Octanorm Design Contest 2013 - a recap

Every two years Octanorm Canada hosts a conference for partners who use the German display system.   They introduce new extrusions & displays, present improvements they have made, host round table discussions, and also a design competition.

The rental booths (and some purchased ones) that we custom design for our clients are built using this German display system.  Unlike your traditional shell schemes provided by show contractors, most of our exhibits incorporate both rental and custom elements.  Unique laminates, custom millwork and customized lighting solutions, give our rental booths a look and feel that sets our clients apart from other exhibitors.

Here are some of the designs we submitted for 2013. 
We won for the 'Exhibits under 400 sq. ft.' & 'Exhibit over 1000 sq. ft.' :

For entries from previous years feel free to visit the Octanorm website: Design Contest.

Event photos just in - Staples Back2School

Microsoft and Lenovo Canada are showcasing their products at the Staples Back2School event today.  It is all about the experience: Trainers showcased the devices in a library, living room,  bedroom, cafe, office and lecture hall. 

The exhibit spaces are based on 10' x 10' footprints.  The interior design & staging for these themed environments was focused on showcasing their devices being used in the real world. The printed backgrounds are not photographs, they are 3D environments we created, rendered in Cinema 4D & VRay, and printed specifically for these displays.

The Living Room


The Office


The Bedroom


The Library


The Cafe


The Lecture Hall

Lecture Hall.jpg

More event photos here:

Greenbuild has got me thinking about green exhibiting

I came across the link to the upcoming Greenbuild 2012 show in San Francisco and I found myself thinking about any changes, developments or advances when it comes to green exhibiting.  
Yes, we are an exhibit house and I feel like it is our responsibility to be a leader in this space, but like everyone else we have to keep educating ourselves.  
So...curious and excited, I did some research.

To be honest I did not come across anything that was as amazing as I had hoped.  However, I was still happy to find that there are more and more options for, and suppliers of:

  • Recycled Aluminum Extrusions

  • Bamboo products (flooring/infill panels)

  • water-based, low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound), and VOC Free stains and paints

  • Fabrics made from recycled materials

  • Graphics that are recycled, recyclable, or made from recycled pop bottles

  • Eco-glass (made from 100% recycled material) instead of acrylic

  • Eco-carpets

  • LED lighting instead of incandescents, fluorescents or halogens

  • Refurbishing existing exhibits

  • Recycling retired exhibit components

(to our blog readers - please feel free to share any green products for exhibits or trade shows that I have not yet had the pleasure of coming across)

You can check out other eco-friendly exhibit products from Exhibitor Online's 'Green Gallery' 

My feeling is that there are MORE products to choose from today - but I think it's how you manage your exhibit program as a whole that will have a bigger impact. 
I don't mean to sound cynical but I think 'going green' is much more of a lifestyle choice - and not so much about a single eco-friendly bannerstand.  That is why I think what Tom Bowman is promoting with his company  Bowman Global Change is the way we need to take on our green initiatives, they "...help organizations make sustainable transformations."

How can I talk about green initiatives and not bring up costs. I read a comment a U.S. exhibitor wrote about green exhibiting and he said that the only 'green' people see is the additional money they have to spend.  The Exhibitor Magazine survey confirms this:


'In 2007, 73 percent of exhibitors reported they would pay at least a 5-percent premium for Green alternatives, compared to only 60 percent in 2011. Furthermore, the generally higher cost associated with Green materials topped respondents' list of primary obstacles in their path toward going Green, followed closely by the challenges of a weak economy'

[Source: Exhibitor Media Group -  EXHIBITOR Magazine's 2011 Green Exhibiting Survey]

With that said, I'd like to focus our attention again to the overall initiatives we could take to create a more sustainable exhibit program.  A tweet just came through from the IDSA (Industrial Designer's Society America) sharing a seminar entitled 'Improving Products Through Sustainable Design'
"...Learn how to decide on the right strategies for optimizing a product’s life and end-of-life and how to get the most use out of the materials and energy that your product uses throughout its life cycle."

I guess that is how we should think of our exhibits or trade shows.  Not as a one time purchase - but consider your exhibit in the context of your overall Marketing life cycle.  I'm not saying that you shouldn't work with your exhibit house to choose the most socially responsible (and probably more expensive) materials and products for your booth - I'm just suggesting that you also consider the impact of shipping, number of staffers attending, printed materials for your show, and tackle these along with designing and building a sustainable exhibit.


I'll leave you with this excerpt from Invista's 'non-booth concept' press release for Greenbuild in 2008:

In lieu of shipping a booth and supplies to the show site in Boston, INVISTA created its exhibit with all locally sourced and reclaimed materials, based on a minimalist design. Defining the space was a 14-year-old carpet removed recently from a leading Boston-area university, which demonstrated durable performance and the environmental message of the Antron® carpet fiber brand, “Sustainability starts with products that last.”

Vintage furniture greeted visitors along with 1950’s style chalkboards that displayed brand messaging and graphics created onsite by an artist, all sourced locally. All booth materials were reused or donated to local charities after the show. The reclaimed carpet were cut into sample sizes and used by Antron® fiber consultants to demonstrate the lasting texture retention, soil resistance and stain resistance Antron® fiber brings to commercial carpet constructions

 [Source and full article: Invista / Officenewswire]

Staging your home? Staging your exhibit?

I often visit the Houzz site and love looking at beautiful homes, but I often wonder how those owners keep their amazing spaces neat, tidy and free from clutter. Of course most of these houses had interior designers hard at work and it got me thinking about an article I just saw posted by Freshome Design & Architecture; it was about home staging and the impact on the sale of your property.

