06/
03/
18

Time to Trade Booths
for Space Installations

In the age of social media, it’s become a thing of the past for brands to use trade shows to unveil new products. Gone are the days when attendees and exhibitors alike would go to a trade show expecting to get a first glimpse at the newest an industry has to offer. But if all that’s needed these days is a strategically planned Instagram, Facebook and Twitter post, are trade shows still relevant? Are trade shows needed at all?

Tokujin Yoshioka x LG light up Milano design week 2017

We’d suggest that they still are, but that the point of a trade show has evolved. Attending one is no longer about staying abreast of the latest product launches or the “booth hopping” approach of the past. Today, it’s more about savouring the whole fair experience. An amalgam of checking out a handful of breathtaking space installations, rubbing elbows with like-minded patrons, listening to one or two international celebrity speakers and sampling a few high-profile food vendors. It’s safe to say, trade show organizers have had to rethink their strategies to ensure their fairs stay well attended.

For example, attracting brands that not only want to show their products, but tell a relevant story to attendees, or even better, sponsor one, has become one of the critical strategies trade show organizers have been considering. Encouraging brands to show up with unorthodox booth designs worthy of social media attention, or inviting them to collaborate with artist collectives to help them design exceptional spaces where attendees can get fully inspired and rewarded have become the new holy grail. For trade show organizers, the idea of people leaving the show with nothing but memorable spectacles and unique experiences to share with their followers is now one of the biggest accomplishments that can be imagined.

Prototype Research_Series 02 Garment Dyed Dyneema by Stoneisland, 2017
Decode/Recode by Luca Nichetto & Ben Gorham for Salviati, 2017

Furthering the evolution of the trade show is the belief among those in the know that attendees are more likely remember a noteworthy space than a brand’s latest gadget. Norm Lehman of Syke Inc, a consulting firm for small businesses, suggested while looking at Swedish car maker Volvo’s booth during the latest Interior Design Show in Toronto, “Instead of showing off one of their shiny cars, why not sponsor the public area sitting next to their booth? Why not become part of something larger, a space with an experience that will stand out and be remembered?”

It’s not lost on brands or organizers that trade shows offer many expanding possibilities that need to be tapped into in order to get the best possible return on investment. Partnering with like-minded brands or creative professionals to design spaces worthy of collective awareness is just one of the many alternatives we’re starting to see. After all, trade shows have never been simply about launching new products, but new ideas, perspectives and experiences.

09/
01/
18

Making Common
Spaces Uncommon

Whether you’re a writer, scientist, designer, architect or construction worker, all of us like to speculate about the future. We like to imagine the future as not only mysterious, but also as an extraordinary event.

IDS18 ad-series featuring Rollout’s graphics
Rollout x Robert Sangster Colourinky for IDS 2017

Future Fantastic is the theme of the upcoming Interior Design Show (IDS) in Toronto. It will be celebrating its 20th anniversary, a milestone not only for the organizers, but also its supporters. One of them is Jonathan Nodrick, the creative director and owner of Toronto-based multi-disciplinary design studio Rollout, previously a frequent IDS exhibitor, and now a fully-converted and enthusiastic sponsor. Exploring the future, whether through unorthodox wallpaper coverings or space installations, is something Jonathan has become passionate about. It is one of the reasons he signed up Rollout to design the common spaces for the show. “When the IDS crew asked us to design one of the five common areas for their upcoming Toronto show, I simply replied, why not all five?”, explains Jonathan.

Jonathan Nodrick, the CEO & Creative Director of Rollout Inc.
Shattered Light, Rollout x Brent Comber

Intending to make the common truly uncommon – yet exceptionally communal – Jonathan has extended the challenge to his creative allies across North America, inviting them to collaborate with him and his Toronto studio on this wild venture.

Resolving the typical dilemma of working within a small budget but with super-high expectations, creative collaboration was the most sensible road to take. By engaging with other like-minded professionals, artists, scientists, designers and educators, Jonathan was able to hand-pick his unorthodox team members. Or rather, he succeeded in envisioning a possibility that everyone wanted to be part of. Yet, developing ideas with such a variety of métiers can be a challenge of its own. What’s more, working with teams dispersed across the continent makes working as a team that much more demanding.

From Rollout’s 5 common spaces for IDS18, plus & minus
From Rollout’s 5 common spaces for IDS18, alone & together

Fast forward to the final week before the opening night party. Each team has now developed their design direction stemming from the creative brief developed by Rollout’s Toronto studio. Each team has presented their detailed drawings to Jonathan and ultimately to the IDS crew for their final sign off. Each team has handed their final renderings over to Toronto where all required production and fabrication has started to materialize.

Without giving away the concepts for each of the spectacular designs, one can line up for a drink or toasted panini at the Metro Convention Centre in Toronto from January 18 to 21 and explore one or two of the (un)common spaces and the parallels each represents: One & Many, Inside & Outside, Loud & Quiet, Alone & Together or Here & There. Also, make sure to secure one of the limited-edition graphic posters designed in collaboration with one of the Rollout’s collaborating artists available at each of the five (un)common spaces.

The 20th Interior Design Show is on from January 18 to 21, 2018 at the Metro Convention Centre in Toronto.

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

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)