10/
01/
17

The Principles of Staying Relevant

How many brands today can claim they’re striving for better rather than newer? Vitsoe, a British furniture manufacturer founded by Niels Vitsoe in 1959 in Germany has been obsessed with nothing but being better for the past 57 years.

Braun razon designed by Rahms
Radio designed by Rams

As strange as it may sound, the brand was first and foremost created for Dieter Rams, a German furniture designer known for his pioneering solutions that helped transform his then employer, Braun, into a global consumer electronics brand. But ultimately, Vitsoe was born out of a collaborative spirit among a group of open-minded and imaginative professionals and friends. This was an era when design collaborations weren’t the movement they are today, but simply a pragmatic way of doing things. Vitsoe’s original founders, Niels Vitsoe and Otto Zapf, along with Braun’s founders (and Rams’ employers), Erwin and Artur Braun, unilaterally agreed that Dieter Rams’ secondary employment with Vitsoe would only benefit both brands. Dieter Rams went on to work for these two companies side-by-side, and as he likes to point out, “… only for these two companies.”

In addition to his seamless and irresistible product designs, Rams has been celebrated for his ten principles of good design. Our favourite at Arts & Labour is no. 10, “Good design is as little design as possible”, and no. 6, “Good design is honest.”

10 Principles for Good Design by Dieter Rams
Our suggestion

Despite being prolific for Braun, Dieter Rams designed only three key products for Vitsoe. The most popular, the 606 Universal Shelving System, is a modular system that’s fully adaptable to every single surrounding. The design is not only movable and adjustable, but also tasteful. Some consumers even claim it’s “highly addictive.” Now part of The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) collection, Dieter Rams has made numerous improvements and adjustments to the system since its early days, but always with integrity to its original design.

We are clearly lovers of good design at Arts & Labour; but why, you may wonder, are we devoting so much thought to Vitsoe? Like other established brands that want to remain in demand, Vitsoe too may need to start addressing the desires of more recent generations, namely Millennials and Post-Millennials. Unlike Baby Boomers and Generation X, who have been captivated by Vitsoe’s good design, Millennials seem to be neither familiar with nor interested in the brand’s affluent history or its design principles. In fact, Millennials appear to be attracted to values that signify cultural disruption and activism rather than design relevance exclusively.

In our opinion, Vitsoe may want start expanding its company’s vision beyond good design and start celebrating the role of good art. Wouldn’t it be delicious if this prompted a new set of principles that focus on the benefits collaboration between good art and design can bring to brands, artists and society at large?

May we humbly suggest a new principle? No.11, “When good design and good art collaborate, it has the power to change minds.” The ever-innovative Dieter Rams would no doubt approve.

For more on the genius of Dieter Rams, see this recent article by Fast Company.

06/
12/
16

Dale Chihuly, artist.
Dale Chihuly, brand.

Collaborations between brands and artists of all types have been popping up just about everywhere. They’ve clearly caught on—and proven their worth amidst flashy advertising campaigns and attention-seeking promotional events. Art collaborations, with their sense of authenticity and immediacy tend to sell quickly, while first-class collaborations with top artists and brands have been known to sell out instantly. Naturally, more and more savvy brands have climbed on board and are collaborating with savvy artists to develop irresistible products that cultivate a following of consumer brand ambassadors.

Dale Chihuly
Dale Chihuly’s sculpture in Dallas Arboretum

On a parallel path with this burgeoning movement, some artists, rather than letting brands take charge of their talents, have been taking the matter into their own hands. Dale Chihuly, the American sculptor, renowned for his large scale blown glass installations, is one of them. Chihuly’s unique and fascinating sculptures have been internationally recognized since the early 1970’s. Included in more than 200 museum collections, his work is celebrated, often with his remarkable site-specific architectural installations being singled out for praise. His indoor works, no matter how ecstatic and complex, can often be overshadowed by his grand outdoor experiences. It’s in the open air where his glass comes fully alive, enveloped by light, whether it be through electricity or the natural sun’s blaze. As Chihuly likes to say, “The magic is the light.” We’d add that the more natural the light is, the more magical it becomes.

