Untapped resource: attend trade exhibitions to find new design clients

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(A note from Preston:) A little while ago Laura, who wrote this post, approached me with this idea. I thought it was an incredible untapped resource. One I had never realized a designer could profit from. This seems like a great place to find design clients. After reading, let me know if you agree by leaving a comment.

As a graphic designer, having a fantastic portfolio may be impressive but nothing will beat potential clients seeing your work in person. A great way of ensuring this happens is by designing display stands for clients who attend trade exhibitions. With so many companies in one room, prospective customers are all around.

How to find your next great clients at a trade show

An easy way to scout for business is to walk around an exhibition and pick out stands that you do not feel are making the most of their display.

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Once the exhibition is over you can approach these companies and say that you noticed them at the exhibition and feel their stand could be made much more appealing and suggest that you pitch a different design to them before the next trade fair.

The designing of a display stand can be very creative and will allow you to come up with interesting and stand out designs that will draw people in, this may even result in companies coming to you to design their stands if yours catches their eye and gains a lot of interest.

Design a standee that knocks their socks off!

Many exhibition stands can be large structures with integrated lighting, projections and videos, but it is important to remember who you are designing for at all times.

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While these technologies will of course get you noticed they inevitably cost money so when planning your design be sure to tailor it to a realistic budget for your client.

There is no point designing a stand for a small business when the ideas are clearly outside their financial means, but if you are lucky enough to land a pitch with a national, or even international company, you can let your imagination run wild and let your creativity create something spectacular.

The most important factor to remember is that a display stand is to promote your client first and you second.

Don’t get carried away with design ideas if they will not fit the company’s profile.

For example if you designed a stand for Coca Cola, you would not make the primary colour green, as their signature colour is the dramatic red that everyone recognizes. Your design must reflect the company and the self-promotion which you need will be gained from how well you transfer a business’s brand to the display.

How to cold-pitch to potential design clients

When pitching an idea to potential clients it is vital to have detailed plans and drawings to hand to show the company, but this is a given.

What will really impress is to have a model of what the finished stand will look like so that the clients can visualise it more clearly and point out what they like about it and what needs to be tweaked. This should also put you ahead anyone else who happens to be pitching for the same opportunity.

By creating a stand out design for one client, many more design briefs could come your way. A trade exhibition really is the perfect place to find new clients and show off your design skills.

Have you tried this? Are you going to?

(A note from Preston:) Have any of you guys tried something like this? It seems like an untapped resource that I didn’t even realize existed. If you’ve had success with this sort of thing, please share it with us by leaving a comment! If not, or if you still have questions about it, leave a comment on this post and Laura or I will respond as best we can.



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About Laura Clarke

she works on behalf of Nimlok, a custom modular exhibition manufacturer, and has a keen interest in graphic design.

Leave a Comment



  1. Yes, that is an untapped resource that might work or may be a waste of time..but it’s worth trying. I have used art-fairs to advertise my website. It cost me a bit of cash, but it was worth it. I ordered over 250+ Tshirts design with my website address and passed them out during event. It is a great way to market the site, because everyone loves getting free stuff. Yeah it will cost you money but if you pick up any clients from this marketing strategy, it can boost your business.

  2. There is potential there for sure, but I’m not a confident that there is enough potential for it to be valuable to go to trade shows and cold pitch your services. Especially any trade shows where you have to pay to get in.

    I do have some experience designing trade show booths for a company I was the in-house graphic designer for. A couple of things to think about… The expense of the booth itself (building/printing, plus your designing fee) is relatively expensive, even for the basic flat 10’ x 10’ flat wall with printed logo and tag line that many small businesses use. Therefore, most companies reuse their booth over-and-over again, sometimes for years. So, the odds you will run into a company at a trade show that is in the market to redo their booth I would guess would be small.

    Another thing to think about, usually booths at trade shows are worked by sales people, who are there to sell and don’t have time to be pitched to, nor do they usually have any power to make decisions like this anyway. Even worse, you might not even end up talking to an employee of the company. The company I worked for and designed their booths would usually only send one lead sales person to a show, and he/she would hire local temps to work the booth with them. This is very common, as most booth visitors don’t take the time to hear a pitch and are only going to grab the “goodies” and move on, it’s more cost effective to just hire temps to hand things out rather than pay travel expenses for multiple employees to go to the show. Some of them will get your card to the right person, but not all or even most of them.

    I don’t mean to be a total downer on the idea; I do love the out of the box thinking. Trade show booths are a market, somebody has to design them… but it’s a lot of time, effort, and (possibly) expense to pitch a market that may not be as large as it first appears. Just something to keep in mind.

  3. I don’t want to be a buzzkill either, but isn’t going into a pitch with sketches, designs, and models already done a form of spec work? As an industry, don’t we generally disapprove of that sort of thing?

  4. Hi Laura

    May be interested in working with you. Could I see some of the trade fair booth designs you’ve done?


  5. This is a great approach, no matter the industry of a trade fair, exhibitors need services and skills of creatives and despite possibly not expecting you to be exhibiting them, this can create reasoning to approach you.

  6. i work in british company stand design and construction, and we have created our own systems to make easy and futuristic stands. if you think of startup in exhibition industry, have a look at our product because it is first of all a business tool and it is absolutely new. please see our works at neosystem.co.uk and send me an email with your questions at [email protected]


  1. […] Untapped resource: attend trade exhibitions to find new design …By Laura ClarkeAs a graphic designer, having a fantastic portfolio may be impressive but nothing will beat potential clients seeing your work in person. A great way of ensuring this happens is by designing display stands for clients who attend trade exhibitions …Graphic Design Blender […]

  2. […] Untapped resource: attend trade exhibitions to find new design clients […]


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