Monday, February 21, 2011

:: hurtling planets and other issues (or, how to plan a gorgeous trade show booth on a budget and a conscience) ::

i have a total of three started-and-aborted blog posts about my trade show booth walls. they are, to say the least, stressing me out.

in planning my booth, my design aesthetic and my eco-commitment have collided in a two-planets-hurtling-through-space kind of way and i've found myself spinning and spinning as a result. what's more, my own personal definition of creativity has me bound and determined to find a way to salvage both planets, to coax them into a friendly peace - to swing them into a tight little orbit around my brand.

the point of impact is this:

in my industry, anyway, the booth is the brand. in fact, it's the brand and its the retail shop that will carry that brand. it's job is to invite buyers into a little world that makes them think of their own shops and think, "this is what is missing. this is what i have been searching for."

walls are a big part of this. they're a big part of how we display our products and a big part of creating that feeling that buyers are browsing their favorite corner paper store, not being herded through aisle after aisle, booth after booth.

and i think that hard walls always look better than fabric or paper ones. hard walls complete the illusion in a way that draped walls just don't. and more than that for me, hard walls contribute to the crisp, clean, minimalist up up creative design aesthetic.

but hard walls are a problem, ecologically speaking. because the gold standard for NSS hard walls is foam-core, and foam-core is more or less not reusable and it's certainly not recyclable. we're talking about 208 square feet of foam core board that is not recyclable and not reusable. and that's just for my booth, which is one in what, a thousand-plus? as someone on some blog i was reading earlier said, it's disposable, which really means it's garbage.

garbage that costs anywhere from $400 to (more typically) $1400 and provides you four whole days of beautiful-walled goodness.

fabric and paper are also options for the walls, but they also tend to look messier, less modern, and much more DIY (and not in that good DIY way). in all of my web-crawling travels i've yet to come across a fabric-walled booth that i thought was amazing.

i want to find a booth like that. i need to. because fabric is such a better option: it's reusable from year to year, it has a smaller footprint, it costs less. it's recyclable, in many cases, and even recycled in some.

fabric booths are, to me, ugly. they are not up up-y in the way that i need them to be for this trade show. but the part of me that believes that the best design comes from constraint also sees this as the ultimate design challenge. it is a problem to be solved, not avoided.

it's hard, though. because these aren't the only constraints. there are rules about what materials can be used at the trade show. rules about what we can carry in and what tools we can use to assemble our booths. and there are budgetary constraints. just reserving the space for this event costs in the thousands and while i could certainly create an ubercool ubereco booth on an unlimited budget, the budget's not just limited but pretty severely so.

and yet a decision has to be made. we're nearing march and it's time to order what needs to be ordered, construct what needs to be constructed. it's time to wrangle these planets into orbit before either one of them begins to implode.

what do you think? should i build birch walls? experiment with stiffened fabric? focus on free-standing shelves? should i order the foam core but find a way to recycle or reuse it after the event? help!

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