The Photonics West show draws 20,000 attendees in the light and optics world together each year, in addition to 1,000-plus exhibitors in its trade show hall, but without a top-notch graphics and wayfinding program, they would have been wandering around San Francisco’s Moscone Center in circles.
Bryan Hintz is lead designer/marketing with SPIE (the international society for optics and photonics that puts on the show), and the challenge for his team was to create a graphic/wayfinding plan that looked great while embracing an overarching visual identity.
“At each one of our events, we try to brand with a graphic identity, and within those we have a similar style. To this point they all have identical graphic elements, but each event has its own color scheme,” Hintz says.
SPIE elements tied into this graphic identity and focused on a orange/red color scheme for Photonics West. Hintz says the biggest goal for his team is branding the environment so that when people walk into the space, they are making a connection between the branded environment and the event materials that they see in the mail, or emails they receive, or the experience they have on the event’s website. In other words, SPIE aims to tie everything together from a visual design standpoint, from marketing materials before the show starts, to registration signage onsite.
“We’re just trying to tie all of that together, and the environmental space is the experience that they will most remember, so we’re trying to get that connection,” Hintz says.
The big challenge for designers dealing with venues such as the Moscone Center is that they are typically pretty bland; lots of white and beige colors and grey carpets. But since the Musconi Center has recently upgraded its facility, the SPIE team had to deal with different colored walls that were competing and clashing with the event’s red and orange color scheme. This meant that Hintz had to develop other things to help blend into the facility a little bit more,
“We brought in some neutral colors in a wood grain. That wood grain gives a neutral balance between our colors and the facility colors. We had our signage towers pulled away from the walls in some places so that we’re not right next to the differing color scheme. We want to look like we own the facility, even though we’re only there for a week. When people walk up, we want it to look like this facility was built specifically for Photonics West,” Hintz says.
SPIE likes to use the architecture of the building to its advantage, trying to cover it up and allowing the graphics to work with the space instead of competing against it. Hintz was able to go in ahead of time, study the venue and come up with a comprehensive plan.
“We try to have our larger pieces that have more impact up high if we can. We’re not always trying to have people read what is there, but if we’re doing a good job branding we’re going to get them to recognize that we exist and it will draw them. Most facilities do a pretty good job in directing traffic themselves, we try to work with it,” Hintz says.
For elements such as the 20-foot fabric towers that housed show info and schedules, there was an effort to keep a consistent look and feel while mixing the visuals up a bit.
That’s the art of it, to keep it interesting. SPIE has traditionally used hard panel graphics, but this year tried out fabric towers as opposed to customized props built out of wood.
“If we’re wrapping them with our consistent branding it doesn’t really matter that the material is different. You’re still creating that cohesiveness in the design and the styling. That allows us to look at the material in a functional sense; if we determine that we want a 20-foot-tall structure, we allow how it’s going to function determine what we should use, along with budget,” Hintz says.
SPIE encountered a bit of a challenge with color matching the fabric to the specific branded color shades, with two or three rounds of proofs needed to get it to the right place.