Trade Show TalesBlog

SEGD (Society for Experiential Graphic Designers) Conference Notes

June 24th, 2016 COMMENTS

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John Zipay, GM of Exhibits Northwest (Observations)

Last week, I attended SEGD (Society for Experiential Graphic Designers) in Seattle.

The speakers covered topics from Landscapes & Way Finding Signage to Crafting Experiences & Shaping Space with Art. Each topic gave me insights into the creative process. Typically, the artist starts with an idea that evolves into something similar but different during the fulfillment process.

IMG_2076As the creative energies flow, the artist makes changes to get the look they want. More often, it’s the trial and error, the missteps along the way that creates something extraordinary. In other words, their failures contribute to their success. Attending SEGD allowed to take a deeper look into the creative world and understand the importance of creative failure as a stepping stone to creative success.

My brain sees the world as a square grid with capital letters and dollar signs. As a result, I have never been very good at managing designers. SEGD provide me with insights into their world. Going forward, I plan to create an environment that fosters creativity and that allows designers to tap into organic uses of a space, whether exhibits or corporate environments.

While at SEGD, I met with vendors at NEXPO, the conference for directional signage and substrates. Just like in our world, LED’s are the wave of the future in signage and substrates. In the trade show business, large backlit fabric lightboxes grab the most attention on the show floor. This is also true in the world of SEGD. I discovered signage companies backlighting 3-D acrylic letters, plastic-formed logos, and graphics.

Finally, I attended the SEGD Seattle Chapter Networking bash where I talked with local Seattle architects and other creative agencies, including a great conversation with a firm working on the Seattle Waterfront development. I was intrigued by the process of how they incorporate so many creative ideas into functional space planning along the Seattle Waterfront. For example, just imagine the time and spacial studies involved to ensure views of Mt. Rainer and the “Pikes Place” sign are maintained.

Katina Rigall, Design Director (Observations)

What a well-done conference! Several Classic employees attended the SEGD “Experience Seattle” Conference from June 9-11. It was well-attended by top professionals in the Experiential Graphic Design community, well-stocked with expert presenters, and well-staffed with knowledgeable personnel.

IMG_2071The “Experience” conference jumps from city to city each year. Last year it was in Chicago. Next year it will be in Miami. It capitalizes on the intrigue of each host city by pulling together historic and present-day experts who discuss the areas’ architecture and large-scale graphics.

Attendees are encouraged to explore the city. Tours of distinctive landmarks, such as the Space Needle, are part of the conference schedule, and restaurant recommendations are readily provided by all the locals – both presenters and attendees.

What a great way to experience a city! I’m from Portland, just a few hours south of Seattle, but I found myself learning so many things and falling in love with the personality of this place, what locals call the “Seattle Spirit.” How cool to be in the home of innovators like Amazon, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Microsoft, and Boeing (in its 100th year of business), just to name a few. Not to mention the valuable networking and education.

So as an exhibit professional, you may be wondering how much of this applies to what we do? Quite a bit actually.

  • Most of the agenda focuses on the large-scale graphics that are applied to built structures in distinctive and informative ways, a.k.a. Experiential Graphic Design. How valuable are well-appointed graphics on a trade show booth? I’m convinced after designing trade show exhibits for nine years now, that booth structures are close to worthless without strong graphics.
  • IMG_2083Quite a few of the presenters shared their expertise with permanent installations, from museum exhibit design to exterior applications of digital and 3D signage. The crossover Classic has experienced in retail and museum projects has steadily grown over the last five years, not to mention exhibitors looking for booth properties that can withstand the outdoor elements.
  • This conference brought together cutting edge architects, installation artists, museum exhibit designers, UX designers, fashion designers, and retail designers, in addition to experiential graphic designers. From a designer’s perspective, any chance to see how other creatives work and what they are doing is beneficial. By bringing together so many different creative mediums, I discovered new ways of approaching design challenges and new technologies. That aspect reminded me of the Gravity Free Conference by EXHIBITOR Magazine for several years which brought together a plethora of design experts to stimulate the cross-pollination of ideas.  The unique element that SEGD’s “Experience” brings is that the experts are all from one specific locale.

Creativity is fluid and crosses a lot of professionals. There is much to be borrowed from the experts in fields adjacent to the exhibit industry. I hope to see you all at next year’s conference.

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Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or www.classicexhibits.com.


 

The Magical Middle of Trade Show Displays

June 22nd, 2016 COMMENTS

The Magical Middle of Trade Show Displays

–Mel White
mel@classicexhibits.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/melmwhite
https://twitter.com/melmwhite

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Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or www.classicexhibits.com.


 

Get Hangry! | Exhibit Furniture Rentals

June 17th, 2016 COMMENTS

Rental Furniture at Trade Shows

This week I discovered a new emotion — Hangry. It’s the moment when you are angry AND happy. It’s a little unsettling at first but then Mr. Happy takes charge, and it’s all cool. Before you ask, yes Oregon has that new “recreational pot law,” but it has nothing to do with that.

Earlier this week, a Classic Distributor sent me two rental furniture screen shots. As you may recall, we launched two Cort Furniture Rental Galleries in Exhibit Design Search about three weeks ago.

Trade Show Furniture RentalsSince then, I’ve gotten calls and emails from distributors that range from excited to bemused. Several said to me, “I don’t get it. I’ve tried to handle furniture rentals for my clients before, but it’s a no-win situation. I do the work and make little to no money.”

The EDS galleries change that. They’re in retail with an average margin of 33%. You order direct from Cort at wholesale and earn the difference between wholesale and retail. Otherwise known as “doing business” in most industries.

Why Should You Care?

