How to Become an Exhibit Designer


To become an exhibit designer, you typically need post-secondary education in a closely related field. You can also get started in this career with little education, provided you have a work portfolio that demonstrates competence in design, or by becoming an assistant exhibit designer and working your way up.


The first step however, is to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for it:


• You are able to visualize, plan and create two and three-dimensional designs

• You have a keen interest in design

• You have an interest in the subject matter of the exhibit

• You have interest in a career field that offers the possibility of self-employment

• You take satisfaction from watching design ideas materialize

• You are willing to endure periods of limited income while building a portfolio, a client base or finding stable employment


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as an exhibit designer. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as salary expectations, an outline of the skills you’ll need, educational requirements, a list of possible employer types, and much more!



Education Needed to Become an Exhibit Designer

The education needed to qualify for work in this field is typically determined by each individual employer, as there are no government regulations pertaining to this career. Employers however, generally prefer to hire candidates with a certificate, diploma or degree in one or more of the following areas:


• Industrial design

• Architecture

• Drafting

• Spatial design (exhibitions)

• Interior design

• Three-dimensional (3D) design

• Graphic design


Employers may accept work experience related to exhibit design in place of formal education, provided you can provide a strong portfolio that demonstrates your competence in design. 





General Job Description

Exhibit designers create designs for exhibition and display stands, which are used at showcase events, conferences, trade shows, museums and galleries. Their designs are based on the requirements of their clients combined with their own ideas as they relate to customer appeal.



Typical Tasks & Duties

• Transporting displays to exhibition venues and installing them

• Liaising and negotiating with various suppliers

• Working with clients to discuss their theme ideas, needs and wants as well as product information

• Discussing the clients ideas with the design team

• Creating proposals and quotes for clients

• Must communicate effectively with clients throughout the design process

• Handling production orders for materials and site services, such as electronics or audio-visual equipment

• Attend meetings to discuss progress of current projects as well as discuss briefs for future projects



Who Employs Exhibit Designers?

Exhibit designers may be employed by or work on a contract basis for the following types of organizations:


• Art galleries

• Museums

• Historic sites

• Science centres

• Retailers

• Interpretive centres

• Zoos

• Theatre or television production companies

• Architectural design firms

• International expositions and events

• Trade shows and conventions

• Government agencies responsible for parks, forestry, wildlife, culture, public affairs or museums





Experience Needed to Become an Exhibit Designer

An exhibit designer may either work as a freelancer or be hired as a permanent in-house employee. No matter which form of employment you choose to pursue, it is strongly recommended that you develop and maintain a portfolio of your best and most recent work, as it is extremely difficult to secure employment without one.


A good place to start the development of a portfolio is by designing exhibitions while in school. Plenty of opportunities can be found by speaking to teachers and professors and letting them know that you’re interested in exhibition design. As an aspiring exhibit designer, you can also actively pursue opportunities outside of school to volunteer your services, as this is a great way to hone your skills and add to your portfolio.


Career experience for aspiring exhibit designers can also come in the form of working as an assistant designer. If you demonstrate strong design ability and a willingness to learn, you may be fortunate enough to earn such a role, and eventually get a chance to design exhibits yourself as you gain more experience.



Skills Needed to Be Successful

To be effective in a career as an exhibit designer, and perform your job duties with competence, you need to posses a certain set of skills, including:


• Able to plan and create two and three-dimensional designs

• Excellent technical drawing abilities

• Proficient with computer-aided design (CAD) software

• Able to visualize how exhibition plans might look

• Able to develop innovative designs

• Excellent understanding of visual communication

• Able to effectively deal with frequent work interruptions



Characteristics of Successful Exhibit Designers

In order to enjoy performing the duties of an exhibit designer, you need to have certain personality traits. Taking enjoyment from your job duties is important, as it helps you maintain a positive attitude towards your work, which can lead to having a long and successful career.


• A keen interest in design

• An interest in the field the exhibit is being designed for (such as art, history, fashion, etc.)

• Enjoy developing new ideas

• Enjoy watching design ideas materialize

• A good imagination

• Enjoy working as part of a team

• Enjoy performing tasks that require precision

• Self-discipline, self-motivation and persistence



Current Job Opportunities

Although job opportunities in this field are rarely posted online, from time to time they will be. Have a look below to see if there’s anything listed in your area:




How Much Do Exhibit Designers Make?

The amount that exhibit designers earn can vary; some may earn an inconsistent and fluctuating income (typically those that work as self-employed freelancers), while others may earn a more stable and reliable income (typically those who work as an in-house employee of an organization). It largely depends on what kind of employment structure they have.


The amount exhibit designers earn may also be influenced by the following factors:


• The amount they charge for their services (if self-employed)

• The region in which they work

• Their level of experience and reputation

• The size and type of their employer/client


Exhibit Designer Earnings - Canada: According to the 2014 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey (the most recent data available), Albertans working in the Theatre, Fashion, Exhibit and Other Creative Designers occupational group earn an average salary of $21.04 per hour. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available from reliable sources for other Canadian provinces or territories at the time of writing (July 10, 2019).


Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage of American workers in the Set and Exhibit Designers occupational group is $53,990.



Similar Careers in Our System

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to "exhibit designer", as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Interior Designer

Gallery Owner

Museum Curator

Set Designer

Visual Merchandiser




To find out more about what an exhibit designer does, how much they earn, and other details of this career, please consult the following resources:


Occupations in Alberta:Exhibit Designer.” (December 10, 2012). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 18, 2019.

Occupational Employment and Wages:Set and Exhibit Designers.” (March 29, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 18, 2019.

Explore Careers:Exhibition designer.” (n.d.). National Careers Service website. Retrieved November 18, 2019.

Please Note: Much of the information for this career guide was gathered from actual job postings, which due to the brief nature of their online presence, are not listed here as sources.



Scholarships for Becoming an Exhibit Designer

The “Applicable Majors” section below lists fields of study that are relevant for becoming an exhibit designer. Scholarships for becoming an exhibit designer are those that are matched to those fields of study, all of which can be found on our Scholarships page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for getting into this line of work:


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