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August 14, 2006

Stand Design: Coming out of your shell

While the rest of the exhibition industry has been developing and changing at a rapid rate over the past few years, shell scheme solutions (the frame and walling system that forms the basis of most exhibition stands) have not moved on at all. However, it appears that new shell scheme designs are like buses as three new designs have hit the market at pretty much the same time: Early Action Group’s Quad 4, Octanorm’s Organics and Opex Group’s Modul.

EAG's Quad4 Bar

“We really have been building things the same way for the last quarter of a century,” says Andy Gibb managing director of Opex Group, the first of the three to bring their product to market. “There’s been a need for some time for a new environment, one that helps the experience of both the exhibitor and visitors."

Octanorm’s Dan Bridge agrees. “The products in use around the world show that there has not been a big step in the design of aluminium profiles since Octanorm launched the Maxima Light range," he says.

Veterans of exhibitions will know that stands can often feel cluttered and claustrophobic and the poles can get in the way of the design, particularly if you're in one of the aisles. These new designs are about breaking that mould. “Our system can produce a span of 6 metres with no poles and we’ve incorporated a new lighting system that is the industry standard in the retail sector,” explains Gibb. “This creates a much more open and airy feel.”

Early Action Group’s Quad 4 was created after 12 months’ in-depth liaison with clients and over £500,000 investment. “We believe we have come up with a product that is both practical and designed with flair,” says commercial director Lee Horn. “It is designed with the exhibitor in mind, and blurs the line between traditional and modular shell scheme solutions.”

Similarly to Modul, Quad 4 offers high load-bearing capacity for large or small spans, floating roof-scapes and invisible electrics. Both systems are backward compatible with existing shell schemes.

“Quad 4 is simple in design and sophisticated in execution. It enables exhibitors to stylise not simply a limited exhibition ‘space’, but their ‘room’ to exactly the specifications they require,” continues Horn. “It’s not the new system itself that provides this contemporary look and feel, it’s the systems ability to become invisible.”

For Bridge, Octanorm’s Organics offer a new perspective on the use of aluminium profiles in the display and exhibition industry. “We felt it was time to offer the market some new ideas and let natural lines and shapes take the lead,” he says. “The ‘organic’ shape of the new profiles is a completely new direction allowing a design orientated approach which is not possible when limited to square or round profiles. Expression becomes easier and natural shapes possible, used in either freestanding displays or as an integral part of an exhibition stand.”

All three companies are now holding stock worthy of of fabricating high-end products for press launches, fashion events, or corporate and retail temporary structures outside of just exhibitions, and this may present Opex and EAG with the opportunity to move closer to the corporate market.

But, for the meantime, after too many years being limited by the tools of the trade, you can expect to see exhibition stands that are based on clean, open design-led aethetics. The new designs are about lifting whole events, getting away from some of the claustrophobic old designs, and creating a much more user-friendly environment, one that borrows heavily from the concepts used in retail. After all, exhibitions are about selling your wears to the public, so why has it taken this long for stands to do this effectively?


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