Mastering his distinct glass-blowing techniques while establishing his name as its own brand are the two things Chihuly has been remarkably good at. One of his key branding strategies has been to forge collaborations described as “Chihuly-inspired collaborative art events”. Whether informally with art schools where students are encouraged to create work inspired by Chihuly’s distinct design style, or with museums where reputable restaurants collaborate to create “Chihuly-inspired evenings” replete with colourful culinary dishes, the end result always compliments his work and seeks to engage with the greater public – both brand-enhancing efforts. Though unquestionably, Chihuly-inspired events serve more as social gatherings rather than revenue-generating endeavors.

Atrium with Dale Chihuly
Chihuly's Ikebana Boat

Ultimately, all well-executed art collaborations result in increased publicity and greater revenues for the brands or organizations and artists involved. Chihuly’s are no different. Even if his approach to art collaboration is at its heart more communal than commercial, the end result is increased awareness and publicity, which is good for the bottom lines of all involved – the institution (be it a museum, school or restaurant), and of course the artist himself.

At Arts & Labour, we admire and appreciate the integrity and grass roots nature of Chihuly-inspired collaborative events. Unlike more overtly commercial art collaborations, his events are about forging long-lasting bonds rather than gaining instant results. And in the end, his steady and purposeful collaborative approach has a valuable branding lesson to teach: patience.

Dale Chihuly’s exhibition can be seen at the ROM in Toronto till January 8, 2017.

08/
11/
16

Two Brave Brands

As we all know, brands must live and breathe innovation to stay relevant. But the practice is not as much about marketability or promoting allure as one might think; it is in reality, more about fostering authenticity. For innovation to ring true to consumers, it must come from the core of the brand, rooted in a thoughtful and continuous process of genuine rebirth – or it risks feeling like a desperate gimmick. This process is anything but easy, and worth applauding when brands have the bravery to do it well. Today, we’ll highlight two brands that have shown their mettle in spades. Both are European and internationally celebrated; while one is much younger than the other, both are achieving innovation in ways that speak volumes artistically, socially, culturally and economically.

T-O-O-G-O-O-D: ART-MINDED DESIGN
Available at the busy Dover Street Market in London and in countries like France, Switzerland, Kuwait, Japan, China, Korea and Canada, the namesake-clothing brand of Faye Toogood is an ongoing project of the British artist and fashion designer. Her academic training in fine arts coupled with her hands-on experience in the magazine industry has been a major force behind both of her practices: art and fashion.

Collaborating with like-minded individuals and organizations, as well as participating in prestigious design festivals, Toogood has been integrating both of her disciplines quite seamlessly. Fusing her sculptural work with fashion, and applying a discriminating, multi-dimensional, artistic sensibility, she has been pushing the boundaries of her craft not only aesthetically, but also socially and politically. And her brief but sharp manifestos couldn’t be any clearer about Toogood’s moral convictions, in case anyone should wonder. At Arts & Labour, we enjoy the courageous and truly inspiring forward motion Faye Toogood’s work exemplifies.

CEASELESS COLLABORATIONS: IITTALA
Known for its everyday household objects, iittala, has been inspiring lovers of good design with its elegant functionality since the 19th century, and continues to do so today. It’s clear by their actions that iitalla’s enthusiasm is for making perfectly desirable objects more than it is for making marketplace noise.

Since its beginnings, the brand has focused its efforts on collaborating with an impressive array of visionary international designers and growing its reputation not only in Finland, but also across continents. Their most recent collaboration with the Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake, notable for his innovative work with pleats, has culminated in a collection of high-quality ceramics, glass and home textiles titled Pause for Harmony. Iittala’s Scandinavian sensibilities united with Miyake’s expression of Japanese serenity went even further. The collaboration was launched with a series of art installations allowing consumers to experience the story behind the collaboration in a peaceful and harmonious way, making its mark quietly, yet deeply as iittala prefers.

Bravo to both brands. Your nerve and authenticity inspire us.

18/
10/
16

It’s Time to Reinvent the Trade Booth

As much as brands pour their energy into the things they sell, it’s a mistake to think that those products alone will make a trade show booth stand out, no matter how new or innovative those products are. If you’ve ever walked the dizzying miles of a trade show floor and experienced the visual exhaustion than sets in soon after the first or second aisle of product display after product display, you might agree that it’s time for a rethink.

