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udging by this year’s Exhibit Design Award winners, it’s time to stop making excuses for dull design. Facing some of the industry’s most substantial challenges — including everything from budget cuts to difficult-to-display products — the winners of EXHIBITOR Magazine’s 25th Annual Exhibit Design Awards didn’t fall back on conventional excuses; they soared above them.

Refusing to blame low budgets for dismal design, winners cranked out sophisticated exhibits using an average of $108 per square foot — that’s $55 per square foot less than the Exhibit Designers and Producers Association’s average for custom island exhibits. In fact, some exhibits more than “made do” with measly budgets. The designs for carpet manufacturer Desso B.V. and plumbing-product manufacturer Toto USA Inc. cost just $78 per square foot. Meanwhile, the three designs for Osram Opto Semiconductors GmbH (recipient of a Gold Award in the Design Consistency category) ran an average of $84 per square foot.

Also thanks to this year’s winners, small and difficult-to-demo products are no reason for dead design. In the Best of 25 Years category (a one-time category to honor the competition’s 25th anniversary), Chrysler Group LLC turned a traditional exhibit into a ride-and-drive experience to demo the company’s vehicles. Meanwhile, the exhibit for Oligo Lichttechnik GmbH used a repetition of form and a clever color palette to draw attention to the company’s Lilliputian-size light fixtures.

And when it comes to floor plans, small sizes are no defense for small-minded spaces either. Churning out designs for everything from a 51,300-square-foot space to a small but mighty 20-by-23-foot booth, winners proved it’s not the size of your space that matters, but how you use it.

Equally unfettered by the reins of rationalization, this year’s judges met in San Francisco, where they analyzed and examined, argued and cajoled for roughly eight hours. Working their way through a bevy of entries — representing 19 countries including Mexico, England, Canada, Hong Kong, Italy, Germany, and China — judges settled on 17 winners they felt were both masterfully designed and elegantly executed.  E


2011 JUDGES
(Clockwise from upper left) Dennis Crowe, president and creative director, VehicleSF, San Francisco; D. Jamie Rusin, AIA, LEED, AP, principal, ELS Architecture and Urban Design, Berkeley, CA; Donald Cremers, senior associate, HOK, San Francisco; Jennifer Morla, president and creative director, Morla Design, San Francisco; Debra Nichols, founder, Debra Nichols Design, San Francisco
Best of 25 Years
Ueberholz GmbH
Microsoft Corp.
Chrysler Group LLC



EDGE AWARD
Electrolux Appliances EMEA NV



GOLD AWARDS
Desso B.V.
Osram Opto Semiconductors GmbH
Gaggenau Hausgerate GmbH
SILVER AWARDS
Oligo Lichttechnik GmbH
Toto USA Inc.
Insta Elektro GmbH
RL Solutions


BRONZE AWARDS
Development Bureau, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
Keen Inc.


ELEMENTS
Blue Telescope
Emka Beschlagteile GmbH & Co. KG
Audi of America Inc.
Intel Corp.
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