Booth Design, Exhibits, Marketing Glossary of Terms

I look back fondly on the early years of my career, before I started calling myself "The Boothologist". Back in those first internal company and client meetings, I struggled to get what was going on. The problem was I didn't know the industry and company jargon. So I've put together this ongoing "glossary of booth design terms". If you want to add anything to it, let me know!

-The Boothologist

CAD. CAD stands for Computer Aided Drafting. Any computer program such as Illustrator, Corel, Photoshop or AutoCad is technical a CAD program. A CAD program draws with a computer instead of by hand. AutoCad is like the "Kleenex" of this category. AutoCad is a specific software that people often use interchangeably when using the term CAD.

Client lead. This is the client's "main point of contact". We highly recommend this person be established enough in the company to be able to provide an exhibit house (Boothster) with a well written creative brief and subsequent communication that helps to drive the design process. The person needs to know the brand; or at least be able to pass on information to us about the brand.

CNC Routing or Technology. CNC technology is when a computer file (for us this is usually a 2D file made in Illustrator, Corel, or any number of Auto Cad programs) is opened up on a CNC cutting table and cut out. For example, we cut sign letters on our CNC machine. Sometimes we make graphic patterns in wood using our CNC machine. This is similar to a Laser cutter which uses similar technology, but instead of a router bit as a CNC machine uses, it uses a laser to burn the material. Also related to water jet cutting.

Drayage - that is the fee that convention centers in the USA charge to get your booth materials from the loading dock to your booth. In some cases it can be more expensive to get your booth from dock to booth than our facilities in Portland, Oregon to the show. I know this seems crazy, or even unfair, but that is just the reality of the trade show world. With some notable exceptions as follows. In our experience these fees don't even exist outside the USA. We can speak to Argentina, Korea and South Africa. Also - technically speaking in Utah you are not required to pay drayage. You can just load your stuff off the booth on dollies. The general contractors (GC) will tell you otherwise - and maybe argue with you vociferously - the fact is you are not bound to pay their fees in Utah.

Exhibit House. An exhibit house is a company that provides any number of booth design services from concepting through fabrication. It may also offer full booth turn key services including show services and logistics. Boothster is an example of a boutique sized Exhibit House. It is rare for an Exhibit House (also known as booth design company) to offer small portable displays like banner stands. This is one way Boothster is different - we can provide spectacular and huge booth designs and table top vertical banner stands.

FOB (Free On Board) is a term in international commercial law specifying at what point the seller transfers ownership of the goods to the buyer. Under the Incoterms 2010 standard published by the International Chamber of Commerce, FOB is only used in non-containerized sea freight, and also defines ownership transfer. The owner of the goods is responsible for damage or loss during transport, so the point of ownership transfer is important. In North America, FOB is written into a sales agreement to determine where the liability responsibility for the goods transfers from the seller to the buyer. FOB stands for "Free On Board" so there is no line item payment by the buyer for the cost of getting the goods onto the transport. There are two possibilities: "FOB origin", or "FOB destination". "FOB origin" means the transfer occurs as soon as the goods are safely on board the transport. "FOB destination" means the transfer occurs the moment the goods are removed from the transport at the destination. "FOB origin" (also sometimes phrased as "FOB shipping" or "FOB shipping point") indicates that the sale is considered complete at the seller's shipping dock, and thus the buyer of the goods is responsible for freight costs and liability during transport. With "FOB destination", the sale is complete at the buyer's doorstep and the seller is responsible for freight costs and liability during transport.

Flooring. Flooring is integral to the look and feel of any environment. For trade shows, traveling exhibits and "pop up" events it is very important to weigh the impact of a cool, functional flooring option alongside it's impact on your shipping and set up costs. The lowest cost is generally using what is provided (for some events, the rental space includes whatever floor happens to be there) or what you can rent. The drawback in this method is that you are limited in your choices. For custom (IE higher budget projects) Boothster generally recommends spending money on flooring on flooring options that are made for trade shows. For example, we use a faux wood product that rolls up easily, and has padding built in. This kind of flooring can be $5-10 per square foot to purchase, plus a hundred or more extra per show to ship, but provides an undeniable benefit to the look and feel of your space. Yet it is more cost effective than a real wood floor (heavy to ship, more time to set up). Textured, unique color or pattern carpets can also be very effective. Lastly, there are printable carpets available.

Frankensteining. You like chocolate and you like ketchup. That doesn't mean they go together. In design, you may like Dwell magazine, but your baby diapers company is all about kiddie cartoons. These two concepts likely won't go together. It's important to separate what you "like" vs what works best for your brand. It is great when you both like something AND it is appropriate for your brand. Now, that being said, sometimes John-Paull our Founder, or one of our other Boothologists will say "I like it". That means they like it in the context of the project goals and brand. (Truth be told we don't work with brands we don't like. We will help them improve their brand certainly but we don't work for products or organizations we don't believe in.)

