Design Rebel: Industrial Cool

Design Rebel

Welcome to our newest blog feature, the Design Rebel! As a former Production Designer for film, I have a deep appreciation for the power of event design and it’s ability to transform attendees minds, as well as achieve our event goals and objectives. This bi-monthly blog feature will explore new event design innovations and how we can use design to enhance our events.

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 12.30.02 PMThe first design trend I’ll tackle is “Industrial Cool.” Although you may not have heard that term before, we’ve all seen it. Rustic materials, industrial accents and simplicity are all design trends that have burst onto the scene in 2015, and it’s no surprise that events, trade show booths, and conferences  have begun to incorporate them as well. A lot of popular new venues have taken advantage of their clean industrial look and have kept decor at a minimum, essentially creating a blank slate for event planners. Exposed airducts and industrial lighting are commonplace at pop-up events.

It’s common place to find cool industrial furniture and decor mixed with the warm rustic look of reclaimed wood. It creates a really nice balance. In the photo above you can see a pop-up restaurant in New York, created by Kellogg’s, that utilized this combination of warm and cool to great effect.

One of the ideas behind this design trend is the growth in customer’s desire to be involved with the creative process from the ground floor. Collaboration on the web is an area of exponential growth. Crowdfunding, or collaborative funding via the web, is one of the standouts for growth in this evolving collaborative economy. With crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo growing rapidly, it’s no surprise that consumers want to experience that in person as well. Industrial Cool gives attendees the impression that they are part of the building process. For associations and companies interested in rebranding, Industrial Cool can be a very effective design approach to get that message across.

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 12.29.27 PMTrade show exhibitors have gotten into the game as well through the use of glass and sleek white finishes. Sandvik Coromant, a manufacturer of metal cutting tools, at the 2014 International Manufacturing Technology Show, held at Chicago’s McCormick Place, created a high-tech environment similar to that of a high-end manufacturing facility (see image to the right). Simple, monolithic shapes created a powerful statement on the show floor, along with a clean layout, minimal colors and dramatic architecture. But the biggest hit was probably the interactive displays where attendees could get up close and personal with the tools and get questions answered by experts in yellow lab coats. The “clean room” look feels to the customer like they are getting an inside look at something they shouldn’t be seeing. A peek behind closed doors if you will.

Industrial Cool is a design trend that can be very effective, depending on your goals. Remember, when designing industrial cool events, although it can be minimal, the power is in the details. Lighting fixtures, furniture, accent colors, brushed metal, etc. can all have a powerful effect. Use them sparingly. There’s a fine line between “Industrial Cool” and “Steampunk“.

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