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EXHIBITOR Magazine's Fourth Annual
Portable/‌Modular Awards
Portable, modular, and system exhibits have moved out of the shadows and into the spotlight, thanks to forward-thinking exhibitors and designers able to marry functional components with aesthetic excellence. More and more, these nimble yet infinitely customizable structures effortlessly comprise entire exhibits and integrate into custom builds.

To recognize and promote this indispensable segment of our industry, EXHIBITOR magazine launched its Portable/Modular Awards competition in 2014. While the goal of the program is to recognize the suppliers, designers, and fabricators responsible for some of the industry's most remarkable exhibits, it also aims to showcase what it is possible to achieve with portable, modular, and system components.

So please join us in recognizing the 11 winners of EXHIBITOR Magazine's Fourth Annual Portable/Modular Awards, who prove that while portable and modular components are lightweight and flexible, they can also be inventive and downright stunning.

The ZEIgler Award
Best Rental Exhibit

Exhibitor: True Fit Corp.
Design/Fabrication: Hill & Partners, Weymouth, MA, 617-471-7990, www.hillpartners.com
System: Searle Exhibit Technologies Inc.
Event: Shop.Org
Budget: $150,000 – $249,000
Size: 20-by-30 feet
Photo: Cole Group

Trade shows can certainly be downright stressful. And while the majority of that tension usually falls upon exhibit managers and the exhibit houses that support them, sometimes that stress even trickles down to the truck drivers that haul the shipments. This was made evident a few years ago when my company crafted a custom booth for a client exhibiting at the American Academy of Neurology Show held in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

We shipped the client's exhibit from our Massachusetts office to the venue in plenty of time for our crew to complete a two-day setup schedule. However, at 7 a.m. Saturday, the first day of setup, our on-site supervisor called our main office to inform us that our truck was AWOL.

Apparently the truck driver hauling the shipment had called the previous night to report that he was two hours out from the show and would be spending the night in the marshalling yard – which was perfect timing for an early morning call to the docks. The problem was, however, that the driver never showed up at the marshalling yard, and the shipping company had no idea where he'd gone. In effect, our driver and every stitch of exhibitry had vanished into thin air, like the Statue of Liberty in the hands of David Copperfield. With the show opening on Monday at 3:30, we needed to either find that exhibit pronto or scrounge up a Plan B to fill its place.




The People's Choice Award
Best Fabric Exhibit

Exhibitor: Aluvision Inc.
Design/Fabrication: Aluvision Inc., Duluth, GA, 470-252-3500, www.aluvision.com
System: Aluvision Inc.
Event: EXHIBITORLIVE
Budget: $40,000 – $79,000
Size: 20-by-30 feet
Photo: Aluvision Inc.

Whether they intended to or not, designers at Aluvision Inc. tapped into a key Buddhist doctrine with the design for its display at EXHIBITORLIVE 2016: impermanence. Devising a structure whose palette continually morphed between varying shades of blue, purple, red, pink, and green, they illustrated Siddhartha Guatama's assertion that all of life is transient. And in doing so, they wowed Portable/Modular Awards judges, who proclaimed the environment "intriguing," "impressive," and "unexpectedly organic."

Aluvision's 20-by-30-foot stand was, in effect, a shrine to the company's line of modular exhibit components. Going into the show, the firm hoped to develop an eye-catching display comprising a wide range of exhibitry to highlight the system's quality and efficiency. However, it also wanted to avoid any semblance of disjointedness, in favor of a continuous, innovative, and seamless presentation.

The resulting exhibit offered a congruous combination of angles and curves. At its heart, two angular, U-shaped structures caught visitors' eyes from afar. Comprising Aluvision's Fab-186 Bright, a silicone-edge graphic (SEG) fabric extrusion, the internally lit structures featured the firm's logo and formed the canvas upon which a colorful light show took place. While the fabric offered a subtle diamond-like graphic pattern, it morphed between soothing shades throughout the show courtesy of concealed LEDs.

