An organiser recently remarked to me that they were seeing a shift towards more free build, with their exhibitors wanting to maximise their impact with custom stand designs of increasing size and ambition.
This is by no means a universal tendency, but I think it signals good news for the industry. It demonstrates that companies are as willing as ever to invest in exhibiting, and confident in their return on that investment. I’m concerned, however, that the downward pressure on build and breakdown times could begin to have a chilling effect on the desire for creative, bespoke, exhibition stand design.
As designers and producers of exhibition graphics, the impact is felt more by our customers, who want to re-use the graphics we produce. With the punishingly short breakdown times common at major venues throughout Europe, it’s sometimes simply not possible to remove graphics or stand components carefully enough. Sometimes it can feel more akin to a demolition job than disassembly, and that’s wasteful and destructive. Some venues have begun charging a premium for extended access, and others have mooted 24 hour access as solutions, but I think this is addressing symptoms, rather than causes.
At Insite Graphics we try to minimise the impact of changing schedules and requirements as a matter of course, and we’ve tuned our installation process to give us as much time in hand as possible. We print and pack vehicles in stand order to expedite unloading, and build as much material off site, and ahead of time, as possible. Perhaps most importantly we liase closely with stand builders, in order to dovetail our installation with their construction schedule.
But if the trend for shorter build and breakdown times continues, I fear that we might see a greater proliferation of simpler, less intricate and less ambitious designs, fewer reusable elements and a more disposable, ‘tear it down and throw it away’ attitude to exhibition production. And that would be a great shame.