General Contractor. (GC). The GC is the company that manages the show services for the entire event or trade show. Examples of show services may include: renting the booth space; electrical; sign rigging, audio visual; booth set up; booth dismantle; booth cleaning; flowers and plants; printing of signs; running water; drinking water; cooking appliances; carpet rental; furniture rental. Where it can get complicated is that the GC has sub contractors for many of these services, that have different names. Examples of large general contractors: Freeman and GES. Examples of smaller GCs: Hargrove and Fern. GCs and your relationship to them are absolutely key to your success at any trade show. There is an art to dealing with them. 99% of the time they will really help you; but in some cases they can make your life miserable. Also note that it is super key to document all of your interaction and forms with them, and have printed copies with you at the show. Because what often happens is that they get your information wrong - despite you providing it to them correctly. So have your forms with you in case discrepancies arise.

Graphic File Requirements and Graphic Templates. Producing high quality vertical banner stands, panel graphics and signage is a high tech process. Graphic file requirements help the process run smoother. For most of our products and some of our custom designs, we offer templates which further aid in this process. Here is a link to our graphic file requirements page which offers instructions.

Green booth design. Also known as "eco friendly" or "sustainable" booths. Boothster has defined these concepts for the past nine years, and is unsurpassed. Our booth designs are made from biodegradable, recyclable, and surprisingly durable materials that are not only the greenest available, they are of exceptional design. A custom boothster design will be one of the coolest designs at any event or trade show.

Laser cutting, or engraving. Laser cutting is similar to CNC, in that it starts with CAD drawings, and uses similar technology. The difference is that the tool that performs the work is a laser which basically burns the material to cut or engrave it. Laser is very precise, much more precise than a CNC machine. It is also faster. It is more expensive. Not as many machines are available, especially for cutting bigger materials. Laser engraving is used on everything from trophy engraving, to leather etching, to cutting into wood parts. We use it a fair amount.

Modular System. A modular system refers to a trade show booth that is made out of a tinker toy like system that is pre-designed. In its most basic form, the Exhibit House that provides your modular system prints your unique graphics that insert into this "modular system". More elaborate booth designs made out of modular systems can include some cool customizations. Traditional modular systems for booths are made out of aluminum and plastic. Boothster has a modular system made out of durable paper tubes and eco friendly banners and signs. Boothster also carries distributorships with more typical modular systems. So while we are known for our more unique looking green booths, please note that we can offer you more typical booth designs such as with stretch fabric, extruded aluminum and more.

Production Notes. These are your final PDF of your graphic layouts. They indicate the sizes and material. Clients must approve these before printing. They ensure that your banners will turn out as you intended. They are a great reference for future banner replacements. Note that we do not match PMS or pantones without request. In some cases (like if you want a lot of testing) it costs more.

Show site. When show site is mentioned, it generally refers to things that will be done at the convention or event center. For example, carpet is rolled out "show site". Or, plants are picked up "show site" (as opposed to from our headquarters in Portland).

Table Runner. Also known as Table Banner. A table runner at Boothster is basically a printed banner that is laid out on a table. They work great with a colored table throw underneath in a matching color.

Table Throw. A table throw is a full table cloth that drapes over the entire table. It's different than a table runner (banner) which is essentially a banner strip that drapes over a table. A table throw can have just a logo; or it can be fully printed (generally costs more for full color printing).

Vertical Banner Stands. This is a banner that includes hardware that acts as a stand. It is self supporting. You can carry it with you in a car, an airplane overhead, or ship it FedEx. This is Boothster's most common product we sell. We also make horizontal banner stands. A vertical or horizontal banner stand can go on floor, a table top or outdoors. Please note that we don't guaranty our banner stands for out doors. They work outdoors but they are not waterproof and are not designed for wind. We can do an outdoor banner stand but it will be custom and costs more than your average stand. Many people contact us saying they want a banner or back drop with no idea if there is a mechanism at the trade show, event or conference to hang it. Be safe and buy a stand in this case. Banner stands cost more than banners because they include hardware. Be aware of cheap vertical banner stands. Boothster's are high end.

Water jet cutting. Water jet cutting is similar to laser or CNC cutting, in that it starts with a CAD file. The tool is a high pressure water stream that cuts or engraves the material. It can cut really hard surfaces such as concrete, steel, or rocks to amazing effect. We have used it a little. Not a lot of machines are out there and it can be expensive. But for the right material it is essential.