Drawn by the light show, visitors explored the various ground-level product displays organized into angular arrangements, as well as seamless curving structures – combinations that displayed myriad infills such as Dibond panels, SEG fabrics, and glass. Two demonstration kiosks with continuous product presentations proclaimed the simplicity and ingenuity of the frame system. Functioning collectively, the components created an exhibit nirvana that earned the award for Best Fabric Exhibit, along with the People's Choice Award, racking up the most votes out of the nearly 15,000 cast by visitors to www.ExhibitorOnline.com.




Best Island Exhibit
(More than 1,000 sq. ft.)

Exhibitor: Affinia Group Inc. (a Mann+Hummel GmbH company)Design/Fabrication: EEI Global Inc., Rochester Hills, MI 248-608-7500, www.eeiglobal.com
System: Octanorm USA Inc.
Event: Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo
Budget: $250,000 – $499,000
Size: 20-by-80 feet
Photo: EEI Global Inc.

Generally speaking, one doesn't use terms like "sophisticated" and "aesthetically elevated" to describe filtration products. But those are the exact words judges used in reference to this award-winning booth from Affinia Group Inc. (a Mann+Hummel GmbH company), which makes the Wix brand of aftermarket filtration products used in cars, off-road equipment, and manufacturing applications.

Going into the Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo, Affinia Group wanted a fresh environment that encompassed ample meeting space, a sizable theater, and several product-display areas. Designers at EEI Global Inc. delivered using a system from Octanorm USA Inc. and a handful of elements from its rental inventory.

The 20-by-80-foot design enlisted a canopy that ran the length of the footprint and comprised three oblong boxes made of tensioned, dye-sublimated fabric. Meanwhile, the ground-floor environment featured several distinct zones that judges touted for being "nicely defined spaces created without unsightly, unnecessary visual barriers."

On one end of the booth, designers placed a contemporary reception desk and informal seating area perfect for impromptu conversations. Nearby fabric-covered Octanorm structures, each of which contained "windows" into which Wix products were inserted, defined the footprint. Toward the rear of the environment, a narrow presentation theater offered sufficient space for up to 20 visitors, and an enclosed lounge and conference room for more private conversations was nestled atop the theater via a double-deck system.

Sleek surfaces, square shapes, and a contemporary color palette maintained a sophisticated vibe. Yet at the same time, bold pops of Wix yellow – found in the canopy, product-display structures, and even a tricked-out Ford hatchback – drew scores of attendees' eyes and bodies into the space.




Best International Exhibit

Exhibitor: Matrix Frame USA
Design/Fabrication: Matrix Frame BV, Leiden, Netherlands, 31-715-226-771, www.matrixframe.eu
System: Matrix Frame BV
Event: GlobalShop
Budget: Less Than $40,000
Size: 20-by-40 feet
Photo: Matrix Frame BV

Oftentimes, exhibitors look to lightboxes as an exhibit accoutrement – a key player in the ensemble, if you will – but they're usually not undeniable focal points of a design. Matrix Frame USA set out to change all that in its exhibit at GlobalShop 2016. The manufacturer of aluminum extrusion frames and silicone-edge (SEG) fabric graphics wanted to prove that its lightboxes could be far more than bit players. In fact, it sought to show that instead of just adding to an exhibit, the structures could be the exhibit.

Playing with a 20-by-40-foot space and less than $40,000, the Dutch office of Matrix Frame devised a structure that showcased the firm's manufacturing and fabrication capabilities yet also highlighted its printing skills via bold fabric graphics. Judges lauded the vibrant colors, calling the space "a sleek, stylish, and modern presentation of the exhibitor's product."

Featuring sports-related imagery, exhibit graphics played up the fact that the Summer Olympics were taking place in a few short months. Even the structure itself got in on the action, so to speak, as designers inserted Profile 50 frames, which tilt and turn on vertical and horizontal center rods, into the center cutouts on the five main lightbox structures positioned alongside the aisle.

Measuring 8-by-13 feet, those supersized lightboxes comprised Profile 200 double-sided extrusions, each of which was powder coated in one of the same colors found in the Olympic rings. Within the interior, a rectangular conference table for meetings and a stand-alone information counter maintained an open space yet afforded ample area for attendees and staff to relax.




Best Island Exhibit
(600 to 1,000 sq. ft.)

