Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Mock-up; From an idea to a booth

Happy 2015!
I decided not to wait another 2 years before my next blog posting, :-)
I have been asked over and over again - Nadine, how do you come up with fresh booth ideas for smaller companies who don't want to spend a gazillion bucks and who want an awesome booth but with a relatively quick set up and tear down.
Here it is, my (now) not so secret process.
I start with A LOT of thought, much is pretty straight forward, but each case is always a little different. I think about the product that is being sold, how it will be sold at retail, who I want to sell it to, and, what type of a setting suits the product. I go through the obvious list of what the exhibiting company has or has not already done in terms of a booth pre- Nadine.
Do they have a catalog? great photography? full on branding? or maybe things are a little scattered look-wise, maybe we want to make the look more cohesive and pardon the expression "on brand" (ugh). So many questions, but SO important to know before you start to mock things up.
...How big is the booth? (usually my client's booths are between a 10x10 and 10x15), how many products do we need to show? do we want to do a lot of repeat? ie: 12 of each item? if there are only a few items in the line, or, is the line vast and the booth space limited?

Now, what about style? Visual inspiration.
The line could be gorgeous dainty jewelry, but how am I going to get buyers out of the aisle and into this booth to take the time to look at the gorgeous dainty jewelry, when there's a daiquiri machine a few booths down and a clown and puppies? (not quite, but almost)

Does my client's line have great style already? or does it need to find its look? Is there something in the line that can inspire the entire look of the booth, maybe a great photo in their catalog that can get the ball rolling?... How extravagant can I get with this booth? What's the budget? Can we ship in 10ft antique armoires?, yeah, didn't think so.

I happen to think in images, I can build a booth in my head first, literally swapping out fixtures, paint colors and signage with my eyes closed, lying in bed. Odd? probably, but it's how I roll.  Funny thing is, when I was doing my own booths, I rarely did any kinds of visual mock-ups, I imagined my booths and simply made lists. (When I look back on it, I probably would have saved some time by mocking it up after imagining it, but too late now). Most of my clients are not into the whole imagining thing, understandably, they want to see it, or something very close to it, before they show up in the booth, so I create mock-ups, and that is what we are going to talk about today.

I am going to take the initial launch of the lovely Eleven Point - Fragrance Merchants line, this past summer. Before we did anything in terms of a trade show for his newest brand, David (the owner) wanted to see something that he could really sink his teeth into, all the pretty words and descriptions weren't going to cut it, he wanted visuals. Here is what the very first mock-up looked like.

A little background, the line is inspired by nature, the fragrances, memories and experiences David and his family had growing up on the Eleven Point River. The initial launch would show 6 different fragrances in 6 different product categories (white glass vessel candle, black glass vessel candle, reed diffuser, room mist, travel tin candle and fragrant sachet). The line was designed to coordinate in rustic or modern settings, for women or for men. To have a lived-in comfortable, relaxed look with sophistication and elegance, focusing on the amazing fragrances of the line; River Fern, Bonfire, Cotton Creek, Honeysuckle Rain, Coconut Moon (my favorite) and Blackberry.

Charcoal painted walls with the box pattern as wallpaper down each wall, gold wall sconces, signage like the brand's packaging, two perfectly weathered leather club chairs, one large wooden wall shelf, large nested table set and weathered wooden floors. I knew this was simply a jumping off point to get things moving along, it might not all be feasible, but we needed a start. Also, when starting with a mock-up like this, you can really walk through a few orders in your head and really think about what you need in your booth in terms of supplies and what you need to show in terms of product. And yes, it's a wholesale show and buyers know how to buy, but buyers are also regular people who shop too, so I like to think about what I like, what attracts me to a store, how I like to shop.

It just so happened that before doing the Eleven Point booth, reps and showrooms were hired, so we quickly switched things up for the limited space of a showroom. Here are the mock-ups.

Dallas showroom, approximately 8 feet of wall and approx 6 feet of floor. 
Here's the Mock -up
in progress
end result (very bad photo/color)
Las Vegas showroom, 8 feet of wall with about 10 feet of floor.
Wait, what now? I can have ceiling electricity?... we can do this.

