Making A Free 3D Booth Design Worth Your Time | 3 Important Considerations

by Jun 1, 2017

Last Updated On: August 23, 2023

Nowadays, many individuals can access free design software and AI tools to craft their own 3D trade show booth ideas. As a result, some individuals might perceive themselves as running a “custom trade show agency,” stealing business from experts and producing poor-quality work. However, trade show booth design is a vital part of the industry. It takes a professional to make impressive booths and strategically design them in a way that directly impacts your company’s visibility, brand perception, audience engagement, and overall success. 

One way to distinguish the impostors from the experts is by examining their design skills. If a free 3D booth design is put together in an hour or less and resembles a junior designer’s amateur concepts, then it is far from true 3D.

Authentic 3D designs are a carefully calculated art and should be designed around a large number of factors. If you are getting a 3D booth design, you should know what you’re expected to receive and the different types of renderings available to you. Learn more by reading below.

3 Stages Of A Complete 3D Booth Design

The first thing you’ll do when you decide you want a custom trade show booth is schedule a consultation with the design company. From there, you’ll have an exploratory meeting to discuss your goals, visions, and expectations. When you’re ready to give the go-ahead to the trade show company to start designing, these are a few elements that you should expect to see:

1. Framing Layouts

Framing and extrusion are usually the bulk of exhibit pricing. Therefore a complete “skeleton” is often rendered prior to “skinning” the exhibit. It’s done like this for many reasons, including:

  • Accuracy in pricing and proper budgeting.  
  • Alignment of packing orders between warehouse/ designers.
  • Instructional diagrams to reduce build times for high-rate trade show labor.

If you’re curious about where your money is going, ask for a framing layout or, at the very least, the number of panels and price per panel needed for your build. You’d be surprised how much costs are inflated here.

Framing & Layouts For 3D Booth Design

2. 3D Renders

When professional 3D exhibit designs are executed, they are typically done in a program that can manipulate the viewpoint in any dimension. They can also spin, zoom, and go upside down. Want to see the inside wall picture frame of the northwest corner? No problem. Some of the better exhibit designers can even do a real-time live trade show booth design over a simple screen share! 

At the very least, 3D booth designs should allow you to zoom in and out of the rendering whether they’re free or not. Zooming in puts you in the booth as if you were an attendee, and zooming out will let you see your booth in its anticipated location on the show floor. Interior shots should include storage closets, meeting rooms, counters, monitors, display cases, etc. Exterior shots should include an aerial booth view and visibility from all corners of the trade show floor. These shots will help you see how traffic will flow through the space. You can then use this information to strategize how to bring attendees into the booth’s space and determine if a hanging structure will increase visibility.

Your design company should include as many viewpoints as possible in your final 3D booth designs. Depending on intricacies and size, it’s not uncommon to see 6-10 renders on an RFP or proposal. From dead-on front views to top downs, the design company should provide every angle desired so you can make a final decision.

3. Graphic Templates

After final approval of the exhibit design and a signed contract, the process of organizing graphics begins. The trade show company should ALWAYS provide graphic templates. These templates indicate what graphics will go on which panel, the exact size and file requirements, and whether it is an SEG fabric display or a hard panel. They should also indicate whether or not it’s a backlit panel, as they have different requirements. Once graphic templates are completed, you can receive another 3D render. But at this point, it’s not so much a necessity and more of a reassurance that everything is as it should be.  

While these three stages are still vital to the trade show design process, much more goes into creating a 3D design today. It’s a holistic process that combines creativity, strategic planning, technical expertise, and a deep understanding of the brand and its audience.


3 Very Different Types of Trade Show Booth Designs

Booth designs come in a multitude of styles, including everything from graph paper sketches all the way to VR walkthroughs. Below are some of the more common design styles and where they are most appropriate. 

1. 2-Dimensional (2D) Renders.

These are the “napkin sketches” of exhibit design. Used for simple pop-up displays and preliminary layout purposes, 2D renders take much less time to put together than the other styles available. They only give two perspectives at a time, i.e., length x width, height x width, etc., so they are more suited to determine space allotments than to see the whole vision.


