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Design in a changing trade show world


AuthorThe State of Design in the Exhibit World
With another Trade Show peak season behind us the second one fast approaching I was wondering about the state of design in our industry. What will be the future of exhibiting? How will your business look in 5 years? These are all questions we should start asking ourselves. First we should take some time to observe what’s happening now. I asked Mark Bendickson, Veteran designer and Principal of Exhibit Design for his thoughts on the subject – What’s the state of Design?

Gary Camarato
Vice President of Marketing & Creative Development
Optima Graphics, Inc.
Author

When Gary asked me what I thought about the state of exhibit design in a changing trade show world, I sat and thought for a bit. I am assuming that he meant the trade show world in the US, since that is where most of Optima’s customers are, just as G! would probably have an audience with a very different point of view. So, I began mulling it over and while I thought I found myself humming Pete Seeger’s “Little boxes” to myself. For those of you that are younger, it is the theme song to “Weeds” on Showtime. You know, the one whose lyrics are;

“There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.”

And that, in a nutshell, is what I think the state of exhibit design has become, mainly because very few in this business truly understand what design is. Design is a solution to a problem, or as Steve Jobs so eloquently put it “design is not how something looks, it is how something works”. There is a reason that when Exhibitor Magazine has its annual design awards that US firms do not dominate. It’s because in Europe a design firm, and their service, is a separate consideration than the building of the stand. They realize that design is the solution to a challenge facing their business. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of talented firms in the US that do great work (Czarnowski and Palumbo Associates come to mind) because they have people there at the top of the food chain that revere good design, who insist on the very best solutions for their clients. These exceptional firms know that effective design is what sets them apart, amazes their clientele and gets results that can be measured, not something that you give away for free to get business like 2 for 1 drinks in a bar on ladies night.

AuthorIn ‘The Art of Looking Sideways’ by Alan Fletcher, he posits that there are two type of problem solvers. Some are helicopters, they float around a problem looking at it from every angle, zooming up high to see it from 30,000 feet, and zooming down beside it to examine it from close up. They look at every possible angle. The others are vending machines, they drop in the coins, pick the solution on the shelf that most closely matches the problem at hand, and takes whatever drops out of the bottom.

And that, my friends, is what I think is the state of exhibit design today. Too few helicopters, and way too many vending machines.

Mark Bendickson
Exhibit Design

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  1. July 6, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    I think this hits on several excellent points. One huge problem that I see all the time is that too many clients seek out “vending machines” instead of “helicopters” and the design world is forced to meet that demand. In general, it seems like more and more clients want things done cheaper and quicker. Not to mention the rampant outbreak of DIY design.

    —Every time a client says, “Can’t you just Photoshop it?” a designer dies somewhere.

  2. November 21, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    Agreed; Design plays an important role in trade shows and exhibits. It should be based on the theme and purpose.

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