One of the biggest mistakes I see in booth design is the “Loaded Booth” look.
There are many variations on this theme. There is the “Something for Everyone” look. There is the “One in Every Color” look. There is the “I Can Make a Million of These (and I Have!)” look.
Unfortunately, the result is the same. It ends up looking like the “Artist with No Focus” look.
Believe me, I know what you’re trying to say: “I’m an artist, I am extremely creative, I have a million ideas, and I don’t want to color inside the lines!”
But the result is chaos and confusion.
There is work covering the entire walls of the booth. There are widgets right up to the top of the booth. There are widgets hanging ten inches off the ground. In fact, the walls are not enough. Sometimes the widgets are actually on the floor, leaning against the walls.
Every surface is covered with widgets and more widgets. “Maybe I can cram another one in here!” thinks the artist during set-up.
If the widgets are displayed in a basket, there aren’t merely a handful, or a even a basketful. The basket will be piled to overflowing. No one can actually look through them, either, without actually dumping the basket out in a pile and looking through them that way. Except the counter the basket is on is full, too.
If there is a print bin, it is jammed so full you can’t thumb through the stash. Or there are so many bins, you know it will take a huge chunk of time to go through them.
If there are little widgets on the wall, evenly spaced so as to maximize the display space, the eye has no resting place, no focal point. You simply stand and gaze around and around, looking, wishing desperately for something to jump out at you.
How do I know?
Because this is how I set up my first booth. And this is what a friend told me afterwards.
She had money. She was a shopaholic. She loved my work.
She wanted to buy something from me. She really wanted to buy something from me. She wanted to buy a lot of things from me.
But she has mild attention defiecit disorder, and was overwhelmed with all the choices. In fact, the “buzz” of my display made her anxious.
She ended up buying NOTHING.
We could blame it on her ADD, but the fact is, almost everyone feels this way when presented with too many choices.
Even those of us who adore the yard sale modality don’t expect to find this with art.
And even if we do, it doesn’t mean we have the time, energy or patience to dig through this at an art fair.
Now pretend you are at a big art fair. Or a huge wholesale show. Or a monstrous trade show. (Think of thousands of booths….)
We want to chose the best one of something. Or be able to quickly sort out what strikes our fancy, and eliminate that which doesn’t.
Too many choices makes it too hard for us to sort.
So limit people’s choices. As counterintuitive as this sounds, it works.
Don’t make them choose the best of fifty. Make them choose the best of seven. Or three. Or even two.
Don’t make them choose from 28 subjects. Let them choose from half a dozen. If they don’t see what they want, they can ask. And that gives you a chance to talk to them, too.
If you make something in lots of colors, only show a few. Or spread out the color choices among several styles. People will get that you can make it in purple. And if they like it, they’ll ask if you also make it in green. (That’s your cue to whip out your green one.)
Display fewer things, and be ready to restock an empty space quickly. In fact, sometimes that empty space is a good thing. I’ve had customers ask, “What was here??”, pointing to an empty place with a price tag. They’re curious what sold. They want to know what they’re missing. When you pull out another piece, they look at it closely. Maybe they should get one, too!
Signs can be a good way to get a customer’s overloaded brain to rest for a moment. Just keep them neat and simple and easy to read. You can hang your artist statement, or introduce a new series. You can describe a special feature about your widget, or tell a little story about a special piece.
Group your work in some way. This can be by subject, color, style or series. There are pros and cons for each way of organizing, but don’t worry about that right now. Just make some “white space” around your work.
In fact, think of how you feel when you pick up a magazine and browse through the articles.
How do you feel when you see page after page of tiny print, long paragraphs, long run-on sentences with convoluted syntax, no photos or images, and no captions?
Now think of an article with good column width, good margins, a comfortably-sized and easy-to-read font, subtitles, captions, highlights, etc. It’s easier to read, easier to jump in and sample a section, easier to find your place if you get distracted or have to put it down for a moment.
Make your booth easier to read. Make it easier to jump in and sample. Make it easier to navigate.
Don’t worry. You don’t have to prove you’re an artist. They’ll know.