Summer 2015, I went to the San Francisco ACC show with the express purpose of studying the booths and figuring out (if possible) what elements contribute to a successful booth. I was curious if there was a way to diagnose what was a successful display and what was not effective in a craft show booth. Could a few simple principles be gleaned and generally applied? Alternatively, are there display issues to avoid?
Granted, the difficulty of transporting and setting up a booth in a strange city can be a challenge, but most everyone is under the same time constraints for set up, needing effective low-cost booth designs, and the challenge of creating a booth display that is an appropriate aesthetic for their craft work.
After spending several hours looking around and talking to many of the artists, I gathered lots of topics to discuss that are practically exploding out of my head. There are numerous ideas that can be implemented successfully and recognizable "display enemies" to avoid.
Several makers at the ACC show allowed me to take photos of their booths to share their great booth ideas. And one super brave individual was willing to let me take photos of his booth display problems. He knew his booth was a “work in progress.” Clearly, his booth display did not reflect the quality of his work.
Over and over I saw problems in the display of craft work that could have been rectified on the spot, rearranged, or edited to better effect. Just imagine if a "Tim Gunn" display professional gave a styling critique before the show opened improving display, retail sales and the quality of the show overall. A few booth edits would have improved many displays to "Make it Work" much better.
It is a terrible shame to see quality work in a booth display that clearly does not present the work favorably -- sometimes I even saw superb work with a really poor display. That is the greatest shock!
It breaks my heart to see the negative impact of a bad display diminish a maker’s chance for success, yet that is the impact of poorly designed retail display. A poor display is an excuse for potential customers to walk right past the booth.
In contrast, a great display is a magnet attracting the customer into the booth. Engaging the viewer to look -- or even to buy your work.
This series of posts will discuss other issues regarding booth displays. To keep it lively, Alison Antelman and I agreed to go to the ACC show separately and prepare our separate observations to debate and discuss what seemed to work well.
Stay tuned to this 2015 series on craft show displays starting with specific display enemies.
This post was updated on December 10th, 2021.