Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair has met up with industry profile Britt Berden, art director at The Future Laboratory in London to talk about what the fair of the future looks like.
What does the trade fair of the future look like?
"A hybrid approach is the future of events, fairs and shows. As regions have now re-opened, the virtual spaces have provided new kind of opportunities and ways to engage and connect in collective ways we have not seen before.
Fairs have seized the opportunity to continue to delight and inspire visitors in new ways by embracing the digital as well as the physical, we’ve seen this for example at Dutch Design Week in 2020, VDF by Dezeen, Surface Tension World. Whilst people weren’t always physically together, they were able to connect, interact and engage with one another – united by values of” community, purpose and inspiration.
What changes has the pandemic brought to the trade fair circuit and what challenges is facing the traditional fairs when they re-open again?
"What we’ve seen is that the pandemic really meant that the digitisation of fairs expedited. Regular visitors couldn’t travel, people couldn’t work collaboratively in a way they were used to and this massively impact the process and approach to design as well as the fairs in general. It overhauled the systems and industry built upon this. Here at The Future Laboratory, we’re always intrigued by how people are adapting and responding to changing and challenging circumstances, to new environments, to new innovations, to new situations. And the pandemic has really showed the acceleration of the digital world within this - it forced people across the whole world to rethink their approach/ideas / ways of working. For trade fairs that was a moment to revalue and question everything that a trade fair was – what has a physical show to offer vs a digital show and what new opportunities does this open up?
How do they need to adapt to stay interesting?
”What we’ll see happening in the years to come is that technology will push trade fairs even further - haptic technology already means digital interaction, while real-time tools can make that more seamless. In 2030, with a continuation of technology and design in the metaverse continue to develop, the emergence of extended reality and hyper-real digital avatars could mean it will make it possible to distinguish who is attending in real life and who is attending digitally.
And when it comes to live events, shows, and fairs that is where the future lies. Physical spaces will be augmented by digital capabilities and really enable communal, immersive event experiences to take place.
On the other hand, a really interesting development is how the physical trade fair has become much more conscious, purposeful and sustainable. The pandemic really laid bare the responsibilities of brands and designers to create regenerative systems, looking at the carbon footprint of materials, travel, material usage etc.
At Milan Design Week for example we’ve seen Note Design Studio and Vestre harness the power of design and data to promote sustainable urban futures. Their indoor garden and exhibition was reconstructed using materials from a previous exhibition – allowing for a modular system that can be repeatedly deconstructed and repurposed, where 90% of the stand were re-used. As part of that too, in March 2021 Vestre became the world’s first to declare the carbon footprint of all its products, signalling items’ sustainability credentials next to their price.
Whilst Studio Lanza Atelier has been rethinking how materials and furniture are used within art settings, its resulting exhibition furniture for the re-source show at New Yorks’ Stroefront Gallery is made with recycled plywood and surplus items from the gallery’s past collections. By allowing visitor to buy its gallery displays, the studio is combatting the single-use nature of the exhibited design industry.
There is a massive opportunity for trade fairs to bring that hybridity to events – previously intangible or unimaginable concepts and executions are all possible. Whilst virtual showrooms offer new kind of engagement and interactions – engaging through virtual avatars as well as an opportunity to test new kind of products/materials/prototypes before manufacturing – using it as part of the R&D phase. The digital fair is where there is a massive opportunity to bolster access as well as amplify exclusivity and inclusion. Whilst the physical event space is where resources can be shared as well as driving collaboration whilst reducing the environmental impact of shows.”