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The Uplifting Power of Great Experiential Design

For Mental Health Awareness week, we discuss how memorable experiences and trade show booths can not only engage but also uplift viewers.

In the demanding environment of a trade show or exhibit, thousands of people constantly intersect with different states of mind, pressures and stress thresholds. It’s an exciting environment, but it can be mentally and physically draining for some.

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Discovering and interacting with a beautiful piece of design art provides mental reprieve and inspiration, engaging people in a way that interrupts stress or disinterest. Many great designs and designers find the place where playful inventiveness translates to a meaningful viewer and brand experience.

The psychology of design

Our mental state and wellbeing are influenced by our surroundings. From lighting to use of space to textures, shapes and objects, the right combination of aesthetic elements creates an emotional impact that’s different for everyone.

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Image © Enigma Creative Solutions

This could be a slick, symmetrical minimalist corporate exhibit, a tour de force of brand-related creative assets, or a fantastic reimagining of existing objects. Aesthetics should be on-brand - but a design that connects transforms an exhibit from functional object to something that makes a positive impression in a crowded space.

Exhibit designs allowing free movement are often more powerful. Piquing curiosity through an implied visual journey or sense of scale invites viewers to forget what’s around them and be intrigued, inspired or amazed by what they’re seeing and experiencing.

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A clear vision leads to a more impactful exhibit with a greater emotional payoff. Combining design elements intelligently, boldly and playfully conveys something undeniable that engages new clients - or turns the heads of those who need distraction.

Design elements that mean something

In our sustainability blog we mentioned how natural light should be incorporated into events: the positive effects on one’s mental state from the serotonin it generates is well-documented.

While natural lighting isn’t practical for many events, proper lighting accentuates and even makes designs work. Lighting technology and techniques have evolved to closely replicate natural light and colours. Lighting systems with fine-tuned hue and intensity controls let designers create natural-feeling spaces and purposeful highlights that uplift viewers.

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Image © Enigma Creative Solutions

Dim lighting creates intimacy and intrigue, while warm lighting is a mood enhancer that can boost productivity and engagement - or even evoke urgency. Cooler colours support contemplation, while neutral colours feel calm. Ultimately, colour should emotionally accent the intention of the design and purposefully showcase key features.

Consciously shaping spaces and flow within an exhibit has a distinct emotional effect - open areas create a feeling of potential, verticality and scale invoke awe and escapism, while recessed and compartmentalised spaces can create a feeling of escape or solace.

Balancing textures, colours and object layout has a direct effect on our need for harmony. Natural materials promote relaxation - the perfect symmetry of man-made materials can have a similar effect. Creatively juxtaposing materials, textures and colours can create a distinctive effect that keeps an exhibit in the viewer’s mind long after they’ve left.


Image © Enigma Creative Solutions

Often, bold choices trump good taste - sometimes you have to dial the escapism up to 11. Whether it’s a life-sized animatronic dragon, a tower of CRTs lit like a Spielberg movie or a supersized interactive display that bathes you in light and sound, the biggest statements can resonate the most amid the standard trade show slickness.

Escapism through design

Looking back over the last 30 years or so of design, there’s never been a dull moment - proving that experiential design is more important than ever. Societally, the bar has been raised too. Commercial insights reveal that Gen Z are more interested in experiences than property, which means brands and designers need to connect more strongly than ever.

Enigma is no stranger to spectacle - we like to deliver it, and we like to celebrate it.

Some brands recognise the power of escapist spectacle in the midst of trade show bluster. For E3 1996, Virgin Interactive’s conceptual exhibit avoided bright lights and brash displays. Their strangely dignified tower of obsolete electronics was a dramatically lit oasis for E3 visitors that drew the eye, sparked nostalgia and drove conversation.

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Image ©️ Exhibitor Online

2K’s stunning exhibition at E3 took visitors into the adrenalised realm of monster hunting game Evolve. A full-size Goliath dominated the space, its towering verticality emphasised by blood red bottom lighting.

