Putting on an exhibition can be a stressful business. Alongside finding exciting exhibitors, fascinating features and stirring speakers, organisers are also expected to create an event that reflects its industry.
So how should an organiser go about putting on an event tailored to connect the world’s most renowned design brands with architects, interior designers and retail buyers?
“designjunction was founded on the idea of breaking the traditional trade show mould,” event director Will Sorrell tells EN. Since its inception, the show has rejected conventional exhibition venues for more unusual locations, and has incorporated high-class eateries, pop-ups and installations into its fabric.
The show moved to its new long-term home in King’s Cross in 2016, marking a whole new era in its evolution. The area around the station is going through an incredible period of redevelopment, transforming from an industrial wasteland into a creative central London hub.
“I’d had my eye on that site from before my time at designjunction,” enthuses Sorrell. “I could see it was a really interesting area.”
The area has becoming an increasingly creative neighbourhood; Google is opening a major new of ce on the development and The Guardian newspaper is headquartered just minutes from the show site. This means that a not-insigni cant proportion of the 27,000 visitors the show receives over its ve days are already working in the area.
“We’ve got this naturally design-interested audience,” continues Sorrell. “Our key audience is essentially already there.”
designjunction is split across several indoor and outdoor areas covering trade and consumer markets. Temporary pop-up venue The Canopy caters to both a trade and consumer retail audience, while the centrally located Granary Square acts as a feature area showcasing installations from partners. “Something our visitors really liked last year was the fact that they could walk around the show, look at the installations and have lunch,” says Sorrell. “This year we’ve let people do big, bold installations and turned Granary Square essentially into a sculpture garden.”
designjunction has been a partner of London Design Festival since the show rst launched, and is now one of the core destinations for the festival.
While some of the companies using the Granary Square space are design brands, others are major global names using the space as a chance to get in front of the show’s high-earning design-savvy visitors.
“We’ve had a lot of major global brands approach us this year through their agencies to use the show as a space for brand activations,” continues Sorrell. “They’re not design brands but they’ve got a strong design element to their main business.” One example coming to this year’s event
is an activation from Campari inspired by a historic design week in Milan.
“There’s an area in Milan called Navigli. it’s full of canals, and loads of designers go there and drink negronis the whole week,” explains Sorrell. “What Campari are doing is bringing a barge to the canal at Granary Square and bringing a taste of Navigli to designjunction.”
Founded on a principle of breaking the mould of a conventional exhibition, designjunction will no doubt continue innovating in its new home at King’s Cross. In a city like London, where there is limited space for large, sprawling events, it’s certainly a way of shaking up the traditional trade show model.
Editor’s note: This features appeared in the September issue of EN. The digital edition is available now.