Exhibition design needs to be promoted to raise standards

I refer to both the editorial comment and Sir Terence Conran’s letter (DW 21 August) on Government procurement of exhibition design.

Lack of direction and clarity of vision is not confined just to the Department of Trade and Industry. It’s fairly general within the exhibition industry and it’s not confined just to the public sector.

Ownership and passion are the basic attributes required from anyone empowered to commission exhibitions.

If there was more of it around – we would see the end of scenarios where three or four groups are invited to pitch for a 25-40 000 exhibition stand.

It’s happening on a daily basis in both the private and public sector. We’ve received no fewer than six enquiries in the last month alone.

We should also expect to see the end of cost comparison pitches where three or four well established design consultancies engage resources to create brand new ideas only to be told that their existing contractor was by far the cheapest.

The solution to the problem has to be better training and education. We should perhaps begin at the beginning; designers design – builders build. Procurement practice should be reviewed.

There are many groups like ours which play a vital role in the marketing communications mix to bring a brand to life and to promote an experience to trade and consumers alike.

We achieve that by employing considerable skills and resources in people and technology to provide a solution. It is, after all, people who really make the difference.

When clients fully appreciate the value in what can be achieved only then will we be able to position the industry where it justifiably needs to be.

Sadly, the Dome debate only adds fuel to the fire. It demonstrates a lack of conviction and the belief that only the very few are capable of good ideas.

The Dome project is, after all, a product of the previous administration and should have been scrapped when New Labour came to power.

Our industry needs a voice, though, not just to advise on the commissioning of projects, but also to promote the value in good ideas and to explain that design – good design, that is – is well worth paying for.

Exhibition designers need to act smarter because then, and only then, will our industry be accepted truly for what it is and all this crass stupidity will be a thing of the past.

Christopher Curtis

Managing director

Blue Square Design

London EC1

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