13 November 2006
Bettina Ulrich
Bettina Ulrich

When I was in the middle of preparing the material for this month's novum plus on exhibition and shop design, I was struck by a TV report from the ITB in Berlin (International Tourism Trade Fair). Visitors were being asked to draw a number of European flags and to match landmarks to countries. Now you might think it's easy to identify the Atomium as coming from Brussels, and the Coliseum as belonging to Rome - but you'd be wrong. The Siegess ule in Berlin was thought to be in Baghdad, or even 'somewhere in Spain', and the Belgian flag was given red, white and blue stripes.

You could conclude it's just a lack of very basic general knowledge, but I had another thought as I was analysing the different articles on exhibition design for this issue. It soon became clear that the only concepts that had long-term success were those that presented much more than catalogues and products. Only when the visitor's emotions are appealed to, only when his senses experience the brand, will he remember it long afterwards. A car company has to do much more than get out the bright spotlights to show off its new roadster, or publish a glossy brochure. It has to awaken a desire in the visitor to find out what it would be like to drive in the car, feeling the wind through his hair, to smell the leather seats, the hear the roar of the engine. Only then will the experience remain with him until long after the fair. His imagination must be excited, his emotions awakened. A glass of prosecco and a few grissini are just not enough - what's needed is communication for all the senses. Not least because the sometimes enormous exhibition budgets have to be used as effectively as possible.

Creating this brand experience is a complicated, wide-ranging task and one that has long outgrown the skills of simple stand-building firms. Interdisciplinary work is the magic formula, and this pervades all areas, not just exhibition design. Teamwork in new formations, an openness to new ways of thinking, and the setting up of cooperative networks - that's where the future is.

Only when the ITB visitor goes home and can draw the Belgian flag from memory for his kids, will the message really have been communicated to him, not just presented. Let's hope that this development is soon grasped by the marketing departments, too, so that the efforts of the exhibition designers are matched by commercial success, too.

Here's to a long, creative summer!

Bettina Ulrich

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Bettina Ulrich

About this article
This article was originally published in novum - WORLD OF GRAPHIC DESIGN 6/2004

About Bettina Ulrich
Bettina Ulrich (born 1974 in Munich, Germany) is the Editor-in-chief of novum - WORLD OF GRAPHIC DESIGN. She also works as a text freelancer in Munich. 

About novum
novum - WORLD OF GRAPHIC DESIGN is an international magazine for communication design (German/English). The first issue was published in 1924 - the magazine celebrates its 80th anniversary in 2004. Each month novum shows the best works in graphic design, packaging, web design, advertising, editorial design, illustration and features special topics like trade fair design, orientation systems, typography, event design and many others.