Let’s put ourselves in an attendee’s shoes for a moment. What would one be more likely to notice – a booth that looks like yet another displaced product showroom, or a dynamic installation with a story to tell? A visually striking site installation with a narrative that demonstrates a brand’s environmental, cultural or social relevance, perhaps?

Brands traditionally think of trade shows as a way to promote their products to their industry. But if instead, we perceived trade shows as an opportunity to demonstrate a brand’s relevance to society, those brands would give people a more compelling reason to consider their products. Instead of just replicating a showroom, lets think of the trade booth as a “hook” and aim to reel guests in with a story that inspires.

Imagine if the famed Swedish brand Hästens left their stunning beds behind and instead collaborated with a designer on an art installation incorporating their iconic blue check. Or if Knoll collaborated with a sculptor to create an oversized mid-century modern Bertoia chair, large enough to walk under, Gulliver’s Travels style? Their booths would not only stand out, but also become something delightful to make noise about.

You may be thinking, “That sounds expensive,” or, “Only big brands can afford big booths with powerful installations.” But if you ask us, small is not the problem. Lack of imagination is the problem. The size of a booth does not have to dictate the size of our ideas, resourcefulness or creativity. Small brands have a tendency to – but absolutely shouldn’t – think small. Interesting ideas and self-assured vision have a way of standing out, despite square footage.

The American avant-garde composer John Cage once observed, “I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” Yet, doing something unconventional to get noticed can be intimidating. In fact, brands (and the humans behind them) can be equally afraid to stand out as they are to get noticed. But if we let the fear of loosing existing customers govern us completely, we resign ourselves to the same-old, safe, cookie-cutter approach that is sure to exhaust all our tired eyes at the next trade show.

In our next post we’ll look at brands that have been courageous about taking on risks, have reaped their just rewards and are encouraging others to do the same.

hästens trade show booth
hästens trade show booth
Knoll trade show booth
Knoll trade show booth
ROBERT THERRIEN’s monumental sculpture
ROBERT THERRIEN’s monumental sculpture
ROBERT THERRIEN’s monumental sculpture
ROBERT THERRIEN’s monumental sculpture
Lee Broom LIGHTS exhibition display
Lee Broom LIGHTS exhibition display
Brunner group SEATING EXHIBITION display
Brunner group SEATING EXHIBITION display

06/
09/
16

The Spark of an Idea: A Story

The search for fresh design ideas often leads us to the most unexpected of places. And as most creative people know, the best ideas are usually hidden in either the most obvious or the least expected places.

On my recent visit to Italy, I spontaneously ventured to San Gimignano, a small hill town in Tuscany, located just south of Florence. While appreciating its medieval architecture, something I wasn’t expecting caught my eye—an off-duty ambulance team navigating through one of the streets of this delightful town. It was a group of Italian paramedics – but instead of typical drab uniforms, they were dressed in stylish ocean blue sweaters with fluorescent green stripes across the long sleeves, expertly matched with fluorescent green pants. It was an image fit for a cutting-edge fashion magazine, if only I’d had the guts and forethought to take it. On the other hand, even better than a photograph, it could also have been an idea for a future prêt a porter collection worthy of Prada or another high-end fashion brand. Or even better, in the popular world of brand collaborations, an collab idea for San Gimignano Hospital and let’s say, the revolutionary Japanese fashion house Undercover or the French fashion brand Vetements. Perhaps the collaboration could benefit a cause both the hospital and the fashion house share an affinity for. Sign me up, I say!

As my excursion through San Gimignano continued, I couldn’t help but keep my eye out for ambulance service teams. Next time around, I’d definitely be more than ready to use my camera and capture these stylishly uniformed paramedics. Regretfully, none of the ambulance teams I spotted after my first sighting were wearing ‘my uniforms’ of blue sweaters with fluorescent green stripes. As my anticipation kept growing, I accidentally found myself at the front door of San Gimignano Emergency Services. To my astonishment, a group of uniformed paramedics was sitting around, taking a likely well-deserved break. I cautiously walked in, with my camera in hand, ready to capture what I’d wished I’d captured on my first sighting: ‘my uniforms’. Alas, once again, none of the paramedics were wearing them. They were however, looking at me eagerly, curious to find out the reason for my visit.

