Why Show Up?

Trade fairs are business-building opportunities and inspirational hotbeds. So, make time to expand your vision.

By Hans Galutera

Attending events and exhibitions is a must for our design industry. As interior designers and architects, it helps us drill down on the latest information and trends within our sectors, meet new vendors and suppliers in the market and, equally importantly, network with our peers.

Personally, I am motivated by my three “I”s – to inform, incite and inspire ideas for design projects. Too often, we avoid these conferences and seminars, because we do not want to be “sold” something during our limited time at the event. However, in many cases, the presenters and panelists promoting their projects might just be what we need as designers and architects to stay relevant and compliant with the ever-changing codes of practice. We need to see the creative vision of our colleagues, and step outside of the box of our own studio or our clients’ way of looking at design concepts and execution.

That’s why, in March, I made time to attend three three major events: the Armory Art Show 2016 in Manhattan; Seatrade 2016 in Fort Lauderdale (usually in Miami and one which I have not attended for a number of years) and BDwest in Los Angeles.

The Armory Show ranged from the usual collectors’ art exhibitions with famous artists such as Josef Albers, Antony Gormley, Andy Warhol, etc., to our newest and most important contemporary stars. Most notably this year, there was a major focus on African art, which was obvious as soon as you walked in the door and were met with the artwork from Ed Young.

The most interesting section of this art exhibition, for me, is the Independent Show where you still have an opportunity to buy affordable art and potentially discover the next big names in art. Some to watch include: Skylar Fein, Alfredo Esquillo Jr, Maria Rubinke or the provocative Kent Monkman and Nadine Wottke.

Since our studio has expertise in designing ocean liners and cruise ships as part of hospitality sector niche, I attended Seatrade 2016 held in Fort Lauderdale. I was a bit disappointed with the limited resources available to the interior designers and architects of our specialty. The content and the networking with other players of the cruise line industry however, were very good. One aspect of this conference that truly piqued my interest, with its relevance to our skill set, was the introduction of the very first zero-emission passenger cruise ship – called Peaceboat – Ecoship (https://ecoship-pb.com/). I will be exploring this more on my next adventure so stay tuned! Other takeaways from this event are the increasing creative ways of travel agents to highlight destinations for the multitude of cruise lines on an international level.

The last show I attended in March was BDwest in Los Angeles, which is an annual trade fair and conference hosted by Boutique Design as a complement to its annual east coast sister show – BDNY (which, you may remember, as one of the biggest events of 2015). I was fortunate enough to be a panelist discussing “Shape Shifters: Space Plans and Spec Lists to Amp Up Multi-tasking Lobbies, Guest Rooms and Restaurants.” Matthew Hall, editor of Boutique Design magazine, led this discussion with notable designers and architects such as Ed Bakos, Managing Director, Champalimaud; Melanie Murata, Designer, Gensler; Michael Suomi, Principal and Vice President, Design, Stonehill & Taylor and Nathan Lee Colkitt, Founder and CEO, Colkitt&Co. It was a lively conversation and one of the more interesting key aspects brought up is the prediction of the increase of “We Work” type of hotels. (This will be a very interesting development to the boutique hospitality industry.)

Both BD events in LA and NYC are, for me, the reasons all designers need to see trade fair and conference attendance as a “must” part of building both their creativity and bottom lines that comes down to this CHOICE:

  • Collect new innovative materials for later reference and use for project presentations.
    Help you find potential investors and/or projects.
    Obtain new information from panelists and speakers.
    Interact with new professionals within your industry.
    Collect business cards to increase email lists and lead generation of potential projects.
    Educate with facts and statistics that assist to better know the marketplace and evaluating the latest technologies that can help grow your business.

Before even considering attending these events, try to understand the relevance of the conferences to your business and who will be there… I urge you to strongly make an effort to do at least two to four conferences or seminars each year.

Hans Galutera is co-founder and principal of New York-based BG Studio International. He is the past president of the Board of Directors for the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) New York Chapter and an Honorary Member of the Society of British Interior Designers (Hon.SBID). He is also an Advisory Board Member for the International Council for Caring Communities (ICCC), NY11 Plus, his Alma Mater FIT NYC and a professional member of the Design Institute of Australia (MDIA).