What’s the difference between a Shell Scheme and Space Only exhibition stand?

Two terms that will come up a lot when you’re first booking your exhibition stand are shell scheme and space only. So what is a shell scheme, how does it differ from a space only, and what’s the difference between the two?

What is a Shell Scheme exhibition stand?

Rude Health Shell Scheme Stand Design at Bodypower

You may have noticed that shell schemes are more expensive per square metre. That’s because when you purchase a shell scheme, you’ll get a lot of the stand structure included in the cost. You’re provided with a basic framework which you can clad with graphics, a floor covering, usually carpet, and often a power socket included in the price.

Shell schemes work out less expensive than space only stands as they’re restrictive on what can be built. They have a smaller footprint with height constraints, and you’ll most likely be neighboured to one or more show exhibitor. The shell structure can be clad with graphics, but you’ll have to be careful not to mark the structure in any way or risk fines from the show organisers.

Depending on what you’re looking to achieve however, a shell scheme can be the perfect compromise between budget and a strong brand impact. We’ve worked with a lot of brands to create effective shell schemes stands over the years – check out our case studies for inspiration.

What is a Space Only exhibition stand?

A space only stand is an empty space that your exhibition stand will be built on. You’re not provided with any structure or power like a shell scheme stand but you can build whatever you want within the show guidelines. Starting with the floor finish through to what lighting will illuminate the space, every element of the stand has to be considered.

The benefit of a space only stand is that you can build a bespoke space, tailored to your exact needs. Important layout features such as zones for meeting or demonstrating products can be designed to meet your needs and objectives for the show. You’re also able to build spaces that can reach up to 4 metres, and even higher with rigged branding boxes!

Ritter Sport at NCS

By building a custom modular stand in a space only plot, the layout can be reconfigured for future shows, and the graphics and furnishings can be reused. This saves on your budget in the long run and is an environmentally responsible solution. Our stock of Aluvision modular framework is the perfect adaptable structure for our stands and it’s the best way to design eye-catching reusable spaces that look great.

Tonys at ISM 2020

For a complete space only brand experience, island stands are standalone spaces with no neighbours competing for attention. They’re often positioned in the prime hall locations and have better access to the stand from every angle. These spaces are designated for the top players at the show and as such, are the most expensive to purchase per square metre. Note that space only stands also require more paperwork to be completed, including stand build plans and risk assessment method statements. We’ll take care of this for you as part of our project management service, so there’s nothing to worry about.

What is a Shell Scheme and Space Only Key Takeaways

When comparing the difference between shell scheme and space only exhibition stands, the main points are:

  • Shell schemes are easier to manage and are an inexpensive option, whereas space only stands often provide more visual impact and can be tailored to your needs.
  • Shell schemes are more likely to have neighbours competing for attention.
  • Space only stands have less restrictions on what can be built than shell schemes, and you can even build up to 4 metres high for more punch at the show.
  • Branded rigging boxes suspended from the hall ceiling are usually reserved for space only stands.
  • It’s worth remembering that the bigger your stand, the more kit you’ll need to store at the end of the show, and transportation costs will be higher.

Now that you know the differences between a shell scheme and space only exhibition stand, you can make an informed decision on what works best for your brand. For stand inspiration and further information, check out our case studies, or get in touch for a free stand consultation.

Get started with a free creative exhibition stand design

We’ll start with a 30 minute video call then you can leave it to us.

Our talented exhibition architects will create a custom exhibition stand design for you. We’ll then work with you to refine the design until you are 100% happy.

All stand designs come with a competitive quote with full breakdown of the project.

Prefer a call or email? You can reach us on
+44 (0)800 4647974 or [email protected]

Our Top 5 Reusable Exhibition Stand Ideas 2022

Custom modular and reusable exhibition stands look fantastic, bring down the costs of exhibiting at future shows, and are environmentally responsible.  Here’s our top exhibition stand ideas for designing your stand with reusability in mind in 2022.

Reusing the stand at multiple shows

We have an easy solution for reusable exhibition stands. We stock a range of modular Aluvision framework for rental that looks great, provides a strong and sturdy structure, and can be reconfigured to almost any stand size and layout.

By using environmental-friendly aluminium frames for your stand walls and clever planning in the design stage, graphics can be reused and adjusted into different size spaces. It’s then simply a case of placing your other stand elements around the space.