Not speaking their language, I pointed to their uniforms and then at a few other uniforms piled up behind where they were sitting. I was hoping to find out whether they had the uniform I was looking for stored somewhere — one that I could photograph or maybe even purchase? Not surprisingly, my attempts to communicate this fairly complicated idea were fruitless. The paramedics looked at me and then at each other for what seemed embarrassingly like forever. Finally, one of them got up, eagerly indicating that he understood. Hallelujah!

He pointed at his two colleagues who were sitting beside him to get up and to pose for me. Oh no, I thought to myself! They think I want to take their photograph, being a tourist of strange fancies. Stunned and polite, I pointed my camera at them and snapped the picture. They laughed with a relieved expression of ‘mission accomplished’, while I walked out feeling mortified, but with a heartfelt photograph in my camera of two paramedics in the wrong uniforms.

The moral of the story? Always have your camera handy. And should you ever see a collection of hats, sneakers or dinnerware using a combination of ocean blue and fluorescent yellow stripes, you’ll know where the idea came from. Should you be touring Tuscany in the future, keep your eyes open for the paramedics in ocean blue uniforms. It may inspire something quite different in you.

OFF-WHITE c/o VIRGIL ABLOH™, FW 2015
emergency vehicle, UK­­
Undercover, SS 2016
Police patrol, U.K.
undercover, ss 2016
Emergency Workers, Italy
The friendly Paramedics of San Gimignano Emergency Services
San Gimignano, Tuscany, Italy

07/
06/
16

Salone del Mobile: The Bottom Line

Salone Milano and Milan Design week are exceptional design showcases, primarily thanks to their top-notch organizers. But each and every participating brand, small and large, national and international had something extraordinary to add. Salone Milano seems to magically bring out the best of everyone who wants to play. Whether it was a large brand exhibiting a full new collection or a small brand launching a single product, the sensitivities and sensibilities of each brand could be seen and felt quite intensely.

Undoubtedly, the majority of products launched during the Salone Milano and Milan Design Week had already undergone scrupulous testing before being exposed to the discriminating public eye at the show. As we know, there is a whole gamut of details a successful product needs to embody in order to become aesthetically and functionally desirable. The brands we saw seemed to consider this not once or twice, but endless times before bringing their latest to this international trade exhibition of such enormous reputation and magnitude. In other words, the successful brands, small and large, did their homework with uncompromising diligence. Everything needed to and did go a step beyond to make it there.

It’s a quality that seems to be lacking from numerous other trade shows, including our own Interior Design Show (IDS) or IIDEX hosted annually in Toronto. Most of the trade booths there are short on imagination, while the products themselves lack newness and desirability. The ethos seems to be about being just good enough, rather than being exceptional. Could it be that for the brands participating at Salone Milano, it is more about pride and joy, whereas here it’s about obligation and responsibility?

What drives crowds and generates well-deserved attention is thoughtful artistry, not only when applied to products, but also when applied to the booths themselves. Every item, even the promotional literature, needs to be infused with the power of invisible yet fully present design to withstand the fierce heat of scrutiny that a trade show and design week will generate. Ultimately, that’s the acid test that produces a show that will make people from around the world come year-after-year to experience it. And as the brands at Salone Milano proved, it’s not about deep pockets, but the willingness to stand out – through thoughtfulness, confidence and exceptional creativity.

Let’s be open to learning from them.

In our next post we’ll look at what sparks an idea. See you in September.

marni ballhaus
marni ballhaus
Raw Edges x 5VIE Art + Design
Raw Edges x 5VIE Art + Design
maybe blue Would have been better, site installation
La Triennale di Milano ‘Women in Italian Design’
equilibri, trade booth
La Triennale di Milano ‘Women in Italian Design’

03/
05/
16

Highlights from Milan Design Week

Blending the divide between art, design and architecture is something the organizers of Milan Design Week do quite well. It’s not that most of the products shown during the event, with their artfulness and simplicity, can’t stand alone and deliver potent aesthetic experiences of their own. But more often than not, in addition to their own elegance and beauty, they’re fused with art and elevated from everyday products to objects of desire that convey both meaning and emotion.

