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SWIFT future look

We meet one of the creative brains driving forward global exhibition stand design. 

Chris Litchfield, creative director at Rapiergroup, says that being a 2020 Winner in the World Exhibition Stand Awards has added “real authenticity” to the company’s achievements. Rapiergroup won a Diamond award in the Best Feature Area category at the 2020 WESAs for their client SWIFT Discover’s stand at Sibos.

“We trust our process, our skills, experience and instincts, but the recognition that comes from being a winner in the WESAs is confirmation of what we believe in.”

As far as adapting to the coronavirus work culture, Litchfield says: “We literally adapted overnight to remote working. Fortunately, we had invested in the technology that meant all of us could do our jobs perfectly all through lockdown.

“We have all sharpened up our communication skills, but we have now got to a point where we would like to see each other face-to-face. Teams and Zoom are no replacement for the real thing!”

Litchfield believes Covid-19 is here to stay, something which has big implications for the way the company approaches stand design and experiences.

“We have lots of different ideas on how we could design environments and experiences, but each situation will need to be approached as bespoke and unique. Defining strategy for user/visitor experience from the outset will be more important than ever before.

“From that design will be about meeting the objectives of that strategy, and doing it safely and within whatever restrictions we need to work to.”

Like most, Litchfield predicts events are going to have to become more hybrid. Limitations on travel and scale of physical gatherings, will mean a different approach, he says, “but the potential here is truly exciting, and it’s the way the industry should be heading anyway”.

He sees an opportunity for a much wider reach to a truly global audience and models that can be more sustainable.

“There are opportunities for operating events within local regions, and then harnessing technology in order to bring them all together, to make something bigger. The potential here is enormous.”

There may not be a place for just designing a typical stand, Litchfield believes and says, “We will need to think cleverly about the true purpose of each stand we design, and the experience it must offer. We will then need to create designs that deliver on that, but work within whatever restrictions we are facing. Simplicity in design will be the key to this (easier said than done!).

“In the future, we shouldn’t just be designing for the physical exhibition hall experience. We should be designing environments that need to be fit for a much wider reach.”

And Litchfield says he is looking forward to things being different.

“The challenges we face are solvable, and I’m looking forward to embracing them… Despite the big hit our industry has encountered, we have the opportunity to make something better as a result of it.”

He adds that we need to think carefully about the purpose of stands, we need to think more about the bigger picture and where a stand sits within a wider customer/user/ visitor experience.

“Then we need to deal with the physical environment we are operating in, and a global situation that is continually changing. The trade show stand can still be a sound investment that offers tangible, valuable and relevant experiences, but it’s time for us to really challenge ourselves on why and how we create them.”