What Does an Exhibit Designer Do?

Dan Cavallari

An exhibit designer is a person who will lay out fixtures for an exhibit for trade shows, museums, events, or temporary showcases in various venues. This professional must have a solid understanding of design concepts, and he or she may be required to have experience with certain types of design software, particularly computer-aided design (CAD) programs. An exhibit designer is likely to work on a freelance or contract basis, meaning he or she may not be hired full time with a particular venue, but will instead work for various venues as necessary.

An exhibit designer is responsibe for the layout and display of individual exhibits.
An exhibit designer is responsibe for the layout and display of individual exhibits.

The basic responsibilities of the exhibit designer will include measuring a space in which an exhibit is to take place or analyzing existing blueprints or plans; determining what types of fixtures will be needed for the exhibit; securing these fixtures and arranging delivery; figuring out what layout will be logical and safe for visitors; and interacting with vendors, artists, or other people who will be providing items for the fixtures. Adherence to safety regulations and laws is a primary concern of the exhibit designer, as is creating an interior landscape that is easy to navigate while ensuring visitors will see the exhibits they are intended to see.

While the exhibit designer will be responsible for the overall layout, he or she may also be responsible for the layouts of individual exhibits. At a museum, for example, the exhibit designer will have input as to how dioramas are presented, where lighting should be placed, and in what order exhibits should be viewed. The protection of delicate or important artifacts will also come into play, especially at museums, to ensure these artifacts do not become damaged or worn from constant exposure to viewers of the exhibit. The museum curators may have specific requirements or preferences that the designer will need to take into account as well, making this job a complex one.

One's level of education usually matters less than their on the job training and experience, so a person with minimal formal education can still become an exhibit designer. Knowledge of common design practices and a talent for recognizing design opportunities is especially helpful, as is any particular job training that relates to the field. CAD training, for example, will certainly make a designer more desirable to a potential employer, as will a resume with a long list of proven successes within the design or exhibition industries.

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