Spaces matter. How we feel is affected by where we are. This might be down to our reason for being there or the other people there too. But, the presentation and design of the space in which you are standing will always have a palpable impact on the memories it gives you.
The potential spaces have for inspiring lucid evocation is well known. From roman amphitheatres telegraphing gruesome acoustics to the back row to the philosophical thinking of Feng Shui and the transformational qualities of a space with balanced energy- both of these disciplines still are very old, and very much still practised.
Spaces, rooms and their design have come a long since the Romans of course- although this is (arguably) more by form than function. A well lit, comfortable, functional space is just that – and we have known how to make those for a while.
Hanging-tight to the practises of the past give us room to re-imagine what a space can actually do. Can it transcend function? Artists, curators, agencies and brands have been pushing for an answer to that question over practically countless generational talents.
Thanks to them, we can see the empty room as an empty easel, the walls as the canvas edge and the experience the room can host as persistent, interactive art. Below are some examples of when function has been suspended in favour of pure experience.
As is so often the case when considering branding; space used to communicate a brand message or introduce a product (usually in an expo or ‘retail-theatre’ environment) has to tight-rope along the narrow fence between the functional and evocative.
Functionality in this context is not only to move queues, shift units, unclog bottle-necks, record data, comply with health and safety, stay cool, stay warm, stay clean, be on brand etc. But in the delicate balance of the everyday “nuts and bolts” and creating and delivering an emotional response / experience to the audience, to lift it above the everyday to something truly memorable, where both form and function are in union.
Meanwhile, heavily evocative elements within any event space are quickly sneered at the second they seem to exist for their own sake (think pole-dancers interrupting a demo queue to promote Pokemon)- these are tricky, sometimes cringy waters. What works, (as is so almost ubiquitously true in all great design) is the immaculately timed tango between form and function, experience and comfort, art and science.
Having trotted through three of the big ents shows last year, E3 in LA, Gamescom in Cologne and BLE in London- we have listed our three favourite event spaces from each that both work well and leave a lasting emotional impression by doing this dance well.
Finally, we will finish off with a fly through of our own event work from for Sony PlayStation from last year. But, first on the list of exceptional event stands this year.
Investing in a 20ft tall fibre-glass drake for photo opps is a pretty safe way to make some noise. Further than a dramatic first impression, live actors, (all orcishly clad in full theatrical detail) and impressive ambient sound FX (that never drowned the excitable natterings of those patiently waiting) kept the queue entertained as it snaked into the demo area.
The installation seemed designed to tower above passers-by, casting them in it’s foreboding shadow- like Frodo cricking his neck as his gaze scales Mount Doom, event roamers had little to do but suffer the almost intimidating awe cast upon them by the monolithic installation.
PlayStation hosted an eclectic showcase of upcoming titles from the business area of their E3 2017 presence. Having to manage and demonstrate seemingly countless IP’s in one, fairly balanced forum.
The space was perfectly on brand and adopting an island system for each IP meant that meeters and greeters were encouraged to slalom through the space, keeping it from bottle-necking and stagnating.
Possibly the crowning jewel of the set up however was a see through, altered carbon-esque interface highlighting the VR capabilities of Farpoint and the Sony Aim Controller.
BLE is a B2B event with no consumer pavilion, and so a tone of comparative sobriety (if considering Gamescom, for example) permeates through the air… for the first few hours of day one at least. Possibly the most coveted meetings in the room are to be had with Aardman Animations.
Their unique, nostalgic, quintessentially British IP’s populate a diverse world of unmistakable characters. Aardman do an exceptional job of showcasing their most sought after licenses through the immaculate curation of physical character models.
Each iteration of Wallace, Shaun and beyond is ceremoniously posed behind glass cabinets that circumnavigate the meeting tables, looking like live props that tug attention from the centre of the stand and leave conversations uninterrupted by the lurking next appointment.
The stand itself takes a subtler brand approach with the distinctive Aardman red. The result is cool, clean and calm- but doesn’t quell the child-like excitement real life Gromit offers in all his plasticine glory. Think; somewhere between the world’s least ostentatious planet Hollywood and Nick’ Park’s garden office- pretty much bang on.
Last year we were approached by Sony PlayStation to design an event space for a PSVR demo area. We were charged with creating ‘a spectacle’. As well as building a functional space for scores of anticipating first time VR users to navigate through and enjoy.
As well as using a pod system to keep the space open – we had to ensure the stand was perfectly on brand and that each IP had a fair share of voice through large scale wall mounted print. We then aimed to created pockets of excitement in the the unused corners of the floor-plan where a screen was connected to individual users VR headsets and broadcasted their experience to the rest of the attendees on the stand.
This inverted the usual demo format of a private, focused experience- breaking expectations (making for more than a few giggles as unwitting experiencers flung their arms about like Johnny Depp in bat country).. and demonstrated the paradigm shift VR promises. Below you can see a virtual fly-through of our space.
We hope this has offered some food for thought. If you want to discuss this topic any more with us then please drop us a line! We can also share some awesome advice on suppliers for building large scale installations, as well as their creative design.