The Influence of Architecture on Exhibit Design

While walking around a show floor during a convention, I am always wondering where people get their design ideas.  Possibly because I am curious to know what motivates people to design great exhibits and displays.  Or perhaps I want to know why I didn’t come up with idea myself.  Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, an American writer said, “There are no original ideas. There are only original people.”  I believe this.  Therefore, I try to be original but build on multiple people’s ideas .  A lot of times I find architecture to be an excellent starting point.  I also see the influences of architecture in other designers work.  Below are some of my favorite examples.

Often, I see technology being borrowed from architecture to make exhibits.  One very old example of this is the Crystal Palace.  Built by Joseph Paxton for the 1851 World’s Fair in London, this building was made using cutting-edge technology during the Industrial Revolution.  It used prefabricated cast iron components, inspired by its precursor, The Victoria Regia House.  He designed it using an on-center grid; therefore each beam was either the same as the previous one or half, or twice its size. After the Great Exhibition, the building already 92,000 m² was dismantled and rebuilt on a larger scale in a new location which eventually burned down in 1936.  AGAM’s set of beams and posts and its grid system are definitely inspired from this particular approach.

A more recent example would be the use of fabric.  Fabric is light weight which makes it easy to transport and easy to use.  Now, fabric has been around for a long time and the use of it to make walls and ceilings is certainly not original.  A good example of the use of fabric (but certainly not the first time it was used in building architecture) is the Sails Pavilion in San Diego.  I have personally seen it and can say it is beautiful.  Fabric is one example that I think the exhibit design industry has expanded on and has made it its own.  The silicon edge graphics, known for short as SEG, was made specifically for the exhibit and display industry and is definitely an evolving trend in design.   AGAM continues to expand on this product with introducing new extrusions and accessories for its use.

Sometimes, it’s not a specific piece of architecture that inspires us but it’s the style of architecture instead.  This booth from the 2010 SEMA Show, that AGAM helped build, was made to look like a 50’s diner.  The sharp angles of the roof, along with the colors and accessories (and cars) are iconic and unforgettable.  Thanks PPG.

The next time you’re at a show, take some time to look around and think about the design of booths.  Take notice by observing the crowds.  Follow the way they walk and the pattern of their eyes.  I personally was amazed to notice that a design gets only a few seconds of wandering eyes.  If it is eye-catching, you will notice the movement of the individual’s feet slow down to it becoming erratic.  This is when design wins.

A lot of time and effort goes into creating these one-of-a-kind works of art.  If you’ve read this far, you are obviously interested in exhibit design.  Comments on this blog are welcome.  Perhaps you’ve seen something I missed.  Or maybe you disagree with something I said.  The feedback is always appreciated.

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