Circle of Life
Without innovation in exhibit design and build, limitations in the way companies could exhibit would continue to exist. Innovation brought freedom from the age-old way of exhibit construction and gave life to new ideas.
Traditionally, exhibitors operated out of booths composed of laminate or vinyl-covered plywood. This evolved into the use of lighter, low-maintenance and cost-effective materials that required less tools and worked well when paired together, such as aluminum and fabric.
Ever since the use of tension fabric as part of exhibit design took off within the tradeshow industry, its impact has been felt all around. From the supplier to the exhibit house and end user, each of these groups has reaped the benefits of using textiles. What makes this experience come full circle is when suppliers receive recognition in the form of recommendations. Each time good service is delivered from the top down to the end user, suppliers are commended to others, leading to more opportunities to breathe life into new exhibits on the show floor.
Demand from exhibit houses has increased the need for fabric suppliers. With customers pulling them in across multiple tradeshows, suppliers like Moss Inc. have made it a priority to respond as quickly as possible and diversify their business offerings to handle any fabric application.
“We supply fabric to almost every exhibit house across the country as well as internationally and are stretched across many shows,” remarked Jim Lovelady, senior vice president of sales & enterprise sales operations, Moss Inc.
From the perspective of exhibition companies, the demand for fabrics has meant ensuring they have the right partner to meet clients’ needs. Because each time they can successfully provide clients with a flexible, aesthetically pleasing solution that saves on drayage fees, their business opportunities also expand.
As for exhibitors, using textiles has become another way in which they can make a measurable first impression on the show floor. The greater the impression on attendees, the longer lasting the impression these individuals make on social media and via word of mouth.
“Walk into any show, and within seconds, you will spot tension fabrics. The growth is coming from all directions,” stated Mel Marzan, manager of marketing communications, Moss Inc.
A key influencer in this trend, Moss is credited with first bringing tension fabrics to tradeshows in 1983. Since then, the demand for fabric structures or elements has steadily risen.
“Not too long ago, tension fabric was less than 5 percent of the show floor. Now, it’s the prevalent solution for exhibits of all sizes,” stated Lovelady.
Whether the show is International CES, PACK EXPO or E3 Expo, custom fabric solutions are seen at numerous booths.
Exhibits using textiles have a lot in common. According to Marzan, they are often immersive brand experiences comprising several thousand square feet. These large booths are designed to be spacious to include general seating for educational opportunities, multimedia and demonstration areas, he added.
“With larger exhibits, there’s a lot of use of sheer fabrics, so something very large has dimension and doesn’t look too heavy. There’s also a lot of white and solid color backdrops used for products to stand out,” Marzan said.
In many cases, 100 percent of the booth could be tension fabric, according to Marzan.
On the other hand, a design for a 10’ x 10’ or larger island exhibit could call for several accent pieces. These elements could be as small as a fabricated kiosk or podium, or as extensive as large hanging signs or sculptures.
“The hanging sign has evolved into a sculpture, art work or beacon for the environment. These signs are used with lighting and shapes,” Marzan said.
One of the custom structures Moss is most proud of is the hanging inverted pyramid projection structure it created for client Lynch Exhibits and Panasonic PSCNA for 2013 InfoComm. The 41-cubed structure displayed visual effects and mapping onto a fabric structure.
Marzan continued, “There’s a greater technical collaboration, especially for glamour type shows like International CES. [Exhibitors] want to make a grand first impression and back it up.”
For an award-winning GES-designed booth, which stretched 10,000 square feet at LIGHTFAIR International, Moss used tension fabric to create an innovative lighting canvas for Philips. As part of the exhibit’s medical setting, Moss also created sleek, stylish hospital beds made of white tension fabric.
No matter where textiles are used in an exhibit, they must meet fire regulations, and they can’t block certain areas of the venue’s ceiling, according to Marzan.
“As long as you use [fabric] within a show’s guidelines, you can do anything,” he added.
The modular nature of fabrics has led to their spread beyond the tradeshow industry. This trend has allowed Moss to extend itself to projects for retail, museums and events, according to Lovelady.
As demonstrated by the advent of textiles in multiple industries, there’s no need to ponder how and where they can be applied. For the tradeshow industry in particular, the possibilities for fabrics will be endless as innovation continues. While few tools are required to install and customize fabric structures, creativity will always be required.