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DIY Exhibits
Especially for a small-booth exhibitor, concocting your own exhibit can not only trim design and construction costs, but also help you stand out amid row upon row of traditional, and some might say staid, booth designs and materials. To prove the point and perhaps inspire you to try your hand at DIY exhibitry, EXHIBITOR assembled 11 inventive examples, constructed of everything from reclaimed barn wood to a cargo container. Innovative and relatively inexpensive, these DIY gems made attendees pause and ponder – and enticed EXHIBITOR staff to point and shoot. By Linda Armstrong
Lining the back wall of the booth was a strip of moss into which Arboreal Creative's stationery samples were tucked for display.
Paper Pusher
Most people consider paper to be little more than a communication device, wall covering, or even crafting medium. But for Arboreal Creative, paper was a perfectly valid exhibit material, as the provider of textiles, paper goods, and branding design patched together a pulp-based booth for the National Stationery Show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York. Simple, heavy, white paper stock adorned three of the in-line exhibit's interior walls, where four chain-link structures suspended product samples that had been rolled into decorative valance-like tubes. Meanwhile, the back wall featured a similarly suspended distressed-wood sign bearing the company's logo along with a strip of real moss into which the firm's stationery samples were tucked to create an on-brand and eye-catching product display. Aside from a draped card table that was stacked with business cards, fresh-cut flowers, and a few additional product samples, the simple design featured nary an accoutrement. What's more, Arboreal's paper-centric space only cost an estimated $200 – i.e., a meager two paper bills.
Reclaimed barn wood served as a brand-appropriate backdrop for Gannet Dive Co. USA's spear-fishing and diving products.
Original Fin
Going into the 2014 Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA) show at the Las Vegas Convention Center, California-based Gannet Dive Co. USA wanted an eye-catching exhibit that also spoke to the company's core values. The firm, which provides spear-fishing and diving equipment, was built around the co-founders' passion for the ocean and the eco-minded belief that people should take only what they need from it. Thus, Gannet Dive chief executive officer and architectural designer Garo Hachigian, along with the firm's chief operating officer, Kirby Morejohn, worked up this rustic exhibit using the same "take what you need" philosophy. Comprising little more than wood reclaimed from a barn that had literally fallen to pieces on the co-founders' property (and costing less than $500), the structure served as the perfect backdrop to display Gannet Dive's products, including everything from free-diving floats to handmade spear guns. Adorned with more than a dozen dried fish tails, the 10-by-10-foot exhibit even featured a clever and eye-catching "warning" to passersby: "Caution: This booth is made from reclaimed materials. It may splinter. It still has old nails embedded in it. It is cool like that. Be careful."
Strips of foam board and duct tape served as fasteners in Sound of Fun's minimalist exhibit.
Child's Play
For Michael Sellinger and his wife, exhibiting at Interbike is a family affair. Their firm, Sound of Fun, is a U.S. distributor of Kiddimoto and Roomii-brand kids' toys. And while it does well in its niche market, its marketing budget is child-sized. Nevertheless, the duo crafted a couldn't-miss display that comprised little more than white, foam-board walls, painted wooden display bases, and a few products and graphics. Held together with white duct tape and attached with hook-and-loop fastener to the space's pipe-and-drape enclosure, the foam-board walls were sourced in the host city and carried onto the show floor, thereby eliminating shipping and drayage costs. The Sellingers estimate that they spent $1,700 on all materials, ultimately creating a giant bang on a toddler-sized budget.
Housing multiple retractable walls, Tudelu's shipping-container exhibit required no labor for install or dismantle.
Ship Shape
Labor charges can take a bite out of an exhibiting budget. That's why the folks at Tudelu, a provider of custom retractable walls, devised an ingenious exhibit that completely eliminated at-show labor for Boutique Design New York. After discovering that labor costs alone could easily devour his entire budget, the company's founder created a labor-free structure that could display his retractable walls without sacrificing style. Comprising a customized shipping container from Sea Box Inc., the $5,000 exhibit featured cutouts into which Tudelu's retractable walls and mechanical components were fitted. Meanwhile, light fixtures illuminated the interior, and plywood flooring, stools, and a crate full of product information completed the scene. Once the structure reached the firm's exhibit space, staff merely plugged it into an electrical outlet.
Ninety percent of the booth's materials were sourced directly from Clemens Construction Co. Inc. building sites.
Builders Surplus
At the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, Clemens Construction Co. Inc. gave new meaning to the phrase "make the most of what you have." That's because 90 percent of the firm's exhibit comprised reused components and leftover materials from its construction sites. While the walls, reception desk, and bench were built from old shipping pallets, blue Cover Guard protectant was used for the flooring. Plus, the monitor was borrowed from the company's conference room. Aside from tchotchkes, the only items Clemens Construction purchased were the graphic presentation boards, which cost a mere $200. In addition, since all major components were hinged and latched together, they could be easily assembled on site without a labor crew. While inexpensive, the DIY exhibit sent a powerful message regarding the firm's ability to think outside the box.