Exhibitor: Silva International Inc
Design/Fabrication: Nimlok Chicago, Des Plaines, IL, 847-647-7555, www.nimlok-chicago.com
System: Nimlok Chicago
Event: Institute of Food Technologists
Budget: $80,000 – $149,000
Size: 20-by-30 feet
Photo: Exposures Ltd.

After having used the same exhibit for more than a decade, Silva International Inc. was due for a change. So going into the Institute of Food Technologists show, the wholesale supplier of dehydrated fruit, vegetables, and herbs enlisted the design and fabrication expertise of Des Plaines, IL-based Nimlok Chicago. However, Silva's objectives included far more than simply devising a new structure.

The company wanted a clean, sophisticated, and modern design that would help elevate the brand, but it also hoped to include plenty of product displays and rural-inspired elements reflective of its products' farm origins. What's more, Silva wanted both open and semiprivate areas for in-booth discussions.

Ticking all the boxes, the resulting 20-by-30-foot stand featured a free-flowing floor plan that included three bistro-height table-and-chair groupings as well as a semi-enclosed private meeting room. Throughout the space, a contemporary, white palette was broken by pops of color in shades of green and brown. Designers peppered the space with faux wood beams to provide the rustic touch Silva craved, and two areas with suspended canopies added a sense of coziness and permanence minus the confinement associated with a covered space.

In a move judges called "an ingenious and elegant use of product," designers placed dehydrated food products inside transparent Plexiglas cylinders and then scattered them throughout the environment. Short cylinders lined a 10-foot display wall near the reception counter, while roughly 3-foot versions surrounded the meeting room. Meanwhile, backlit graphic panels and pendant lighting reinforced the bright, crisp, brand-appropriate design aesthetic.




Best Reconfigurable Exhibit

Exhibitor: Abaxis Inc.
Design/Fabrication: Access TCA Inc., Whitinsville, MA, 508-234-9791, www.accesstca.com
System: Access TCA Inc.
Event: Western Veterinary Conference
Budget: $500,000 – $749,000
Size: 50-by-50 feet
Photo: Padgett and Company Inc.

Touted by judges as "a prime example of how to carry a clear identity and design aesthetic across multiple footprints," this lithe exhibit for Abaxis Inc. took the top slot in the Best Reconfigurable Exhibit category. Abaxis, which supplies point-of-care blood analyzers to the veterinary market, wanted a bigger, brighter, and more functional exhibit, but reconfigurability was also a key demand – as was overall brand consistency and minimal weight to cut down on shipping and drayage costs.

Access TCA's solution (which can be reconstructed to fit footprints ranging from a meager 10-by-10 to a 50-by-50-foot leviathan) consisted of aluminum frames and tensioned-fabric skins, which kept weight-related charges to the bare minimum. While the majority of graphics featured the company name and bold, Abaxis blue, lifestyle images also played a role. Fabricated as both backlit and unlit elements, they could be applied to multiple environments.

Similarly, the overall construction of the space made adaptability a top priority. For example, display stands and counters could be used alone or in multiples, thereby providing variable lengths, and the exhibit's closet included a center section that could be removed to quickly decrease its size. Despite its ability to shape shift to suit widely variable footprints, the design proved both highly functional and aesthetically exceptional.




Best 10-by-10-Foot Exhibit

Exhibitor: Nordic Naturals Inc.
Design/Fabrication: Access TCA Inc., Whitinsville, MA, 508-234-9791, www.accesstca.com System: Moss Inc.
Event: North American Veterinary Community Conference
Budget: $10,000 – $19,000
Size: 10-by-10 feet
Photo: Padgett and Company Inc.

It's difficult to hit one out of the park your first time at bat, but that's exactly what Nordic Naturals Inc. did at the North American Veterinary Community Conference. Known for its omega-3 dietary supplements for humans, Nordic Naturals was introducing a similar product line for pets. But given the product's recent inception, Nordic Naturals could only spare up to $19,000 for a 10-by-10-foot booth.

Designers at Access TCA Inc. developed a prominent and alluring graphic that took center stage. Stretched atop an aluminum EZ Fabric Wall frame from Moss Inc., a gray-toned graphic featured a striking image of an older gentleman bundled up for arctic weather and holding his cat in a protective embrace. Clear Plexiglas shelving displayed product samples while white text offered the company and product names.

