Building Impressions: Innovative Displays and Exhibits

Every year millions of people attend major sporting events. Many of the venues are large enough to hold 50,000 to a 100,000 people or more within them. If you watch any of these events on TV you will see fans in their favorite team colors with some of the more fanatical ones going all out with elaborate costumes and signs. Why? Because they want to stand out from the crowd—to be noticed and appreciated for their creativity and spirit.

The same thing holds true for the sponsors and advertisers at these events. They compete for eyeballs and attention as well. Sales come when branding and customers collide into favorable conditions causing money to transfer out of the pocket and into the corporate bank account. That's capitalism at work.

            Another venue that brings corporations and suppliers face to face with both their current and hopeful future customers is the trade show with its numerous exhibits on display. The culprit that comes along with these gatherings is competition. Every company on display has a competitor—or many of them. Each one knows they need to build an impression in order to build a relationship.

            Building those valuable impressions requires innovation, ingenuity and investment. Nimlok Chicago is an expert in the industry that has been in the business for 45 years and knows what it takes to create effective exhibits and displays that stand out and generate impressions, relationships and sales.

            Nimlok Chicago is a premier exhibit provider, and throughout its years in business has become a driving force in the trade show industry. They also have the experience of providing design and display for staged corporate events as well as creating dramatic corporate branded permanent environments. Their core business is offering a range of visual solutions for custom and modular trade show exhibits and display systems in every size and configuration imaginable.

            Deb Venable is the company's president and managing partner. She's been with the organization since 1993 starting as exhibit designer then moving into sales and eventually buying the business with partner Peter Crouch. The company’s marketing director is Julia Poroshkova. Deb and Julia provided me with an overview of three unique projects their company has done that offer a glimpse of how they apply creativity and innovation to make winning displays and environments for their clients.


Project 1: Donut Creation Station with an Interactive App

On a trade show floor, exhibitors aim to get the attention of attendees and draw them into their booth. That was the goal of Nimlok Chicago’s client—a food business giant on a global level, a leader in the specialty bakery space and a proud supplier for Tim Hortons—the iconic coffee shop chain in Canada.

            Leading up to Tim Hortons "50th anniversary owner and supplier convention," Nimlok Chicago worked with its client to design and build a standout exhibit. To help accomplish this goal they brought in the technology expertise of Red Caffeine to help build the centerpiece of the exhibit that was titled Donut Creation Station. The "station" became the hub of interaction where guests could literally design and enjoy their own custom donut right on the spot. The Tim Hortons supplying exhibitor could handle the baking, but the company needed a fun, interactive tool that guests would use to place their orders from tablet computers within the booth. The solution was established through the app.

            Red Caffeine first created storyboards for how the app would walk users through each step of designing their custom donut—from donut shape to toppings, fillings and more. Further, visitors could use photos of themselves, their favorite pet or kids or anything else and have those edible images applied right on top of their donut.

            Not only was the display interactive, but the products were delicious and the process was fun. The result was an attention-getting and memorable experience that reinforced the client’s standing as a key supplier for Tim Hortons.


Project 2: Hub Group Branded Installation

Hub Group is a leading, world-class transportation provider. When Nimlok Chicago helped brand its new 130,000 square foot four-story tall workspace, one of the key design elements was the use of the bright colors that represent the Hub Group brand: red, green and blue. Each floor of the building had one color as the accent for all the branding elements such as wall graphics, lounge area branding and conference room graphics.

            One example of this specific branding was the creative use of replica green shipping containers to create lounge areas with separate spaces within an open office floor environment. The result is an interesting use of space that compliments the business model while reinforcing their brand.

            Other important graphics throughout the organization convey a sense of motion, underscoring the fact that the Hub Group is constantly on the move while being in the business of moving cargo.

            The overall project incorporated a wide variety of textures and display materials into the permanently branded installation. An example of this is seen in the photo of the women's restroom where graphics were printed directly onto metal in order to create wall art with a rustic look.

            The material that had the most unique and creative application was in the wallpaper created for an executive lounge where the vibrant graphics containing lots of green colors are accented and surrounded by rich printed simulated wood paneling. The branded space is the focal point of that lounge.


Project 3: Shaw Hospitality Group Exhibit at HD Expo 2015

Shaw Hospitality Group specializes in new and innovative carpet and flooring design for the hospitality industry. Its current collection is called the Park—a collection of carpet tile and broadloom patterns that celebrate public parks.

            Nimlok worked with Shaw's agency to create an exhibit that encapsulated the collection’s mood and feel. The main feature of the display was a custom built canopy. The booth was purposely divided into two spaces; one more alive and vibrant with the other more quiet and reflective to evoke a feeling of sanctuary. Together. Alone.


All three of these are excellent examples demonstrate that innovation needs to be injected into the process of designing and producing exhibits and displays that are visually stimulating as well as interactive. The combining of materials, fabrication techniques, colors, printed graphics, lighting, components and even computers and software all come together to make an impact and build impressions.