2D Renders For Designing Trade Show Booths


2. 3-Dimensional (3D) Renders

3D renders undoubtedly provide much more detail, with the third perspective giving a glimpse into the “feel” within its space. You should be able to see any angle of the booth — top, front, back, side, etc. —and any interior shot you may need. If there’s a TV built into the back left wall and you want to see it in the 3D rendering, this should be no problem for the exhibit designer.


3. Full Virtual Reality Renders and Augmented Reality Renders.

With a phone or tablet and an easy-to-use app (Augment), full virtual reality or augmented reality renders can take you on a complete booth tour as if it were sitting on top of your desk! You can literally place your booth on a coffee table and walk around it. If you think seeing is believing, then this method is as close to the real thing as you’ll get. See a demo below.



Augmented Reality Trade Show Booth Demos

  1. Download the Augment app
  2. Click on the “View Live” button below
  3. Scan the QR code on the page using the Augment app
  4. Enjoy the experience!

When To Jump To 3D Booth Designs

3D Booth Design SketchBasing how your exhibit will perform on a 2D design could become quite difficult, so true 3D is better for visualization. Does a wall hide a greeting counter? Is a monitor clearly visible above a display case? In 3D renders, you’ll be able to see these issues and resolve them before the booth is installed.

Most exhibitors trying to work off a 2D design will find themselves over designing to the point of 3D anyway. Conceptualizing how an exhibit will look based on a 2D design in unison with a graphic template takes a very creative imagination and, in our opinion, becomes frustrating and counterproductive. Almost impossible. 

2D has its place and works very well for preliminary layouts since designers can put them together quickly. However, 3D should be used for the last 2-3 trade show booth ideas as they (should) take substantially more time. While some companies will require a deposit or contract before starting a design, others simply enjoy designing and are motivated to flex their creative muscle ;-).

Is AI Affecting 3D Design?

Human creativity and expertise remain central to trade show booth design, so AI technology has a very small place in booth design. Anyone can draw a pretty picture, including AI apps, but does the picture give you more bang for your buck? 

At Marketing Genome, our team researches what our clients do, determines what type of options will work best for them, and discusses options to render what they want to achieve with the show they are attending. Their design will incorporate all that info to showcase the client’s needs and wants. 

Red Flags to Look for When Finding A Vendor

When searching for a vendor to handle your 3D booth design, you should be aware of potential red flags indicating these people may not be as professional and experienced as they claim. Here are some warning signs to watch out for:

  • Lack of portfolio or previous work: If a vendor cannot provide a portfolio of prior work, it’s an immediate red flag. A reputable vendor has a track record of reputable projects on hand to showcase. 
  • Poor reviews: Research a vendor’s reputation by checking reviews left by previous clients online. Consistent negative feedback can indicate potential problems with this vendor.
  • Limited design options: Vendors that seem to offer single design templates and have low flexibility in accommodating your specific needs are ones you should stay away from. Skilled designers will adapt to their client’s needs and wants.
  • Limited communication: If a vendor is slow to respond to emails, calls, or inquiries, it could indicate that communication will be poor down the line. Effective communication is crucial throughout the entire design process.

Meeting with potential vendors, discussing your requirements, and asking detailed questions can help you assess their capabilities. Reputable vendors showcase themselves as leaders in the field and have loyal repeat customers that are satisfied with their trade show booth results. Remember to trust your instincts and conduct thorough research before committing to a vendor for your 3D booth design. 

Trust the Professionals with Your 3D Booth Renderings and Final Designs

If you’d like to take a stab at designing your own 3D booth design, start by playing around with a few beginner convention booth design programs. Doing this can be a valuable educational experience, but if you’re ready to get serious, find yourself a good and reputable 3D booth designer. A professional trade show booth design company could mean the difference between attendees passing by your exhibit and having to get security to maintain crowds.

Do you need help creating a trade show booth? One of our expert marketing consultants can provide a complimentary brainstorming and evaluation session to find out how we can help you. Let’s Talk!

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