"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." This quote from French writer and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupery (which was actually found on the fabric scrim within one of this year's winning designs) provides the perfect commentary on EXHIBITOR Magazine's 26th Annual Exhibit Design Awards.
Including everything from an incredibly well-edited exhibit featuring more than 700 products to a standout little 23-by-33-foot space the judges called "a strikingly simple design that sparked our emotions straight out of the gate," the 2012 Exhibit Design Award winners have mastered the art of addition and subtraction.
Assembled in a Miami Beach, FL, hotel earlier this year, our judges waded through entries from multiple countries, including Israel, Spain, Turkey, and China, among others. After eight hours of analysis, judges arrived at 17 winners - and established a clear preference for restraint.
For example, the competition's top honor - the EDGE Award (for Exhibit Design and Graphics Excellence) - went to Brunner GmbH. The deliciously simple design used a single product, i.e., a plastic chair, to create a "wave" that appeared to flow from the exhibit's floor up toward the ceiling, where it hovered as a free-floating form.
Meanwhile, the Formica Group and Blomus GmbH exhibits practically dripped with products. Yet by using precise placement and allowing the wares to take center stage, designers sidestepped cluttered catastrophes.
But perhaps the epitome of "restraint" was the exhibit for Bugatti Automobiles S.A.S. While the brand is the holy grail of opulence and exclusivity, the booth was a study in well-bridled creativity. Pristine lines and dramatic forms played a supporting role to the autos on display.
What's more, designers' ability to add and subtract also applied to budgets. The winning exhibits averaged a meager $125 per square foot, which is a far cry from the Exhibit Designers and Producers Association's 2011 average of $160 per square foot for single-tiered island exhibits.
So hats off to this year's winners, many of whom live by the words of William A. Foster: "Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives." This year, perhaps more than any other, wise choices involve knowing both what to add and what to eliminate. E