Ritter Sport at NCS

Our designers excel in creating display solutions that look great and are durable, ensuring they last show after show. One of our top exhibition stand ideas to increase the lifespan of your kit is to consider how it’s being protected during transit to and from the event. We make sure that all of our equipment is wrapped carefully or has its own flight case or protective box before we load it for an exhibition.

Strong visual impact with reusable kit

Ugly at Lunch

We’ve made a lot of observations over the years on how to make a strong visual impact with a reusable exhibition stand. Spaces that are meticulously planned and designed are often the ones that get the most attention at a show, so the way a stand looks is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of exhibiting.

Well & Truly at Lunch

We believe the best stands have a hero display feature that is the central focal point of the stand. This could be a huge lightbox logo, or a beautiful handcrafted counter, by having one particular element that looks fantastic, you create a talking point that sticks in the mind of a show visitor long after the event has finished. Often, our clients will reuse these elements in their offices or for future activations in retail or roadshows.

Egym Elevate Exhibition Stand

There are lots of ways to create a visually outstanding space, but one of the most important has to be lighting. Most show halls can be quite dark so by illuminating your stand, you draw attention to your branding and all of your display elements. We use a combination of elegant downlights for the walls and flood lights for the floor layout to create a bright and punchy space.

Eye-catching reusable display elements

Some of the most common display elements that are used on exhibition stands are counters, podiums and bar tables. These are all tried and tested furnishings that are useful as meeting spaces, for storage and for demoing or sampling products. Digital screens with looping video or laptop input are also a common feature that provide constant interaction.

If you want to push your stand to the next level, there are lots of options to consider to draw in show visitors. To create a buzz on your stand, you might consider including a prize spinner wheel or some form of game to break the ice. We’ve created all sorts over the years from low-cost corn bag games to loud plinko droppers, to basketball hoops to full-on amusement arcade attractions.

Having space allocated for meetings is important, and we’re seeing a trend towards the informal, with sofas and coffee tables. By using soft furnishings, you can create a comfortable space that helps to keep the conversation rolling, and why not consider a coffee machine for drinks? For private meetings, you could consider a dedicated room or using semi-private baffles (such as fins) to screen off the rest of the world.

egym elevate exhibition stand

We’re seeing a lot of wooden clad walling trending in our current designs, so one of our best exhibition stand ideas for this is to use tension fabric graphics, printed with a realistic wood texture. Using this approach, logistical and manufacturing costs are reduced, environmental impact is much lower, and most people didn’t realise the difference! The fabrics also fold up to a small footprint saving on storage costs.

The effect can be applied to perimeter walls and to counters, and we recommend using a stock texture repository like Textures.com to find a realistic texture for your artwork. We’ve used this technique for printed brick walls, wooden panels and marble effects in the past.

Digital Content Solutions

Hitachi at Ratiltex 2021

Adding screens to an exhibition stand is a must in 2022 as they are useful in so many ways. Used for looping video content, they can provide an easy and inexpensive way to engage visitors in the space. They are essential for software demonstrations and often, the larger the screen, the better. We can provide AV solutions where you simply plug your laptop in and away you go, though we do recommend you test beforehand to prevent any mishaps on the day.

Rather than bringing stacks of handouts, you could consider a QR code on your stand or product catalogues on iPads. These provide a more environmentally friendly way to present your literature and lowers your costs on giveaway stock and logistics.

Storage after the show

A key part of the planning process is what happens to the stand after the show. Your reusable elements such as counters or custom furniture can be stored at our secure facility for a monthly fee, or they can be taken away and used at your office or stored in your own warehouse.

Café-Style exhibition stand

If you plan on using the equipment at multiple shows, leaving it with us to store makes a lot of sense as we provide logistic services to and from future events that you’re attending. As part of our storage service, we ensure that the event furniture is kept in tip-top shape, and we fix up any reasonable blemishes after the show.

Reusable Exhibition Stand Ideas Key Takeaways

To recap, here are the key takeaways for our best reusable exhibition stand ideas:

  • Creating a custom modular exhibition stand that can be reconfigured for future shows will save on your budget and is an environmentally-responsible way to exhibit.
  • Make a strong visual impact with hero display features and a smart use of lighting.
  • Consider what you’re aiming to achieve at the show and base your stand furniture on what you require. Do you need a sit down meeting space, or will a counter meet your needs?
  • Wrapping your furniture or using cases will prevent damage during transport and increase the lifespan of your kit.
  • Can your exhibition furniture be reused in your office or at other activations?