From our visit, we’d like to highlight two art-fusion collaborations that stood out, both because they exemplify an invisible divide between art and commerce, and because the resulting product is irresistible in a most distinctive way.

DOLCE&GABANA x SMEG
Inspired by the colourful culture of Sicily, the birthplace of one of the two founding partners, Domenico Dolce, Dolce&Gabana’s bright and bold concepts were not only applied across its SS2016 collection, but also extended to fellow Italian brand Smeg; a brand known for its sleek and stylish home appliances, especially refrigerators. Even though each brand represents a different functional platform, they share similar backgrounds, values and a tradition of being proudly ‘Made in Italy’.

The result of the collaboration was a capsule collection of 100 numbered Smeg FAB28 refrigerators anointed with the unique Dolce&Gabana visual style; a unique combination of Smeg’s quality and technology and Dolce&Gabana’s creativity and artisan workmanship. Each refrigerator featured images of lemons, wooden wheels, battle scenes and marionettes by Sicilian artists – all elements that hearken to poetic marionette theatre and traditional wooden Sicilian carts enriched with classical floral motifs. The collaboration was spectacular and with a price to match—100,000 Euros for each of the 100 irresistible refrigerators.

SIMONETTA RAVIZZA x KARTELL
The Italian fashion brand known for its luxurious yet versatile ready-to-wear fur, Simonetta Ravizza collaborated with Kartell, the Italian maker of contemporary plastic chairs, to design a window installation for the Milano Design & Fashion Week.

The collaboration culminated in blending Kartell’s iconic Ghost chairs with a limited and numbered edition of 30 Furrissima bags. Every one of the 30 Furrissimas was a result of a constant research, transformation and intense experimentation, each with unexpected and never repeated details. All made in Italy and adored across Europe, the whimsical bags, with playfully integrated pieces of fur and a variety of patterned canvases, were love at first sight for us and so many others, evidenced by the fact that they sold out pretty much instantly. Bravo Simonetta Ravizza!

In the next post, we’ll take a closer look at what makes Milan Design Week so magical.

Salone del Mobile Milano
Salone del Mobile Milano
Dolce&Gabana x Smeg
Dolce&Gabana x Smeg
Dolce&Gabana x Smeg
Dolce&Gabana x Smeg
Simonetta Ravizza x Kartell
Simonetta Ravizza x Kartell
Simonetta Ravizza x Kartell
Simonetta Ravizza x Kartell

08/
03/
16

Art fusion: Mistakes to Avoid

Jun Takahashi, the founder and designer behind the Japanese avant-garde label Undercover and known for his rather original tagline “We Make Noise, Not Clothes”, has become wary of art collaborations. For Takahashi, many of the collaborations he sees are mere marketing gimmicks. Consequently, the ones he chooses to engage his brand with must go deeper: “What all [our] collaborations have in common is that they make it possible to do something that we cannot do as Undercover. It’s more like friendships and shared interests, and taking advantage of each other’s resources,” he says.

Clearly for Undercover, it’s not about collaborating for ‘collaboration’s sake’. But how many art or design collaborations happen for exactly that reason? How many take something that is meant to be genuine and relevant and perhaps inadvertently, cause it to become insincere and uninspiring instead? Unfortunately, the number of less-than-original, less-than-relevant and alas, less-than-desirable art collaborations has been on the rise. Sadly, it’s a misused opportunity not only for the brands, but also for the artists and designers involved.

Normally, we like to focus our attention on dynamic and desirable art-fusion collaborations that work well. However this time, we’d like to turn our eye to a few collaborations we thought didn’t quite make it.

1800 TEQUILA & KEITH HARING: ESSENTIAL ARTIST BOTTLE SERIES
For the limited-edition capsule collection of six collaborative bottles, 1800 Tequila partnered with the Keith Haring Foundation to give a new platform to Haring’s revered socio-political work. It followed their previous release of Jean Michael Basquiat’s capsule collection. The extent of each collaboration was to wrap 1800 Tequila bottles, quite predictably, in different kinds of artwork. No wonder some of the comments posted on social media were unenthused: “I love Basquiat and Haring as much as the next guy, but can we stop using their art on the most ridiculous products? In fact, let’s stop using it on clothing while we’re at it… “ And to add to the project’s lack of originality, the 1800 Tequila press releases announced each new artist’s bottle series by only replacing the participating artist’s name with the next. Taking a too simplistic approach to an art-fusion collaboration can often result in cynicism – something to avoid we say.

