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Form and Function --
How does great design increase sales profits?

by Karen Booy
 as published in  CRAFTLINK Newsletter


David T. Hawco makes his living with his eye for design. The owner of Blue Ranger Design, David considers the most common mistake booth exhibitors make is the lack of PUNCH!

"I'm often amazed by the lack of "punch" when I walk through a trade show. It seems like many exhibitors want to be very safe so they often use the most neutral of colours or materials. A tradeshow booth is no different than a TV commercial - the advertiser only has a few seconds to get your attention and draw you in. I am all for splash, impact colours, large imagery/posters, strong identity and of course good lighting," explains David.

David's input is practical and yet it packs its own punch - isn't it time for you to evaluate and recreate your booth design for the upcoming show year? The following is David's advice for improving your impact and increasing your sales!

How do you avoid making booth display mistakes?
You have to make your booth stand out from all the others. So much so that it should be visible from a good distance away. The booth should be cohesive; meaning that all the elements should contribute to the one overall look. Too often I see good intentions but spaces that are broken up with so many ideas happening at once. These days pare down, do not layer on. Even if your product or service has a serene evocation and therefore the colours chosen may be softer, this is where interest in materials comes to play to create the interest.

How do you plan for booth design so that your booth can be used at both wholesale and retail shows?
With the distinct difference in the dynamics of the two H is very important to have flexibility in the design. I most often concentrate on tables or risers to achieve this. Smaller tables with just the right dimensions can be shifted or deleted very easily to make just the right arrangement for sales. Whether it's over-the-table retail sales between vendor and customer along the outside perimeter of the booth or an open booth plan with the tables used for display and samples along the inside walls for wholesale orders. It is also a good idea to work out how your hard wall surround can be broken down and how it will configure to the variety of booth sizes before you start to build it. In some cases the client has been able to use many of the elements of their trade show booth within their permanent retail space.

How much should a company spend on booth display and design?
It, of course, varies from one exhibitor to the next. And it is also a given that WHERE you spend your money can be more important. Concentrate on big areas that are going to give you the boldest communication. In most cases I know I'll spend a chunk on the lighting before anything else in the budget. You can start modestly, then move to a more realistic proportion to the enterprise's sales and advertising budgets. Trade shows are a bit experimental especially these days. I would council that it's wise to put your best foot forward but keep it small and simple.

For first-time show goers how should they start planning their booth?
Make yourselves as approachable as possible, pique the customers' curiosities about who you are and what your product is and does.

How do you maximize your booth space?
There are a number of tricks. One example I have yet to try is the projectors that shine your logo or an image on the floor. If this was aimed at the corridor floor in front of the booth...voila! Also think of creating small bays for people to enter into your booth and get out of the stream of pedestrian traffic. This can also have the beneficial result of creating more linear surface areas.

Where is the best place to invest your money in your booth display?
As mentioned, lighting. You can make just about anything look a whole lot better if you understand what's the best and most suitable lighting for that product. I sometimes wonder if we shouldn't be selling a lighting kit along with the product to the customer so at home it will look the same way it was merchandized.

What are the most important elements of good booth design?
Simply FORM and FUNCTION (form rings the bell, function makes it sell)

How do you decide on colours for your booth?
Investigating the product. The product tells you a lot about how it should be presented.

How do you work with your client; to create a booth they are happy with? 
I first try to let the clients know that a booth design is a very temporary and fluid concept. Then I hope to gain their confidence so that I can explain the whys and the what-fors and that it isn't always a question of what is wanted BUT what is needed. I say that because there is a strategy involved in merchandizing that isn't a regular component of many other interior design schemes; that is the bottom line!

How do your clients Find you?
In 15 years it has always been word-of-mouth.

What type of consulting do you do?
Corporate and retail branding.

How much does it cost to work with a designer?
It varies but usually sitting down with a designer for an initial meeting about the project is gratis. This helps so that you are able to see the scope involved. After that budgets can be sketched out. I try to be realistic and flexible at the same time. I always get a hoot out of finding an often-unorthodox material that does all the jobs we want but at a lot less cost to the client.

What year did you start your business?

How did you come up with your name?
I formed a tangent to an architectural company for a short time before moving to Europe. I had added the word Ranger after the name of the architectural firm to describe my role and I felt well suited by the name. When I came back to it Canada I liked the spirit and mystique around the name Blue Ranger. Simple, and most people remember it - perhaps it evokes Adventures in Design.

What sets your service apart from other companies?
My background includes the disciplines of Theatre Design as well as Visual Merchandizing. I have a highly sprung creative practice but also a pragmatic nature that insures a value added result. 

What do you like most about your business?
I often work with new companies or new products sometimes right at the point of naming them. Or I come in at some point further along. What is quite rewarding is that I have the opportunity to work on many aspects in the design strategies so I can see how integrating them will perform a synergistically good result. Now is the time to take David's advice and create a plan for your booth improvement. Don't wait until it is too late to implement your new booth designs. Also, never underestimate the value of an industry expert to give you fresh new ideas. It is often difficult to see the forest for the trees when you are saturated in your business. What would fresh eyes say about your product and booth design? Why not find out?

More information on Karen Booy or Craftlink Newsletter

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