We hope that this article has provided some insight creating an outstanding reusable exhibition stand! For more exhibition stand ideas and further information, check out our case studies, or get in touch for a free stand consultation.

Get started with a free creative exhibition stand design

We’ll start with a 30 minute video call then you can leave it to us.

Our talented exhibition architects will create a custom exhibition stand design for you. We’ll then work with you to refine the design until you are 100% happy.

All stand designs come with a competitive quote with full breakdown of the project.

Prefer a call or email? You can reach us on
+44 (0)800 4647974 or [email protected]

Graphic Mill Case Study by Hitachi

We’re thrilled to have received a case study from Carolyn Robins, Marketing Executive at Hitachi, highlighting some of the event solutions we’ve provided over the last year. It’s been a pleasure to work with the team on their exhibition projects, and you can read more about the Hitachi stand at Railtex / Infrarail here. In the meantime, here’s the case study!

Written by Carolyn Robins, Marketing Executive at Hitachi Control Systems Europe Ltd


Hitachi Information Control Systems Europe Ltd are a leading provider of software solutions for rail signalling and operations with offices in Wiltshire, Plymouth and Derby.

Working exclusively in rail, the company develop safety and training support solutions and market to a small niche sector of the industry.


To support the business growth and the emergence from lockdown, the company wanted to focus more on their visibility with external stakeholders, and their marketing strategy was developed to include a strong campaign of engagement and included face-to-face events, shows and seminars.


Having worked with Graphic Mill previously, and keen to again work with an independent company local to the Wiltshire head office, Denise Watkins, Head of Sales and Carolyn Robins, Marketing Executive, visited the Graphic Mill offices to discuss their marketing strategy and what tools were available to them and how this would best work with the brand and marketplace.


Following on from initial discussions, Graphic Mill came up with solution options and designs to ensure Hitachi had solutions for different levels of collaboration.

For smaller shows and events, a pop-up stand was proposed, and a design agreed. The graphics for the stand can be updated and more than one option can be supplied. The stand came with clear instructions and a manual and was easily erected within 15 minutes and take down was half the time! This enabled the show staff to easily set up and be ready for events without delay. The design of the stand was a wave formation meaning the structure could fit into varying spaces and not be limited to set dimensions or space.

For the annual Railtex show (being the largest UK rail event), a custom-made stand was required. Graphic Mill’s design team came up with several options and following further discussions with the Hitachi Team a final design was agreed with the stand split into zones to allow for 2 demonstration areas, storage and a seating area which was open and user friendly. The graphics were adapted from brand imagery and bold colours used to segment the zones.


“The solutions Dan and the Graphic Mill team came up with were a perfect fit for our requirements. We were blown away by the level of detail, professionalism, and adaptability the team showed” said Denise Watkins, Head of Sales at Hitachi. “The final build at Railtex can be stressful but Dan and his team of fitters took it in their stride!  Nothing was too much trouble, and the ideas for final tweaks to make it work where actioned with ease and enthusiasm”.

The Hitachi team have now engaged Graphic Mill to develop banner solutions to complete the display element of their marketing strategy.

Get started with a free creative exhibition stand design

We’ll start with a 30 minute video call then you can leave it to us.

Our talented exhibition architects will create a custom exhibition stand design for you. We’ll then work with you to refine the design until you are 100% happy.

All stand designs come with a competitive quote with full breakdown of the project.

Prefer a call or email? You can reach us on
+44 (0)800 4647974 or [email protected]

5 Best Adobe Illustrator Practices for Exhibition Graphics

When designing a truly outstanding exhibition stand, the most important component is undoubted the graphics that dress the space. They should emanate the life and soul of your brand, and they provide a perfect opportunity to show off your recent photoshoot or brand campaign in large format print. Our experienced design team know the artworking process inside and out, so here’s our 5 best Adobe Illustrator practices for exhibition graphics ✏

Graphic Materials

There are lots of different materials that we use for large scale printing and our team always know the right spec for the task at hand.

In a Shell Scheme, you’ll likely be using rollable vinyl panels with clips. In a Space Only stand, you’ll be using stretch tension fabrics or foamex panel graphics, or both.

We’ll provide you with artwork templates to make your life easier!

To simplify your design process, our team will provide you with Illustrator artwork templates which are created to the exact dimensions and material specifications for your stand. The templates are set up with the correct “bleed”, which is the amount of extra artwork required to avoid white lines on the edges of your print, and are provided in CMYK colour space. It’s worth noting that different materials have different amounts of bleed so make sure that you’re using the templates we send you to ensure top-notch print every time. Typically, panels require 3mm bleed and fabrics need a whopping 50mm.

