What a time to be alive.

There was an era in the not-so-distant past that exhibits were almost exclusively built with standard construction materials such as wood, laminate, plexiglass, metal, etc. Everything from wall structures to graphics and overhead signage were built with these heavy, expensive commodities. Somewhere around the early 2000’s though, things would begin to change. A new exhibit ingredient would begin to hit the streets. One that would eventually change the way the world exhibited for the better.

As you may have deduced by the title of this entry, we’re talking of course, about fabric.

These days, you’d be hard pressed to find a custom exhibit project that did not make use of it in some way, shape or form. Why though? How could something as seemingly obvious as fabric change everything about the industry? Let’s take a look at some of the critical elements of a trade show that fabric impacts.

Weight

“How can I make my exhibit lighter?” is probably one of the first questions most exhibit managers ask a potential production partner. Well fabric is the #1 answer, because fabric is LIGHT. Really light! With drayage and shipping costs spiraling out of control, fabric came on the scene at the best possible time. Fabric can be stretched and wrapped around lightweight aluminum skeletons to create massive structures, from full exhibit walls and unique structures to overhead banners and large format graphics. The sheer size that fabric covers compared to the size it takes up when it’s condensed back down is a winning ratio. Here’s an example – A standard wall panel is 4’W x 8’H. Let’s say you wanted to run an 80’W x 16’H wall structure across the back of your exhibit. You’d need a total of 40 -50 wall structures that would take up a good six to eight custom packing cases, which is almost half a trailer and could weigh somewhere around 8,000 lbs.  I’m sure you don’t even want to think about what the drayage cost for that would be!  Well, the same wall structure could be done with a fabric pillowcase graphic that would fit in just one or two custom cases. Not only that, but the wall would weigh a fraction of what the custom wall structures would weigh. Between shipping and drayage, you’re talking about saving a small fortune.

Ease of Setup

Typical fabric structures are created with an internal aluminum skeleton that is custom built to specifically form the shape we’re trying to achieve. Each tube is clearly engraved with a piece number that matches the next component to the skeleton.  Once the structure is complete, the fabric, which is akin to spandex, is easily stretched around the structure to form the final shape. Engineered by a savvy exhibit producer such as RGo, it’s as easy as setting up a tent!  Compared to setting up physical structures made of wood, this is far less work. With labor costs as high as $250 per hour in some places (We’re looking at YOU, New York!), anything that can drastically reduce the time required for your labor to perform their installation and dismantle duties is something we all should strive for!

Design Considerations

Simply put, there’s just no way some design concepts can be realized with standard building materials in a trade show setting. Yes, the world has created some fantastic architectural feats, but when there’s two days to set up an exhibit, options are limited. Because of this, fabric structures can expand on our capabilities tremendously. Almost any shape we can think of can be executed in fabric. Over the years, this has allowed us to create some truly stunning work, setting our clients apart from the crowd, and all without breaking the bank.

 

At the end of the day, the exhibit industry owes a great deal of gratitude towards the integration of fabric into our exhibiting lives. Indeed, the world at large, whether they know it or not does as well. Just think of all the companies that were able to drive up their ROI and succeed at introducing new products and concepts into this world to help grow their businesses and keep people employed all because their exhibit producer had the knowledge and know-how to integrate this wonderful element into their exhibit program.

So the next time you’re trying to fold that fitted fabric bed sheet, don’t get angry! Be thankful for the silent partnership fabric has had with the very fabric of our global economy!

And if you’d like to see how RGo could help lighten the load at your next show by integrating some unique fabric elements into your exhibit program, give us a call!

 

PS: If you’re still having trouble with that fitted sheet, here’s a little tutorial on how to fold it perfect every time!