Raw. Edgy. Stark. This exhibit for bicycle suspension fork manufacturer RockShox Inc. (now owned by Sram LLC) was a purist's dream. So it should come as no surprise that it was selected by Exhibit Design Awards judges as one of the best from the past three decades.
When RockShox turned to Mauk Design Inc. to create its exhibit for Interbike 2000, principal Mitchell Mauk had one caveat: "We need to strip out everything except the product." But how do you erect an attention-getting exhibit armed only with bike forks, a 40-by-50-foot space, and $200,000? According to Mauk, it takes extreme clarity. "Bike forks are about mountains. They're about bikes. They're about suspension. That's it," Mauk said. And that's all the design team allowed.
A Bumpy Ride
RockShox Inc.'s exhibit at Interbike 2000 put all the focus on the company's bicycle suspension forks. Transparent bikes allowed RockShox to display its offerings in a suitable context without the bike itself stealing attention. Furthermore, a moving conveyor belt equipped with footholds made for indoor climbing walls put the suspension forks to the test while cutouts allowed attendees a view of the shocks' inner workings.
To create the conceptual mountains that would ultimately sit atop the exhibit's four corners, Mauk used thin plywood bent over ribbed frames. The pyramidal elements received a coat of white paint on the interior surfaces and multicolored laminate on the exterior walls. From the aisles, passersby saw clear plastic bikes seemingly frozen in mid descent on the sheer face of the makeshift mountains. Why transparent bikes? RockShox needed to show various bicycle types without showcasing a specific brand. Finally, to demo the forks' action, Mauk placed a conveyor belt in the center of the booth. The belt, peppered with rock-like bumps, ran continuously while wheels equipped with RockShox suspension forks barely bounced, demonstrating the quality.
Plywood mountains, transparent bikes, working shocks. Nothing more. Stark? Absolutely. But also pure genius, according to judges, who called it "wonderfully simple." Ultimately, RockShox proved that sometimes the exhibits that speak the loudest are the ones with the quietest, most pared-down designs.