If your templates have joins (usually in Shell Scheme vinyl), try to avoid text on the join lines.

Graphic line up is usually very good but due to a variety of factors including fabric stretch and printing tolerances, we recommend avoiding text or line artwork over any join lines if possible. By thinking about the details, your artworking will look so much nicer as a result.

Image Resolution

Many designers are now expected to have multi-disciplinary skillsets, often creating for web and print formats. However, designs that look great on web often require some tweaking for print, and the one thing that crops up the most is low image resolution.

When creating artwork for print, our minimum image resolution for large format printing is 75PPI at 100% document scale. This might sound complicated, but thankfully Illustrator has an easy tool for checking image PPI.

You can check the PPI and colour space of the inserted image.

If your PPI is less than 75PPI, you risk low quality and pixelated print. If you have the image in higher resolution, we highly recommend using it as it’s the best way to improve your print. If you don’t have any higher resolution imagery then we suggest upscaling the image in Photoshop. By using the “Remove JPEG Artifacts” Neural Filter before the upscale, you’ll receive better results than you expect. Remember that in most cases, people will be viewing your graphics from over a metre or more away. Although crisp graphics are what we aim for, a little blurriness is much better than pixelated prints.

Another key point is to provide any logos in vector format rather than rasterised. Vector, i.e. the original linework, provides super-crisp print when printed at large scale as the lines are created mathematically rather than set-size pixels.

Image resolution is undoubtedly the most important point on our list of Illustrator practices for exhibition graphics. By using high-resolution imagery and vector logos and text, you can be certain of beautiful stand graphics ✨

Left: vector line-work logo. Right: Rasterised logo. Vector graphics always provide higher quality prints.


We may provide your artwork templates in a scaled down size, often 50%, sometimes 25%. This is because Illustrator has limits on the maximum artboard and bleed dimensions, which aren’t high enough for large format printing.

Follow the info panel in our artwork templates.

In the templates, there is a clear info panel detailing the scale of the document and the minimum PPI of imagery at this scale. The artboards are also set up with a “_50%” or “_25%” suffix which is another flag for the scale of the document.

Overprint Fill

Overprint Fill, a lesser known feature in Illustrator, is a way to prevent colour knockout in a piece of artwork. When an object is checked for overprint, it becomes opaque to any colours below – almost like a wash of water colour. This might sound neat but in reality it is a major headache to printers and we recommend avoiding it where possible.

The Overprint Fill checkbox. Beware, once checked, it stays on until you uncheck it! 

Due to the way Illustrator works, there isn’t an easy way to check for objects that have been marked for overprint. Even worse, it’s all too easy to leave the feature checked on, meaning all newly created objects are inadvertently marked. This can lead to disappearing text and objects, and ultimately incorrect print.

Transparency effects such as “Multiply” do the same job without the aggro.

Sending Artwork

You’ve finished your artwork and it’s been signed off – happy days! 😄

The next thing is to get it over to us so we can check it over. The best way to send your artwork is to package the Illustrator file. This compiles all the used “links” including the image files, fonts and editable artwork file into one folder. Often, clients will send through editable and outlined versions of their artwork, with all the text and stroke objects converted to outlines in the latter. Providing artwork in this way allows our pre-flight team to make any tweaks for the printing process.

Once the folder is zipped, you can send it through your preferred file sharing service, Dropbox, WeTransfer, etc. We’ll then do our pre-flight checks and prepare the artwork for production, providing you with a fully branded 3D proof for your final sign-off.

Get started with a free creative exhibition stand design

We’ll start with a 30 minute video call then you can leave it to us.

Our talented exhibition architects will create a custom exhibition stand design for you. We’ll then work with you to refine the design until you are 100% happy.

All stand designs come with a competitive quote with full breakdown of the project.

Prefer a call or email? You can reach us on
+44 (0)800 4647974 or [email protected]

Top 5 New Exhibition Stands 2021

It’s been a shorter season for exhibitors this year but even so, 2021 has been a year full of bustling and vibrant shows. Exhibitors have been keen to catch up with their existing clients and make new leads, so designing eye-catching exhibition stand designs has never been as important. Before we get started on all of the amazing shows for 2022, let’s dive into our top 5 new exhibition stands of 2021.

Hitachi at Railtex / Infrarail, NEC, Birmingham.