With Toronto's housing market booming the way it is - I have experienced first hand what a difference it makes to stage your house for sale.  I'm not only suggesting for you to clean your home but have a design savvy friend help you de-clutter your space, rearrange furniture, or even go out and hire a professional stager.  Home buyers will not be able to look past all the 'junk' at the beautiful woodwork, the great pot-lights, or the beautiful kitchen.

I believe the same applies to exhibits.  I started to think about what booths we have done where staging played an important role in making the product or messaging stand out.

I want to share two examples.  The first is Microsoft's 'Home' exhibit for a Future shop event in Whistler.  They had asked us to help create an environment, that not only provided some space for a trainer to talk to a few attendees, but also allowed them to showcase their products in a 'home' setting.   This booth was very different from our usual 'corporate' exhibits and even though we did not go the traditional route of building a small scale house - there was still a lot of staging going on!

The second example I found (and we can't take any credit for the staging!!!) is from Mucci Farms

The first set of images were taken after our installation crews set-up the booth:  you have the carpet down, the exhibit structure up, the lighting, graphics, AV and rental furniture ready for the show.

You can see from the 'before' and 'after' that the booth is fairly plain until all their produce is showcased throughout the space.  The greenhouse vegetables are so vibrant in colour and the Marketing Coordinator did a fantastic job incorporating their product into the staging of their exhibit.   Cushions, vases, bowls, and other accessories were used to complete the look.

 I guess staging is not strictly for your home anymore!

If you want some tips on styling or staging your home (or even exhibit) - you can read the article

"Why Home Staging Could Give You The Edge in The Property Market"

Renting an exhibit - still a popular option

I have this conversation a lot with clients: Why should they rent their exhibit?
Because it makes sense. Not for every exhibitor and not at every event - but in many instances I see our clients benefit from renting instead of buying their exhibit.

We created this advertising piece below (it was a double sided card - so the text below is the back). It summarizes the key reasons for choosing a rental booth.

In essence - it's about flexibility and making your show budget go further. At least that is how I like to look at it.  

Gone are the days when Marketing Managers had 'unlimited' trade show budgets like in this custom exhibit with intricate mill work at the 1893 Chicago World Fair.

1893 Chicago World Fair - Michigan Exhibit (Source:PeriodPaper)

Today we are still focusing on cutting costs, economical solutions, minimizing expenses, and maximizing your show R.O.I.s (while still trying to impress your attendees with an amazing booth!)

We have seen many clients go from a 600 to a 200 square foot space, and vice-versa.   This may be a result of changing Marketing budgets and because they invest in different sized spaces at different shows.  Add another dimension, that these shows don't happen every year, and now what do you do with a booth purchase that only fits the space for one of your four events?

Almost all our clients change their exhibit from one event to the next.  Even if it's just adding seating or a meeting room, changing the layout, enlarging the storage room, or changing the size - you can always make improvements to your booth and I like that a rental exhibit gives you this type of flexibility.

Unless you know that you will be using the same booth, in the exact same configuration for at least 4-5 shows, consider a rental exhibit.  If there are some core elements that can be used at every event and in every size configuration look at a hybrid solution (a combination of custom purchased components + rental components). 

Hybrid solutions give you a little more customisation and unique elements within your rental exhibit.

A lot of our exhibits are a mix of custom elements (purchased) and rental components, like this 20'x20' exhibit we designed for Pure Hothouse. The glowing pedestals, dimensional lit letters, and graphics were custom/purchased components and most of the structure is rented.  That is why you can also see a 10'x20' concept in which a combination of custom components and rental structure is used.  For the 10'x20' they only rent the exhibit structure they need instead of carrying the cost of the full 20'x20' version.


I am sure we will come back to this rental discussion over the lifetime of this blog and even though I can appreciate that a rental exhibit is not the right fit for every company I think renting a custom designed display will continue to be a popular choice.

Exhibit Rendering or Exhibit Photo?

I was looking at an image today and could not tell if it was an artist's rendering OR if it was a photograph.  Today's post is not very serious, nor does it make us experts in the latest design technology - but I believe it does create a little bit more awareness and appreciation. 

As recently as 10 years ago our exhibit designers only sketched and drew booths using pen and paper (As an exhibitor, or even someone hiring an architect to remodel your home, you will probably come across a rendering or two.  Because we are so used to seeing pretty pictures and photographs instantly we often forget the amount of time and effort it takes to create these digital masterpieces.  These drawings bring the booth ideas to life and help us imagine them on the trade show floor.  In the last few years I have truly gained an appreciation for the artistry and technical skills required to develop exhibit renderings or 3D animations.  Hours of work on the designers part leave you with images that are so realistic - the lines between the booth photo and the renderings start to blur.  Here is an example of


2011  exhibit for


2011 annual radiology meeting.  Can you tell which one is the photo?

You can also see Intelerad's 2010 exhibit renderings and photos on our site here

Here are some other cool examples I found: 

Ronen Bekermans - render vs photo review

Setting up Microsoft's 'Shadow Box' booth

I am excited to share the installation video of Microsoft's 'Shadow Box' exhibit!  

This video was filmed using time lapse and took almost 1600 photos in a span of ~ 8 hours.

Two 10'x20' custom designed walls made up this 20'x20' booth. 

Although the columns in the venue made it difficult to find a good spot for the camera - we were able to capture the set-up of one of the walls. 

It took a crew a full day to install the carpet, exhibit structure, signage, lighting, AV and one day later it was all dismantled again.  If you every wondered what it takes to set up an exhibit here is an example:

Microsoft 'Shadow Box' exhibit Installation