Paired with little more than a white, podium-style reception desk and two contemporary benches, the back wall promoted both the product and the company's heritage. What's more, judges praised the design's "blend of practical product displays and emotional appeal."




Best Island Exhibit

(Less than 600 sq. ft.)

Exhibitor: Hill & Partners
Design/Fabrication: Hill & Partners, Weymouth, MA, 617-471-7990, www.hillpartners.com
System: Moss Inc.
Event: EXHIBITORLIVE
Budget: $80,000 – $149,000
Size: 20-by-20 feet
Photo: Cole Group

When you're selling the ability to design and build exhibit, event, and interior environments, a stellar booth design isn't just a requirement; it's a make-or-break mandate. Thankfully for all involved, Hill & Partners created a stand that not only exceeded those obligations, but also met those of the judges, who called it "a beautifully designed space that showcased the exhibitor's design acumen and building craftsmanship."

Constructed using the EZ Fabric Wall frame system from Moss Inc., the exhibit borrowed the look and feel of Hill & Partners' home office. Most laminates and flooring featured a wood-grain look in neutral brown, beige, and gray tones, and a central white wall offered a faux stone fa├žade. Inset and suspended light fixtures, an L-shaped overhead fabric structure, and a few pops of color completed the sleek, modern space.

Despite its relatively meager 20-by-20-foot footprint, the exhibit was skillfully divided into several compartments. For instance, a table and four chairs were placed beneath a contemporary light fixture, and an elegant bar provided a slightly more formal conversation space.

The modern environment offered both aesthetic appeal and functional support for conversations. Overall, the simple but thoughtful architecture, paired with refined graphics and quality materials, combined to create an inviting space for staff and attendees alike.




Best Use of Graphics

Exhibitor: Classic Exhibits Inc.
Design/Fabrication: Classic Exhibits Inc., Milwaukie, OR, 503-652-2100, www.classicexhibits.com
System: Classic Exhibits Inc.
Event: EXHIBITORLIVE
Budget: $80,000 – $149,000
Size: 20-by-30 feet
Photo: Classic Exhibits Inc.

Taking the top slot in the Best Use of Graphics category was the 20-by-30-foot design from Classic Exhibits Inc. Going into EXHIBITORLIVE 2016, the company planned to debut its Gravitee One-Step Modular System, which features fully assembled panels that connect without loose parts or tools and that accept silicone-edge (SEG)fabric and direct-print graphics. In doing so, the firm also wanted to illustrate the evolution of its products and thereby promote existing offerings alongside the new line; plus, it wanted its graphic imagery to soften the rectangular nature of its panel systems.

To tackle these challenges, designers chose a simple tree-and-apple concept. Throughout the space, graphics comprised mostly gray-and-white line drawings of trees and apples, with delicate curls used to craft the intended images. Accompanying text such as "It didn't just fall from a tree. Introducing Gravitee One-Step Wall System" suggested the new product's evolution. The apple imagery was created using both line-drawn, neutral-colored fruit and full-color versions, whose watercolor-like shades of red, yellow, and green popped against the otherwise black-and-white palette. In addition, a roughly 16-foot-tall tower at the front of the space featured a tree illustration along with apple images that sporadically lit up courtesy of embedded LEDs that illuminated in seemingly random patterns throughout the show.

In an effort to further promote the products' evolutionary nature, designers positioned a series of five displays of varying sizes along an aisle, each of which was constructed from a different product line and whose graphic panels offered text explaining the respective product's benefits. As the displays were arranged in order of height, the assemblage swiftly referenced the idea of evolutionary progress. The same curvy line drawings that made up the tree-and-apple imagery appeared throughout the graphics, uniting the entire in-booth experience and creating what judges called "a thoughtful graphics application that was eye catching and on brand without being overdone."




Best In-Line Exhibit

Exhibitor: Spirion LLC (formerly Identity Finder LLC)
Design/Fabrication: Classic Exhibits Inc., Milwaukie, OR, 503-652-2100, www.classicexhibits.com
Design: ProExhibits, Fremont, CA, 877-606-6150, www.proexhibits.com
System: Classic Exhibits Inc.
Event: RSA Security Conference
Budget: $20,000 – $39,000
Size: 10-by-20 feet
Photo: Classic Exhibits Inc.

