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Trade Show Design: What Does Thinking ‘Outside The Box’ Really Mean?

The saying is so ubiquitous in the design and creative industries that it has become a cliche. But, what does ‘thinking outside the box’ really mean for designers? Don’t designers always think outside of the box? And what box are we talking about, anyway? To find out what getting outside of the metaphorical box really means for exhibit design, let’s examine the other side of the equation: what does it mean to be inside the box?

In thinking about how this old metaphor applies to exhibition design, we can think of ‘the box’ as the confines of conventional and well-worn thinking. It is following the rules, going by the book etc. So, does this mean that you can’t have excellent design that follows this type of thinking? Absolutely not. Design is about appealing to the aesthetic sense of humans. It is about creating something that is beautiful to our eyes (and to our other senses too). You can certainly do this without going beyond the accepted norms of exhibit design. In fact, most exhibition design would fall into this ‘inside the box’ category. It will often be appealing and familiar, which will mean that attendees will likely feel comfortable with it. However, what going beyond these conventions (‘thinking outside the box’) gives you is the ability to create exhibition design and undertake exhibit fabrication in a way that will challenge and intrigue the senses, rather than comforting them.

When it is explained this way, suddenly it doesn’t seem like you would want to ‘think outside the box’ all of the time. There may be many situations where the common exhibit design thinking is a perfect match for what you want to do. You are new to the trade show and you want your company to demonstrate its expertise and have your products and services speak for themselves; in this case you will want an exhibition design that isn’t overpowering or distracting. But, if instead, you are going to be announcing a major new product lineup at one of the bigger expos (CES, or one of the big auto shows for example) you may opt to go with the eye-catching, intriguing appeal of exhibition design that creates something more than a pop-up or a simple three-sided display.

Exhibit fabrication has come such a long way that it is now possible to realize nearly anything that we can envision and design–and for a reasonable cost. Custom exhibit displays that can give your designers the ability to run wild and create something truly unique and beautiful are now relatively affordable and accessible. And the results can be more intricate and interesting than ever before. So, if you are looking for exhibit fabrication and design that is truly ‘outside of the box’ it is now possible to have your design cake and eat it, without breaking the bank.

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