straighten our their swoosh. And this cool silo tower for Yeti would have lost much of its impact if it was squared off.


Curved vs angled booth elements

Curved vs angled booth elements


Finishes make a difference

It’s all about options. Just like in a car, if you want the leather seats it’s going to cost a bit more. Same for exhibits. Glossy laminate is pricier than matte. Real wood or metal are pricier than Formica and paint. That’s not so say you shouldn’t use them, just pick your spots for maximum effect. If you want to use that super cool 3Form, Plyboo or Panelite material, use it where people can see and touch it, not inside your storage closet. And keep in mind that things are changing all the time… fabric graphics have recently become a more economical choice than the traditional print on Sintra or Gator board.


Choosing trade show booth materials

Choosing trade show booth materials


Rental or purchase?

Trade show exhibit rental costs are typically half of the cost to purchase a new custom exhibit. If you’re rolling out a new brand, or only go to one show a year, or are challenged on budget, renting may be a good choice. Most booth rental properties can be dressed in your brand colors or favorite materials, and we have a lot of options to choose from. But they’re not going to get you those cool, unique workstations in the shape of your logo, or that demonstration counter tailored to perfectly fit all of your products. You might consider a “hybrid” exhibit, where you purchase the custom items that have to be exactly right, while renting some of the more standard stuff, like meeting rooms or hanging signs. 


Rental trade show booth

Rental trade show booth example


Integrating Technology

The right technology in your trade show exhibit can be a real attention getter, a great way to demonstrate your products and services, and can drive your social media presence. It can also be breathtakingly pricey. So think carefully before you spring for that video wall, touch table, or 3D mapping. Do you have content, or the budget to develop it? Do you have a clear message you are trying to get across? Is the experience you are creating the right touch point for your brand? If technology seems like the right choice, our designers have lots of ideas on how to incorporate it into a great exhibit; just keep in mind that it’s always better to integrate technology elements into the design early rather than slapping it on later.


Trade show booth technology

Trade show booth technology


Budget do’s and don’t’s

We hope this has been helpful. The Condit exhibit design team looks forward to working with you and creating something wonderful together…within your budget, of course!

To that end, a couple final tips:

DO give us a budget to work to

DON’T just pull it out of nowhere…if you need help developing it, ask us!

DO be clear about what the budget includes and excludes (if graphics are a separate budget, for instance, or if you need show services like installation to come out of the budget you give us, we’ll need to know)

DO challenge us to come up with cost-conscious solutions. We’ve been doing this for some time, and have some pretty great tricks up our collective sleeves!

…And finally, by all means,

DON’T tell us you don’t want to stifle our creativity by giving us a number to design to. You have a number in mind…everybody does! Don’t be shy…just let us know! If you don’t, chances are you’re going to end up with a design for a gold plated 10×10 exhibit that costs 100K!


Have a budget or need help building an exhibit budget?

Reach out to our team of exhibit designers to get started with your project or take a look at our portfolio of work to see how we can maximize your trade show spend.

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