Designing an exhibit to effectively market an intangible software product can be a challenge in and of itself. But pair that barrier with a shoe box-sized space, and that little speed bump turns into a stumbling block the size of Everest. Yet that was the challenge Spirion LLC delivered to the design teams at ProExhibits and Classic Exhibits Inc.

The award-winning 10-by-20-foot exhibit, which featured two distinct components, was constructed using tensioned-fabric graphics and ClassicModul extrusions. The left side of the space offered a sort of shadowbox design into which Spirion's familiar blue dog logo (made of blue PVC mounted atop clear Plexiglas) was inserted over a white background.

Meanwhile, the right portion of the space comprised a SuperNova LED lightbox. Bathed in Spirion blue, the lightbox presented nothing more than text proclaiming the product name and three benefit statements. By selecting a mere 13 words with maximum impact, Spirion communicated its key messages in a glance – and managed to wow visitors and judges alike. For in the words of one juror, "Spirion's space is proof positive that one powerful graphic can deliver an effective marketing message."




Best Use of Technology

Exhibitor: National Oilwell Varco
Design/Fabrication: 2020 Exhibits Inc., Houston, 713-354-0900, www.2020exhibits.com
System: Octanorm USA Inc.
Event: Offshore Technology Conference
Budget: $250,000 – $499,000
Size: 50-by-80 feet
Photo: 713Photography

How do you make the most of a reduced footprint while meeting the needs of three product divisions? If you're National Oilwell Varco (NOV), you harness the power of a few simple technologies, opt for a double-deck structure, and create an inviting and award-winning space.

Hailed by judges as "a nicely defined environment with sharp graphics and lines," NOV's exhibit at the 2016 Offshore Technology Conference was a leaner, meaner stand compared to previous years when the footprint topped 5,500 square feet. Designed by 2020 Exhibits Inc., the 2016 rendition measured only 50-by-80 feet, yet it still adequately housed all of the product information and meeting space required by the Houston-based oil and gas provider's divisions.

To create a more substantial presence, designers oriented a double-deck structure on the front aisle. While the upper level offered a hospitality area, the space beneath the structure provided plenty of room for product demonstrations courtesy of 46-inch LED monitors and iPad kiosks at which attendees could view product catalogs and select specific product-demo animations that were then displayed on the monitors.

The remainder of the environment featured two 2-by-4-foot video walls that were placed along the aisle and projected atmospheric animations. Directional speakers provided sufficient volume for those stationed nearby and minimal disturbance for those several feet away. In addition, 55-inch monitors were used to form three interactive 3-by-3-foot video walls at which attendees could watch animations of the drilling process featuring NOV's tools and technology. Abundant storage space was tucked away into the corners of the video wall and the staircase bases leading to the upper deck. So for NOV, less was more, as less space equated to a more strategic design – and a Portable/Modular Award to boot.


2017 Judges
Entries were scored by a two-part panel of marketing and design experts who evaluated both the aesthetic qualities of the completed portable/modular exhibits as well as their functionality, practicality, suitability, messaging, and marketing capabilities.

Diane Benson, CTSM, Americas exhibits leader, GE Healthcare, Hamilton, NJ
Glenda Brungardt, CTSM, trade show and event marketing program manager, HP Inc., Fort Collins, CO
Hans de Wit, art director, Wit Design, Ulvenhout, Netherlands
Curt Doty, president, Curt Doty Co., Los Angeles
Tom Doumasiou, creative director, NeosCreative, Hampton Wick, U.K.
Tom Graboski, principal, Tom Graboski & Associates Inc., Miami Beach, FL
Steven Marchese, CTSM, manager, corporate events, Fujifilm Medial Systems USA Inc., Stamford, CT
Diane Perlov, senior vice president for exhibits, California Science Center, Los Angeles
Melanie Swanson, CTSM, CMP, trade show coordinator, Johnson Health Tech North America, Cottage Grove, WI
Dana Tilghman, CTSM CMP, senior trade show and events planner, Minitab Inc., State College, PA
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