At an exhibit industry event in April, I spoke to several I&D labor companies. I asked them, “What percentage of exhibitors rent furniture these days?” I expected them to say 20-30%. They said, “75-90%.” Wow! So, who’s making money on this? The furniture rental folks, of course. But the big bucks are going to the General Service Contractors. The furniture is in the show book, and most exhibitors order directly from them.

So, you would expect the prices to be lower. Or reasonable. Not so my silly friend. The GSC’s do what they do when they know they can do it (ex. drayage charges). They mix a dash of Caveat Emptor with splash of “what the market will bear.” Who can blame them. It’s what quasi-monopolies do.

Again, Why Should You Care?

Two Banana Bar Stool images (screen shots from a Classic Distributor):  One from the GSC at $348.60. The other on EDS at $247.00. Same stool with a wholesale price in the mid-$160’s — a 110% markup for the GSC, and perhaps more depending on the price from the vendor.

Pasted image at 2016_06_17 05_04 PM

Your client could ask you to order it at $348.60 retail. That would be perfect. But more likely your client will order it themselves. Now if you could show them the same bar stool in EDS at over $100 less, then they would definitely order it from you. Why not? You saved them money, made a respectable margin, and have a happy client. That’s everyone’s goal.

Can you count on the GSC’s pricing always being this egregious? No. They vary the prices depending on the show, and they run specials on certain items. However, you now have a very good chance at getting your client’s rental furniture business, if you ask and guide them through the EDS galleries.

So, why was I both angry and happy? I’ve been on the receiving end of high furniture rental prices with no recourse except to pay the price. And I know those high prices damage the perception of trade shows as cost-effective marketing. Happy… Now exhibitors and Classic Distributors have another option, one that benefits both parties. That makes me very, very happy.

Let us know if you have questions about the two new Cort Furniture Rental Galleries in EDS. Don’t see exactly what you need, contact Cort and let them know you are a Classic Exhibits Distributor.

–Mel White
mel@classicexhibits.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/melmwhite
https://twitter.com/melmwhite

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Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or www.classicexhibits.com.


 

What’s New This Summer at Classic Exhibits

June 15th, 2016 COMMENTS

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Redefining the Custom Exhibit | Pat Friedlander

June 8th, 2016 COMMENTS

Custom Exhibits Redefined

Guest Post by Pat Friedlander

When I was new to this industry, I heard the word “Octanorm” bandied about as if it were the last ditch attempt for stingy exhibitors There was no design consideration — just how many panels and how many uprights.

However, on my first trip to EuroShop some 20 years ago, I was stunned when I walked into Hall 9 and saw the Octanorm corporate exhibit. EuroShop opened my eyes. U.S. was unique in advocating box-frame exhibits, exhibits that were crated and stored in warehouses around the country. It was apparent to me that US exhibits were different. They looked stodgy and boxy by comparison.

Systems and the Rest of the World

Between Dusseldorf and Chicago, I became a convert to systems. They looked cool, they allowed for fresh designs, and they were flexible — not hallmarks of box frame construction. Soon after, I invited my friend Kerstin Mulfinger from Burkhardt Leitner to speak at HCEA’s annual meeting about systems.

As various systems proliferated, bits and pieces started to appear on U.S. show floors. Yet the differentiation persisted that there were custom exhibits (i.e., box frame) and there were portable modular systems —  with “systems” viewed as a commodity.

What is a Custom Exhibit?

Custom Exhibits, as the industry generally uses it, is a relic. Today the distinction is anachronistic. Using the term “portable modular” ignores the fact that modularity is not limited to any one type of construction — portable, custom, hybrid, etc. Modularity is related to configuration, not to building materials.

VK-5148gAt an EDPA ACCESS 2015 session, I said, “It’s time to de-commodify systems and redefine what we mean when we say a custom exhibit.” It turned out I wasn’t alone. “Modular components and systems are no longer a commodity item,” said Jay Burkette, vice president, Expo Displays, “but represent building blocks, increasingly used by traditional exhibit houses as an effective way of helping design, manage, and maintain their client’s exhibit properties.”

According to Debbie Parrott, president, Highmark TechSystems, “Some designers are predisposed to think that modular systems should only enter their design tool kits when they are working with an especially cost-conscious client. For those designers, low-cost and creativity are mutually exclusive and systems limit their creativity. This short-sighted view shows a lack of understanding of the realities of our industry and the needs of program clients.”

“Large clients are program clients who benefit from exhibit designs that offer versatility, reconfigurability, fast installation and dismantle – exactly what modular systems address. This perspective also shows a naiveté about the design trends in the global exhibit marketplace where modular systems are used for exhibits that are stunningly creative, brand-distinctive, highly functional, and cost and time efficient. Designers in our industry need to be knowledgeable on this front, and the challenge for those who are modular system proponents is to educate and show designers both the inspiring possibilities and the compelling business case.”

How Do YOU Define “Custom Exhibit”?

Seems to me that we need to arrive at a new definition of “custom exhibit.” If the definition is not about construction methods and materials, perhaps it’s about marketing. What are the goals and objectives of the exhibit program? How does the exhibit fulfill and meet those goals? And about the exhibit:  Is it rental? Is it purchased? Should we differentiate? We plan to continue this discussion at EDPA ACCESS 2016, but in the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Pat Friedlander
pat@word-up.com
773-230-9989

Bio:

Pat Friedlander is a marketer, trainer, and writer in the exhibit industry. She has spent many days and nights on the trade show floor, and has lots of advice about shoes. She has received the HCEA Distinguished Service Award and the EDPA Hazel Hays Award. She lives in Chicago and often answers to Grandma Pat.