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Advice From The World’s Best Selling Book On Exhibit Design

It looks like a spy thriller, but between its covers lurks pages and pages...describing a trade show.
It looks like a spy thriller, but between its covers lurks pages and pages...describing not one, but two trade shows.

Imagine my surprise when my vacation reading uncovered the best selling book ever on exhibit design.  Oddly enough, it’s The Russia House, a spy novel by John le Carré.

Is this New York Times #1 Best Seller really a book about exhibit design, or even trade shows?  No, but The Russia House certainly has more pages about trade shows than any marketing text book, and its half a paragraph on exhibit design probably matches most marketing text books as well.

The book even starts at a trade show in Moscow, where secret books are given to a British exhibitor that perhaps holds the key to the Soviet’s nuclear capabilities.  But one trade show is not enough for this book.  Near its end, a different exhibitor goes to another Moscow trade show.  His exhibit is described thus (as a British writer, le Carré calls the trade show a trade fair, and exhibits are called stands):

“The exhibition stand of the newly inaugurated and geographically confusing house of Potomac & Blair was a small but satisfactory sensation of the fair.  Langley’s lovingly created P. & B. symbol shone resplendent between the dowdier displays of Astral Press and Purbeck Media.  The stand’s interior design, characterized by its Langley architects as tough but tasty, was a model of instant impact.”

There’s some gems in here.  John le Carré captures in a few sentences the design goals exhibitors strive for: create a buzz (“sensation of the fair”), stand out from your competitors (better than the “dowdier displays of Astral Press and Purbeck Media”), and get attention fast (“instant impact”).  All good exhibit design mojo, even if it’s from an ex-spy instead of a designer.

The Russia House was so popular when it came out in the beginning of glasnost and perestroika that it was made into a movie starring Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer.  I haven’t seen the movie yet, but look forward to seeing if and how they portray the trade shows.

If a half paragraph on exhibit design, even from a best seller,  isn’t enough for you, then you can read 25 tips on exhibit design in the Trade Show Tips section of our website.  And if you’ve read other popular books that have taken place at trade shows, please share with all of us in the comments box below.

whats-working-in-exhibitingLearn what other exhibitors are doing now to design more effective exhibits and more, with the 32-page white paper research report, What’s Working In Exhibiting.  Get your free copy now by clicking here.

About the Author

Mike Thimmesch was Skyline Exhibits’ Director of Customer Engagement, for over 25 years. He is now retired and spends his time freelancing, traveling, and enjoying time with his family.

2 responses to “Advice From The World’s Best Selling Book On Exhibit Design

  1. Nice observation. There certainly aren’t many books featuring trade shows. I had a conversation with an exhibit industry film expert and we agreed the best portrayal of a trade show environment in a film (besides the obvious scene in ‘The Net’, and perhaps the first time Apple exhibited in ‘The Pirates of Silicon Valley’) was ‘The Conversation’ with Gene Hackman.

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