In the previous chapters of our pop up guide we looked at how you source a space for your project. In this chapter we look at how to design and manage the space you’ve found. High street retailers spend a lot of time, money and effort making their shops look good – you can achieve similar standards on a budget by being creative.

Can you create multiple spaces in your shop?

Think about the different activities that are going to happen in your shop. Consider the front of house bits – the things the public see – and the backstage stuff, like storage, a staff room and so on.

But also consider are there some activities that the public wouldn’t usually see which they might enjoy watching? Lots of museums are now letting the public see storage and conservation, for example (your whole shop might be this, of course!).

Once you’ve planned the activities that are going to happen, you can create a list of furniture, fixtures and fittings you need. Find furniture and objects that match and treat the space as one big display. Or if you’re going to ‘zone’ the interior – maybe a cafe area, a shop corner, a display space – use furniture and colours to make each area distinct.

Even better than buying new furniture is recycling; embrace the temporary nature of the project and find furniture for free, using your local Freegle group. Give it all a lick of paint – everything white looks stylish and professional, or if you fancy more fun try mis-matched primary colours. Then give it away on Freegle when the project’s finished. You can also search on Facebook groups in your local area for furniture or fittings.

And don’t forget to use any furniture, fixtures and fittings you find already in the space as well!

It’s always possible to borrow equipment. Larger local stores may also be able to help with the loan of shop-fittings, shelving and so on. Local community centres, charities and organisations might be able to loan you other things that you need. Museums might have display plinths, and libraries may loan desktop display cases. If you have a clear plan and you know exactly what you need, it’s easy to ask.

Bring a toolkit

You’ll need a few tools, and with this useful kit you should be able to pull off that Mary Poppins trick and look prepared for any emergency! You don’t need anything specialist. Some of these suggestions are good:

  • a claw hammer
  • pliers
  • scissors
  • a couple of screwdrivers
  • a staple gun
  • gaffer tape
  • masking tape
  • nylon fishing wire
  • small tacks or nails
  • drawing pins
  • staples and you’re ready!

Blue tack, bulldog clips and dressmaking pins are also useful for displaying things. The whole kit should cost less than £50.

Signs & Legibility

Signs are important. Look at the shops around yours – they have invested in clear signs, corporate identities and clever displays to make it comfortable for customers to come in and spend money.

Make your venue stand out from others in the street. You’ll notice that many potential visitors are worried about entering your space, especially if it’s not immediately clear what you’re doing: make them feel comfortable by putting up a sign to say you are open, and if possible, leaving the front door open wide.

You may choose to spend money on custom-made shop signs. Why not talk to local illustrators or sign writers to create interesting signage or a fun mural on the shop window?

Think as well about how art galleries use signage; when you walk into a room at Tate, it tells you what the room’s about in big, clear letters.

Design clear signs explaining what the project is about. You can create your own in free design platforms like and get large prints at a copy shop for legibility. If you use your signs to explain the temporary nature of the project, it can attract people to get involved in this or future projects too!

Managing Risk

Managing risk sounds like something difficult, but it’s not – we all do it every day.

Fire Safety

  • Make sure there is a phone available to make emergency calls
  • Ensure rubbish is cleared away and other materials and resources safely stored
  • Fire exits should be clearly marked and routes to fire exits are clear of obstructions
  • Any alarms and equipment used on site must be tested
  • Ensure there is an evacuation plan in place (you know how to get out and where to meet afterwards!) and all staff and volunteers informed

Health & Safety

  • Make sure a phone is available to make emergency calls
  • Public areas should be clean, tidy and free of hazards, for example trip hazards or stacked boxes
  • Areas not to be used by public should be closed and clearly marked
  • Electrics and any portable electrical items safe, visually checked for damage or broken cables
  • Any specialist equipment should only be used by responsible staff and volunteers


  • Make sure a phone is available to make emergency calls
  • All windows should be shut and locked when the premises is not in use
  • Doors should be locked and secured when the premises is not in use
  • A safe, locked area should be available for private possessions like bags and coats.

Now that you can identify any risks your popup project might have, you can then look at compiling this into a more structured format.

Using a risk assessment form will help you to assess all these areas and effectively manage the level of risks in your pop up..

Download a simple risk assessment example and a blank form for use on your own project below:

Risk assessment example

BLANK Risk assessment template- Word Doc

BLANK Risk assessment template- PDF Doc



(c) Dan Thompson