With flooring gaining more prominence in the overall design of an exhibit, new products, new ideas and new issues are on the minds of exhibit houses. Working on staying ahead of trends and incorporating new flooring features into booth designs can keep even the most talented designers up at night.
Flooring is definitely turning into an ‘if you can think it, you can do it’ design element on the show floor. Pressure-sensitive tiles now come in an array of variations filled with liquids or gels that cause an organic splatter as attendees walk across the booth. Tiles that light up when stepped on or leave a lighted footprint are also starting to dot the tradeshow floor. On the technology side, LED screens are now being mounted under clear acrylic flooring that can support the foot traffic of even the busiest of shows.
With all of these new options and ways to incorporate flooring into the exhibit environment, issues are bound to come up.
“Flooring challenges come in many forms,” said Ed Riggs, a senior designer with Creatacor, an exhibit management firm based in New York. “These can include budgeting, comfort, wire management and the process of turning flooring into something that is not just the foundation of the exhibit, but an element to enhance how the attendee views the company and the products within.”
As flooring grows in significance, designers are also tasked with incorporating it more into the environmental spaces that encompass today’s exhibit concepts.
“Flooring plays an important role in setting the tone of an exhibit,” said Mark Holme, creative director for Hill & Partners, a Massachusetts-based event management company. “What type of flooring to consider is based on look, feel, budget and of course, how, where and why it is used in the first place. Wiring for the exhibit is the most challenging. Typically, it was just laid under carpet with padding.”
Like many designers, both Holme and Riggs have an overall design approach when it comes to exhibit flooring.
“I would say the floor is an element that usually gets overlooked as a branding feature,” said Riggs. “It seems most designs try to make it go away in order to bring out the rest of the design. If you take time to stand back and look at it, the floor is the largest area in which to draw people into the space, lead them around and expose them to messaging in ways that do not take up space with structural properties.”
“Color and texture also play an important role in setting the tone of a space,” said Holme. “The flooring needs to accent and not overpower the architecture. It is the largest element in the space and helps unify all of the architecture.”
Since flooring is being viewed more as an opportunity to make an exhibit stand out, designers are also beginning to consider its importance earlier in the process.
“I experiment with flooring changes during the developmental stage of design,” said Holme. “Sometimes it helps create a feeling early on in the process, other times it is more about a color than a shape or texture.”
“In a lot of cases, the client will say they want certain flooring,” said Riggs. “It is usually budget driven, so this drives flooring from the start. If the opportunity to design for the client is put into our hands, flooring is given the same consideration as every other element. It evolves initially in a parallel direction, to act as a unifying ingredient in the overall design.”
Both designers have also seen their fair share of mistakes being made with flooring treatments at recent tradeshows.
Riggs points out poor wire management, carpet bumps causing trip hazards and visual flaws in the plane of the floor as the most common errors. He has also seen raised flooring with no consideration toward the Americans with Disabilities Act and cheap carpet that frays and unravels after minimal use.
Holme said that he always hears from clients that want a double pad for comfort, which is nice if you are standing still. But once you have walked on it for a while, it begins to feel like walking on a sandy beach, creating greater fatigue.
Since flooring is being used more and more as a design element, some tips and tricks of the trade are also emerging.
“Flooring can help direct a traffic flow or areas of focus for your customer, all while re-enforcing their brand,” said Holme. “As exhibits become more environmental, flooring helps create and transform a booth into more of a unique space. Whether flooring is sweeps of carpet color, rolled vinyl or cork, it can help unify the customer’s experience with your client’s brand.
“Inlays, if used correctly, can also add focus to certain exhibit aspects, be it a design element, pointing out an information area or aiding in showcasing product placement,” agreed Riggs. “Inlays can subconsciously lead an attendee into and through the environment. This can also be said about any flooring treatment from changing materials to adding lighting effects.”
As flooring options continue to grow, it is no surprise that both Riggs and Holme pointed toward specialty flooring as a trend in the industry and a way to leave an impression on attendees.
“Raised flooring (finally) seems to be making its way from Europe to the states even though it has been used as a standard element over there for many years,” said Riggs. “Using green materials such as bamboo, recycled flooring and reclaimed rubber flooring are also trends I am seeing. I have even seen natural sod being used as a flooring element.”
“Cork flooring, vinyl flooring, click lock wood flooring, as well as interlocking tiles are all being used a lot now,” said Holme. “Exposed concrete is also a recent trend if there is not a need for wire management on the floor. Carefully selecting a type of flooring can add visual drama to any space and help make an impact.”