Simple reclaimed wood constructions became effective on-brand display pedestals in DZR's 10-by-10-foot booth.
Urban Outfitter
DZR purports to provide biking footwear that helps wearers seamlessly transition between the workplace, after-hours bars, and weekend trails. Thus, for its exhibit at Interbike, it needed to communicate the brand's rugged outdoor characteristics as well as its urban vibe. Logically, then, DZR's handcrafted exhibit married industrial elements – corrugated metal and sleek-metal stools – with reclaimed wood, which was used to craft ingenious displays of well-lit shoes on top and boxes of additional samples stacked underneath. Considering that a 2-by-12-foot piece of sheet metal only costs about $15 and a pair of stools is available for $75, this inventive design topped out at roughly $300, including the exhibit's reclaimed wood, back-wall graphic, and metal structural elements.
Simple and sophisticated, Eric Brand Furniture's tables and chairs took center stage in this elegant display.
Quiet Elegance
Luxury-furniture designer Eric Brand knows a thing or two about creating an elegant space. Still, it's difficult to create quiet sophistication within a tiny booth. However, Eric Brand Furniture did just that at Boutique Design New York. Here, the design team suspended muted-orange curtains from the piping surrounding the space to create a contemporary backdrop suggestive of a high-end hotel. A front-and-center Eric Brand "price tag" and two black side panels featuring photographs of the firm's work also hung from the pipes. Meanwhile, designers chose stylish yet somewhat subdued furnishings to anchor the space and provide a cozy environment for attendees to peruse product catalogs. The only purchased elements were the orange curtains and suspended price tag and panels, which cost an estimated $400. Who knew quiet elegance could be inexpensive to boot?
Toast Inc.'s tongue-in-cheek focal point was a hand-carved wooden beaver named Justin Beaver that staffers encouraged attendees to take selfies with.
Totally Toasted
According to its website, Toast Inc. was "founded on the simple idea of bringing clever solutions and natural materials to your high-tech gadgets." But the firm, which specializes in wooden device covers, also brought more than a few clever ideas to its booth at the International Consumer Electronics Show. Handcrafted by Toast's founder, the exhibit featured wood components and the same authentic yet sharp-witted vibe inherent in the brand. The majority of the structure was made of wood veneer attached to Sintra, which in turn was joined to an aluminum frame via hook-and-loop fastener. While the components cost the firm $2,500, they've stood the test of time, as Toast staffers have popped up this design at various shows for more than four years.
Handwritten text beneath Gottalottaheart's greeting cards explained each one's intended recipient or purpose.
House of Cards
While the Gottalottaheart handmade greeting-card company may be all about warm fuzzies – and creating "cards for the nicest kind of people," according to its website – the company's exhibit at the National Stationery Show was the epitome of cool and sophisticated. Comprising painted wood panels, which were hinged together and hung from the pipe and drape surrounding the space, the 10-by-10-foot exhibit displayed the firm's greeting cards at eye level for easy viewing. Attached to the walls were four rows of wooden display racks, each of which featured colorful handwritten text to identify the card's intended recipient or purpose (e.g., dad, baby, pet, and support, leaving home, thank you). Meanwhile, a minimalist desk anchored the space, and wall-attached lighting completed the scene, all for a mere $300.
Northern Lights Optics founder Orion Anthony placed his own custom-built motorcycle inside the rustic 10-by-10-foot exhibit.
Northern Exposure
You'd be hard pressed to find more than a handful of eyewear brands that focus on the outdoorsy, mountaineering and motorcycling markets. But that's the niche Orion Anthony carved out when he founded Northern Lights Optics. For his exhibit at Vision Expo West, then, Anthony needed an exhibit that was just as authentic and handcrafted as his brand. And in keeping with the firm's less-is-more mantra, the resulting exhibit featured merely reclaimed wood walls, a photo of northern lights, and an internally lit display case and monitor to put the eyewear front and center. Anthony's own custom-built motorcycle anchored the space and added a final touch of open-road authenticity. All told, exhibit-marketing experts estimate that this exhibit cost less than $1,500, excluding the custom bike.
Moxie Cycling Co. employed everything from recycled pallets to galvanized pipe to create this ballsy little booth.
A Bold Pallet
With a company name like Moxie Cycling Co., your exhibit must exude a strength of character and determination – and maybe even a little ballsy nerve to boot. This handmade pallet concoction for Moxie Cycling, a provider of women's cycling apparel, delivered in spades at Interbike 2015. Three years ago, the company's co-founders built a test version of the structure at their home in Minnesota. Once they saw it would fly – or more specifically, remain standing – they've been sourcing pallets in show cities and constructing a similar structure on site ever since. Comprising nothing more than wood pallets, clothing racks made of galvanized pipe, a few banner stands and graphics, and a handmade reception desk, this structure cost a mere $5,000. But the juxtaposition of rugged wood against the firm's flashy apparel is both priceless and plucky.

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