They might have a table we can use? it's rectangular? okey dokey.

result (excuse the photo quality, it's all they sent me!)
 Atlanta - variation on the same theme, again with a round table

You are getting the idea now, right?
For technical info, I use Adobe Illustrator to create these mock-ups, truth be told, I wish I could use Illustrator for everything, it's amazing. But if you are not into the big guns software, you can certainly use other things, or even draw it out, or make your life a little simpler and call us.
(please note that we were NOT present for any of these showroom set-ups, they were done by the showrooms themselves based on our mock-ups, and, they did a great job! This go around of shows, I am getting really detailed about exactly where we want product displayed and on how many samples are sent to each show, you will see that soon, Atlanta is being set up right this second as I type this post :-)

Here are few sources for items that were used in the showrooms - round table in Las Vegas Showroom, battery powered wall sconces were purchased on ebay for all showrooms, custom self-adhesive wallpaper.

Next up, how we tried a few looks before settling on this NY Booth last summer.


  1. Great work! Fun to see the mock ups with the completed work!!

  2. The completed project is just great. Thanks for the details and photographs. At some domestic corporate events venues I am also going to organize a business meeting. I think this type of booth would be a great idea for my event. Isn’t it?

  3. Looks awesome! One question: my booth is 10 feet tall, and all the MDF panel I found in the store is 8f. Any suggestion how to make it taller? Thanks!

    1. Hi Monica! wow, with all the booths I've done I have never had 10 ft tall walls :-/ ...
      I would probably just add 2 ft at the bottom. Use some metal brackets that you can screw to both pieces and you should be fine. Or, add some small maybe 12" strips of wood behind where your 2 pieces of MDF will meet and just add some screws to both the 8 ft part and the 2 ft part, I would use 2-3 strips of wood per panel, this will hold them tight. Just to be clear, if your MDF seam for your 8 ft piece and your 2 ft piece (both being 4 ft wide) is horizontal, I would then place some wood strips behind the MDF vertically. Screw into the MDF from the front and right into the vertical piece of wood. The wood strips should be long enough to add support to both pieces of MDF. Does this make sense?... good luck, and thanks for stopping by my blog!

    2. Thanks so much for the reply! I shopped around some stores today, I decided on 8 ft tall wall instead of 10 ft :) The MDF I really liked is 3/4inch thick, and 4 ft by 8ft per panel. So I will need to buy 4 panels to put together and make a 8 ft by 16 ft wall. My concerns are: those thick MDF are heavy, how I could make them stand up? (I think it will be way too heavy to hook on to the top of drape pipe. Another thing is how to make each panel connected each other nicely? Only way I can think of is make a frame on the back of each panel, then screw them together? I was looking for something easy and simple, but sound like it just getting more complicated...:-\

    3. yes... that's the thing w MDF, it's HEAVY! I don't know which show you are doing, but it would be worth looking at whether or not they offer hard wall options. Sometimes once you factor in the size of the booth and the prep and set up, it's not always worth doing it yourself. The booths I show are mostly 10'x10', which is quicker and easier to DIY. Having said that, if you have a few sets of hands and a few power tools, your plan is certainly doable. If you are not going to be hanging shelving or anything very heavy on the walls, you can also go with a lighter MDF. Your frame idea is great and will give you stability. Another way to keep them connected is the same suggestion I had made to add your 2 extra feet, use some 3" strips of wood behind your MDF panels and screw them in horizontally from one panel to the next at the connecting seams. Some companies make their own walls on frames and they can basically stand alone, in front of the pipe and drape then they just add some extra strapping for stability. If some light construction and heavy lifting is something you can do and have people to help, then it's not crazy complicated, but if you want quick and simple, this becomes an undertaking. Hope this helps, let me know what you decide on, would love to see the booth :-)

  4. Hi Nadine, Thank you so much for the suggestions! I really appreciated! My husband and father in law will try to make the wall Saturday, we will see how that works. :) Yes, it will be heavy, but look nicer. It's a Bridal Forum, I will have two primer booths, so it will be a little larger than normal size. Can't wait to see the final look. Thanks again!