An impressive stand for Hitachi at the premier event for the Rail industry, Railtex / Infrarail at the NEC. Showcasing Hitachi’s technology with large screens and demonstration areas, the stand had an open and welcoming space that promoted interaction with show visitors. Large seamless graphics and colour pops of Hitachi Hero red gave the stand a modern feel, and downlighting brought the colours to life.

See our full Hitachi case study.

Nervecentre Exhibition Stand Design

Nervecentre at HETT, ExCel, London.

Exhibiting at HETT this year, Nervecentre wanted to go bigger than ever. With a 4+ metre tall stand and a high level suspended box, their stand created impact throughout the show hall. The space incorporated distinct zones for demonstrations and for meetings, and the walls were branded with gorgeous, seamless fabric graphics.

See our full Nervecentre case study.

lunch! show stands

Proper, Lunch at the ExCel, London.

A huge, attention-grabbing stand for Proper at this year’s Lunch Show, with colourful and vibrant graphics and plenty of product giveaways on display. The stand featured layered and illuminated display walls, a huge branded column, and even high level Proper flags.

See our Lunch! Show 2021 stand recap.

Recare, Naidex at the NEC, Birmingham.

Recare exhibited at Naidex Show at the NEC earlier this year, with the aim of showcasing their range of enablement equipment. Using a huge zoned floor space, a 4 metre tall column and plenty of powerful lighting, the stand was a big success.

See our full Recare case study.

HETT Show Exhibition Stand

Aire Logic, HETT at the ExCel, London.

One of the most distinctive stands of the year, the Aire Logic space at HETT was brimming with character. With the aim of championing the Aire Logic software and pushing the brand, the team were really happy, calling it an “amazing job, Dan understood what we wanted and transferred it into a fantastic stand”.

See our full Aire Logic case study.

That wraps up our top 5 new exhibition stands of 2021, but the creativity doesn’t end there. This season has been full of amazing events and stands, so be sure to check out our Lunch! Show stand recap for more inspiration, or if you’re thinking of exhibiting next year, here’s our top trends for 2022 article.

Get started with a free creative exhibition stand design

We’ll start with a 30 minute video call then you can leave it to us.

Our talented exhibition architects will create a custom exhibition stand design for you. We’ll then work with you to refine the design until you are 100% happy.

All stand designs come with a competitive quote with full breakdown of the project.

Prefer a call or email? You can reach us on
+44 (0)800 4647974 or [email protected]

How Does The Exhibition Stand Design Process Work?

At Graphic Mill, we live and breathe live events. With years of experience, our team know the ins-and-outs of what makes a great exhibition stand. So how does the exhibition design process work and how do we design impactful stands? Let’s take a look.

Concept Stage

We kick off the process with a consultation to discuss the client’s goals for the exhibition, their past experiences, and brand ambitions. Once we have this information, it’s briefed into our design team who get to work on creating a draft design. Usually at this stage a client will provide brand guidelines, or we use assets from the company website.

This is the fun part where the only limit is our imagination! Clients will often have an idea of what they would like included, such as storage or meeting areas, and utilising our experience we add in elements that will enhance the stand and draw in the crowds. We define a working layout and visitor flow for the space.

The designs are created in our 3D modelling software, which we can then generate stand visuals and layout drawings to provide to the client in a presentation pack.

Development Stage

Once the client has reviewed the draft design, our designers make tweaks based on any feedback received. At this stage we also refine the branding and messaging on the stand, either using our in-house design team or providing artwork templates to the client. We further prepare the 3D stand model to ensure everything is ready to go for the production stage.

We then create a final set of photorealistic stand visuals to give a real impression of the stand. We can also create augmented reality (AR) models of the space to experience the stand in a 1:1 scale through a mobile phone. This is then sent through to the client for sign-off before production begins.

HETT Show Exhibition Stand

Production Stage

The final part of the design process, our exhibition stand designers create detailed plans and technical drawings for the production team to make the stand. Every element is considered, from custom woodwork to modular aluminium structure, to ensure the stand installation runs as smoothly as possible on the day. Our stands are pre-built in our facility with oversight from the design team.

Get started with a free creative exhibition stand design

We’ll start with a 30 minute video call then you can leave it to us.

Our talented exhibition architects will create a custom exhibition stand design for you. We’ll then work with you to refine the design until you are 100% happy.

All stand designs come with a competitive quote with full breakdown of the project.

Prefer a call or email? You can reach us on
+44 (0)800 4647974 or [email protected]