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BEST OF 30 YEARS
Exhibitor: Derse Inc. Design/Fabrication: Derse Inc., Milwaukee, 414-257-2000, www.derse.com Show: EXHIBITOR2008 (now known as EXHIBITORLIVE) Budget: $150,000 – $249,000 Size: 20-by-40 feet

PHOTOS: Padgett and Company Inc.
Pause and Effect
EXHIBITORLIVE can be as crowded – and as noisy – as Disney World, with a thunder of voices and an ocean of ambient noise. Knowing that such a relentless cacophony can drain attendees like a sieve, Milwaukee-based exhibit house Derse Inc. wanted to create a retreat as restful as a park and as rejuvenating as a spa for the 2008 show.

The company's architectural muse was the Spanish Steps of Rome. Designed in the 18th century, the steps connect the Spanish embassy with the Holy See, as well as the two public plazas where tourists sit and pause while the rest of Rome rushes around them. Derse took the pause concept, added an open-space floor plan, and turned it into a truly contemporary re-creation. "The booth's visual concept was based on the principles ofâ?,modernism," said Russ Fowler, Derse's executive creative director. "Simple. Clean. Efficient."


Soothe Operator
To draw in attendees, Derse Inc. offered a refuge from the sensory overload of EXHIBITORLIVE 2008. Using a neutral palette for virtually every surface, a lack of ornamentation, and open-air seating, Derse created a relaxing retreat that encouraged visitors to come in and chill out.
After attendees entered the $170,000 booth by stepping over the risers that bordered the 20-by-40-foot space – or by simply using an entry point on one end of the exhibit – visitors lazed quietly on circular cushions scattered along the steps and watched the world whiz by. Nearly every 20 minutes, the lights dimmed to twilight levels, and four fog-white fabric screens, ranging in size from 12-by-20 feet to 12-by-40 feet, descended from the ceiling, transforming the booth into a sealed-off haven. Then, while quiet reigned, a two-minute, high-definition film about the bliss of taking a break played on screens that lined the soothing structure's interior walls.

The design's ability to silence the racket of the show floor and immerse attendees in Derse's calm, quiet key messages made a deep impression on this year's Exhibit Design Awards judges who selected this exhibit as one of the best from the past 30 years. "Literally enclosing attendees within your experience is brilliant," said one judge. "This idea was absolutely killer."


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