ETSY & WHOLE FOODS MARKET: INGREDIENTS FOR CREATIVITY
The reusable grocery bag produced in collaboration by Whole Foods and Etsy was to promote ‘ingredients & creativity.’ Yet instead, it ended up promoting ‘staleness and predictability’, so to speak. Why not truly collaborate and rather than simply printing on a conventional grocery bag, why not reinvent a bag from scratch, or deconstruct the existing one and turn the expected into the unexpected instead? A bag with a shape that’s less traditional and with art that’s less predictable; a bag that’s double-sided, with art on the inside as well as on the outside; a bag that’s ready to go places beyond a grocery store. Wouldn’t we all have loved it?

SECOND CUP COFFEE ARTIST SERIES: CREATIVITY, OPTIMISM & COLLABORATION
The series of three artist coffee cups was a collaboration that unfortunately started with an already predictable idea. By using a conventional, all-too-familiar paper cup, the collaboration had very little room left to play with newness and originality. Instead of “holding an original” which was the series theme, it was rather about holding ‘the same old’ only in different wrapping. We’re big fans of the Second Cup brand and feel optimistic their next art collaboration will push the boundaries further.

The lesson learned? Art collaborations are not about re-packaging. No matter how attractive, it’s still just wrapping. The key ingredient to a successful art-fusion collaboration is having a strong desire to challenge conventions to promote newness and desire. No small task, we say. Art collaborations have been around for a long time now, and the most memorable ones seem so effortless – what we have to remember is that the process behind each is filled with herculean efforts to achieve originality. And it’s that sort of effort that produces a product that’s so rewarding at the end.

In our next post we’ll take a look at refreshingly different city guides. We’ll see you then.

JUN TAKAHASHI’S UNDERCOVER
JUN TAKAHASHI’S UNDERCOVE
UNDERCOVER x UNIQlO
UNDERCOVER x NIKE
1800 Tequila x Jean Michael Basquiat
1800 Tequila x Jean Michael Basquiat
Second Cup Coffee Artist Series
Etsy x Whole Foods Market

16/
02/
16

The Art of the Trade Booth

Attending a trade show can be a stimulating experience. The sheer number of booths filled with all the latest and greatest can fill one with anticipation and excitement. However, when very few booths go beyond the traditional design formula, visiting a trade show can become monotonous and leave one physically fatigued and emotionally uninspired. Not the experience businesses hope for when they invest in booth space.

But how difficult is it to design a booth with an engaging story to tell? Woodlove, a curated space at the latest Interior Design Show in Toronto (IDS16) had many. Thanks to the unconventionality of the booth design, all the incorporated products made every visitor’s heart open up. Most likely their wallets as well, as the concept of the space was to help consumers identify and purchase locally made wood products. What the Woodlove booth had ultimately done was encourage imagination—it told a true Canadian story in an environment we could all fantasize about. Who would not smile at that?

Woodlove was a collaborative project between a multi-disciplinary design practice Citizens and Collaborators and the governmental agency Ontario Wood. The space paid homage to Canada’s heritage and “wood’s role in shaping our diverse history”. The irresistible wood cabin that was central to the display represented not only the spirit of the Canadian landscape, but also the essence of Canadian northern elegance that we seldom get to see together.

Undoubtedly, Woodlove was created with a budget that many small brands simply don’t have. Modest budgets are one of the main reasons trade show booths have become ubiquitously bland and undifferentiated from one trade show to the next. However the Woodlove space capably delivered a couple of crucial lessons for other exhibitors to take away, regardless of budget.

FIRST, PROMOTING CURIOSITY & NOT PRODUCTS IS WHAT GETS ATTENTION. Whether in social media or directly on trade show floors, word-of-mouth is hard to beat. When promoting products or services, it is the context that matters, as much as the content. For example, displaying a door handle integrated in thought-provoking and imaginative surroundings is much more enticing and eye-catching than a door handle displayed on a panel with a bunch of other door handles leading nowhere.

