Are you a bit of an exhibitionist with a passion for design? Well, you’re in the right place. Exhibition designers create designs for displays, stalls, booths and other similar structures, which are used at exhibitions, museums, product launches, promotional events, trade shows and art galleries.
Exhibition designers are primarily employed by event management companies, display stand manufacturers and design consultancy firms.
These guys need to take various things into consideration when designing exhibitions, such as the amount of available space and the layout of the exhibition. It’s all about ensuring easy access, aesthetic appeal and practicality.
More importantly, exhibition designers need to liaise with their clients to understand their wants and needs with regards to budget, target audience and consumer choice, so that they can design something with the sufficient ‘wow factor’!
If you enter this profession, you’ll be interacting with your clients, collaborating with other personnel involved in the organisation and preparation of events, coordinating different suppliers and liaising with vendors of equipment. You’ll also need to take security, and health and safety concerns into account.
Understandably, though, your primary responsibility will be to create themes and concepts based on specific project requirements and develop sample designs (2D and 3D), scale models and specification drawings for approval.
Once the design of the exhibition has been finalised, you’ll be involved in managing the execution of the project alongside other team members.
Salary & benefits
Exhibition design is not a standalone profession and designers may also carry out other design functions, depending on the industry, company and location in which they work. Average starting salaries range between £17,000 and £25,000, while salaries for experienced designers and design managers are upwards of £30,000.
If you eventually become a creative director, you could be earning up to £95,000 and beyond. Working on a freelance basis is also common. In this line of exhibition design work, your earnings will be entirely dependent on your self-motivation, reputation, location and amount of experience.
Exhibition designers work regular office hours on a day-to-day basis, but may be required to put in an extra shift when event deadlines are looming.
Some travel may also be required from time to time, as exhibition designers may sometimes need to monitor and manage the construction and setup of events, as well as the dismantling of structures once the event is complete.
Freelance designers are masters of their own time and work schedules but, understandably, they need to take their clients’ deadlines and schedules into account.
A degree is not necessarily needed for entry into this profession. However, a relevant degree in a subject such as graphic design, architecture, spatial design or theatre design may well give your chances a welcome boost! Some universities do actually offer graduate and postgraduate courses in exhibition design.
To get your foot in the door, it’s advisable to get some work experience and develop a personal portfolio of your relevant design work. You’ll also need a sound knowledge and awareness of design trends and technical developments. Niche design skills, such as experience of using computer aided design (CAD) software, will also enhance your CV.
Training & progression
Training in the exhibition design world is all about gaining hands-on experience whilst on the job. To begin with, you may work under the supervision and guidance of an experienced professional.
Larger events management companies, however, may offer a more structured approach to training and put you through a series of rotations, which will allow you to spend a certain amount of time focusing on different areas of the exhibition design and events management process.
Obtaining membership with professional bodies, such as the Chartered Society of Designers (CSD), may give you the chance to build up your reputation and your network of contacts. The British Display Society (BDS) also offers a range of specialist courses that can help you to expand your skill-set.
As you progress within an exhibition management company, you may take a step back from hands-on design work and focus more on project management duties.
Alternatively, many exhibition designers choose to go it alone and work as freelancers or set up their own design consultancy.