While the booth was expansive, it recreated the game’s claustrophobia with dark areas, moody lighting and detailed setpieces. Plenty of interactive elements created full immersion, for an intense yet thrilling vibe that was a great departure from the bustling E3 floor.

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A thing of beauty is a joy forever. And beautiful or emotive exhibits will stay in visitors’ minds long after an event is over. At Natural Products Expo West 2015, Nature’s Path created a joyful, interactive treehouse display visitors could climb to escape for a few minutes.

Eco-friendly materials underscored their focus on sustainability, while the natural-themed colour palette and lighting were instantly uplifting.




Images ©️ Living Maxwell

Taking spectacle in a more authentic, hands-on direction, Chrysler Group LLC’s booth at the 2004 New York Auto Show was a full-on off-road driving course occupying 51,300 ft2.

Visitors could test drive Jeeps on the course, and Chrysler also set up a kids’ course, gaming stations and a Jeep store to make their booth a family affair. Talk about literally getting away from it all in the middle of a trade show!

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Image ©️ Exhibitor Online

At EuroCucina 2018, Schüller Möbelwerk presented a modern cubic construction with light, muted tones that soothed and created a cool ‘modern home’ atmosphere.

Inside, they’d created a dimly-lit kitchen and dining space oozing class and luxury with matte finishes, black powered aluminium structures and polished wood furnishings. Piquing curiosity inside and out, this design promoted an exclusive feel uplifting in its elegance.




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Simple and cost-effective can still be evocative. WingDipper’s 10x10 ft ‘£866 Exhibit’ at the 2006 National Restaurant Association Show was made using Ikea flooring and lighting, FedEx Kinko’s graphics and Home Depot hardware.

The stand’s simple, inviting DIY look drew plenty of visitors to try the new chicken wing sauce and take a load off on wooden bar stools. Comfortable familiarity actually differentiated WingDippers and surely made a happy emotional connection for visitors.


Image ©️ Exhibitor Online

ActiVision’s 2014 E3 booth to promote space shooter ‘Destiny’ was a masterpiece of scale, stretching floor to ceiling to deliver maximum engagement. Clean, beautiful lines combined with relatively simple colours and blue lighting tones to create a mysterious, futuristic atmosphere.

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Image © Enigma Creative Solutions

Inside, a massive uncluttered open space took visitors further from the show floor, allowing them to freely socialise while a giant wraparound video screen demoed the game.

Excitement and endorphins are often the best way to break through mental apathy or low mood, and ActiVision certainly accomplished this.

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Image © Enigma Creative Solutions

We couldn’t end without showcasing a standout Enigma moment - E3 is certainly the place to stand out and offer people a break from the madness.

For Warner Bros Games’ ‘Shadow of War’ promo, we installed a full-size animatronic dragon with plumes of smoke streaming from its maw, encapsulating Smaug from Lord of the Rings in near-living form. Visitors could ride the dragon to create the ultimate photo opp, and Orcs in full battle gear roamed the exhibit intimidating guests.

With bold lighting that evoked fire and aggressively textured backdrops replicating the ominous Black Gate of Mordor, we delivered an escapist’s dream that brought a smile to the face of every visitor - we’re proud to say it was a genuine E3 highlight!

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Image © Enigma Creative Solutions

Leaving on a high note

A successful exhibition stand tells visitors a story about your business, products and services.

And it’s the ones that become an emotional part of someone’s trade show experience - whether you inspired them, made them think or feel better, or gave them five minutes’ peace - that are truly memorable and even meaningful.

READ NEXT: Unlocking the Unique: 4 Benefits Brands Can Only Gain from Events and Exhibitions

Enigma creates award-winning custom builds for events, trade shows, 3D exhibitions, museums, interiors and more, bringing effective design solutions to physical and digital spaces. If you'd like to find out more about our work and how we can help with your exhibition needs, book a free consultation here.