SECOND, STORIES, NOT PRODUCT DISPLAYS ARE WHAT MAKE US CURIOUS & WANT TO TELL OTHERS. For example, a door handle on a door made of gingerbread will immediately remind us of the Hansel and Gretel story and connect us with our own childhood memories of the legendary fairytale. It can be as simple as that, or as complex as we’d like it to be. Needless to say, the spirit of a gingerbread door could transform a basic trade show booth into a world of magic, just like the Woodlove space turned a few square meters of tradeshow floor space into the magical north.

Bottom line? Trade show booths need to become vibrant storybooks to spark our imaginations and impress us enough to tell others about them. Brand managers need to think beyond displaying their products to create the magic consumers desire. Finding the right design collaborators is in many cases, all that it takes. After all, it’s the stories that stick in our heads, not the business cards or marketing booklets we’ll come back to when all is said and done.

In our next post we’ll turn our eye to a few collaborations we thought didn’t quite make it. See you then.

Habitat For Humanity – Brick For Brick campaign for IDS16
Habitat For Humanity – Brick For Brick campaign for IDS16
ROLLOUT’s art collabs Wallpaper space for ids16
ROLLOUT’s art collabs Wallpaper space for ids16
WOODLOVE By CITIZENS AND COLLABORATORS for IDS16 (photo by Peter Sellar)
WOODLOVE By CITIZENS AND COLLABORATORS for IDS16 (photo by Peter Sellar)
WOODLOVE By CITIZENS AND COLLABORATORS for IDS16 (photo by Peter Sellar)
WOODLOVE By CITIZENS AND COLLABORATORS for IDS16 (photo by Peter Sellar)
WOODLOVE By CITIZENS AND COLLABORATORS for IDS16 (photo by Peter Sellar)
WOODLOVE By CITIZENS AND COLLABORATORS for IDS16 (photo by Peter Sellar)

02/
02/
16

So an Artist & an Opera Singer Walk into a Bar …

Have you ever wondered what happens to all the props after a large stage performance, like, say an opera, is over and done with? Dean Baldwin, a Canadian artist known for blurring the line between art and life, had a plan. For the 2015 Feature Art Fair in Toronto, which took place for the second time at the Toronto historical building that houses the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre, Baldwin most fittingly fabricated an art installation with objects and accouterments from the Canadian Opera Company’s seldom seen arsenal of props.

Baldwin’s plan was not only to educate visitors about the Feature Art Fair’s unique location, but also to stimulate and engage them in a much larger dialogue on arts and culture. All that in a style that one would expect from a collaboration between four high-integrity Arts partners: a Canadian artist renowned for creating highly participatory art – Dean Baldwin; Canada’s largest opera company – Canadian Opera Company; Calgary’s largest privately funded non-commercial art gallery dedicated to the advancement of contemporary art – Esker Foundation; and one of Canada’s leading contemporary art fairs – Feature Art Fair.

The site-specific installation, titled quite appropriately ‘The Hoard’, included a bar that was serviced by the artist himself. ‘The Hoard’ opened daily between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m., after the art fair’s ‘Feature Talks’ lectures wrapped up, and served as a meeting place for fair’s visitors’ informal discussions. A marriage made in heaven shall we say?

The Hoard offered an experience that was not only artful, but also educational and mostly quite unique. Engaging with fellow art goers in further conversation while sipping a glass or two of bubbly in a room tastefully furnished with props representing a wide range of historic periods, from Ancient Greece to Post-modernism is an experience that’s hard to forget.

Still the most unforgettable aspect of the collaboration was the seized opportunity by the four partners in the first place. The multi-dimensional partnership provided a platform for a collaboration that resulted in an exceptional experience. With subtlety and sophistication, it promoted an enlightening and stimulating program that spoke highly and widely of all four partners involved and to everyone who joined in.

In our next post we’ll offer a couple of crucial lessons on designing trade show booths that spark our imaginations. See you then.

the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre, TORONTO, CANADA
the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre, TORONTO, CANADA
THE MAIN ENTRANCE TO the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre, TORONTO, CANADA
THE MAIN ENTRANCE TO the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre, TORONTO, CANADA
Dean Baldwin’S THE HOARD (close up)
Dean Baldwin’S THE HOARD