Richard Bartlett, MD and creative director at Evolve Creative Solutions, a 2020 Winner at the World Exhibition Stand Awards, tells EW about talent, trends and how to build for the future.
It’s been a difficult time and Evolve MD Richard Bartlett says being a multi WESA 2020 winner means a great deal and shows the diversity and talent not only at his agency, but also across the entire industry.
Evolve’s THQ Nordic Stand at Gamescom 2019 picked up a diverse set of top awards including: Best Storytelling, Best Stand at a Games Industry Event and Best Stand 201-500sqm. For Bartlett that signifies Evolve’s ability to be in tune with both the creative intent of THQ Nordic’s game titles and, more importantly, what the target audience at the show wanted to see and experience.
“It has been a real challenge,” Bartlett says of working from home. “We have found that keeping communication levels high with our staff, suppliers and clients has paid dividends and we will come out of this pandemic as a more efficient company.”
The team, he says, has also used the time as an opportunity to research and diversify. Evolve has also been working closely with UK industry associations ESSA, AEO and AEV to support Project Confidence, helping to create a roadmap for the safe re-opening of event venues. I
n terms of what changes can be expected in future stand design, Bartlett notes that countries and regions are all developing their own guidelines and he is anticipating new design and build regulations for each show hall.
“There is no guarantee that the guidelines will be consistent across regions, which is going to be challenging to global companies like Evolve,” he notes. And Bartlett expects big changes to everything from basic exhibition hall access, build and breakdown regulations, visitor numbers, stand access, catering, even the types and format of product displays.
“We have to find ways to merge the creative and retail focus of a stand with the new reduced level of social interaction, and still make visitors want to come to the show,” he adds. He acknowledges extreme restrictions on social interaction are forcing organisers down the digital events route and, in the short term, expects monitored visitor numbers, dedicated hygiene points, thermal entrance scanning and controlled visitor flow.
Diversification into a mix of virtual and physical offerings can only benefit clients and visitors, however, Bartlett believes and is confident we will get back to “amazing physical events with full social interaction, which is what we all want and our clients demand, but I think Covid-19 has changed the event landscape forever and potentially for the better”.
A plethora of directives is likely to make the real impact on stand design hard to predict, says Barlett: “We are looking at quite a large number of safety protocols, like registration of all visitors, wider aisles, clear one way routing, floor markings and the inclusion of hygiene zones with face masks. The emphasis is on minimising human contact, so one of the biggest challenges for our design team is going to be the development of presentation areas that avoid large numbers of people and allow for screen guards between activities.
“Protocols can easily be incorporated into a design, but what won’t change in stand design is the need for clarity from the venues, client understanding and development lead times that allow us to integrate these elements succesfully into the stand design.”
In terms of how the tradeshow of the future might look, Bartlett notes a future stand for the gaming sector will be very different from one for the aero sector. He believes physical and virtual technology will merge and drive every aspect of future stand design.
“Increasingly we are pushing to create more immersive brand experiences, moving stands away from traditional retail models. I can only see this trend gaining pace and can see a time where a stand will be more like a multi sensory step into a company’s brand, its values and product offer.”