For the successful l00% Design exhibition held recently in London, the show’s designer, Tim Pyne of Jasper Jacob Associates, spurned the multifarious exhibition systems which are on the market. Instead, he used simple stock panelling wrapped in coloured PVC for all the reception areas and something similar for the shell stands, which were emulsioned white and handed over to exhibitors with full written notes on how best to exploit their amenities. Very smart it all looked too, and immensely sturdy.
But then JJA is an exhibition designer par excellence, skilled in every area of what is after all a specialist activity. Although Pyne’s own preference in this sort of context is for the stock panel method, designers with less experience or those faced with a one-off exhibition will more safely choose a proprietary system.
But which system? Exhibitions have proliferated in recent years, and so, unsurprisingly, have systems for display. Ranging from the modular ones based on aluminium extrusions to hi-tech space frames, from those which are essentially lighting gantries to those which are portable and transportable in the boot of a car, the systems market almost certainly has something for everyone. And several display companies have steadily improved and expanded the capabilities of their original product.
Octanorm, for example, is one of the biggest, and for the past 20 years it has been updating and refining its original modular system, so that it now includes Struktur, an aluminium space frame option, two flooring systems, lighting and graphics systems, and lots of components and accessories. In addition, Octanorm Service Partner International has been set up, which embraces exhibition stand contractors worldwide so that you can design your stand here (using Octanorm, of course) and have it built there.
Academy Expo, which recently established a facility called Visionary Images for the design and production of large-format exhibition graphics, is another such all-embracing company, as is Exponents, a classy outfit which makes a feature of combining its standard components with customised additions.
Sodem recently added Space-Line to its existing, fairly extensive modular range. Consisting of beams and uprights in three different profile shapes, Space-Line can offer unsupported beams up to 6m in length, can be used for demarcation without enclosure and lends itself to both angles and curves.
Since a lot of exhibitions have to travel, several companies offer systems which are entirely devoted to the notion of portability. Nomadic Display, for instance, supplies a pop-up system which arrives in a drum, from which a lightweight maze of aluminium struts easily springs into a curved or straight lattice workscreen on which panels may be mounted. Backed by a large range of supporting components, this is a versatile and ever-extendable system which must appeal to those exhibitors who need to be on the road.
Nimrod is one of the major systems manufacturers which, in addition to its modular range, also offers portable systems, both pop-up and in the form of hinged folding kits with a wide range of accessories and a unique fold-flat curve.
There are some exhibition firms, however, which go for a much more specific market rather than attempting the broad brush, and whose designs usually have a distinctive quality to match – companies such as Shopkit. Based on a cable, rod and low-voltage lighting system, its principal display components are glass shelves, cabinets and counters, and a glass signage system.
Designed about ten years ago by one of the company’s directors, industrial designer Mike Fielder, it is a beautiful looking product with every detail honed to perfection. Despite the fact that its elegant looks belie a concomitant strength and durability, this will not suit every exhibitor’s needs – heavy engineering components, for example, might conflict with its airy persona – but it can contribute to the style and distinction of any stand where it is used.
Another type of specialist system is the gantry, which stems from a lighting system. Litestructures offers a number of alternative designs of this type, available in various colours and finishes. Several can be customised to include curved elements, and Minilite – a smaller, lighter version – is suitable for applications where space is limited.
Erco has the eponymous Gantry, designed by Roy Fleetwood. It can be hung or free-standing, supports heavy loads without buckling, has an integrated lighting track and can be used over exceptionally wide spans. Erco likes to claim that this system “is rooted in technological necessity rather than aesthetic effect”. But in fact it hits the button on both counts.