Where the idea came from
A whole new display system… born in China… The Chinese have a special way with English. What can this possibly have been meant to say? It sounds like a recipe for a happy, if confused, old age…
The idea for ShowSuit came to me while I was walking round a huge exhibition in Shanghai where I took the picture shown above. As well as this sign I noticed a couple of other things at the show;
1) that all the best exhibition stands in the middle of the halls sported vibrant fabric graphics and
2) that the smaller “shell scheme” stands around the outside of the halls needed great graphics even more because, pretty much, they all look the same as each other.
Clearly fabric graphics would make a big difference to small exhibitors. Fabric just looks so vibrant and professional, but there are several other advantages to fabric. With fabric you can use a single roll as long as each wall so you don’t need any joins. Fabric is also much lighter and more compact for transport and much harder to damage. That’s a big reason why “soft-signage” has taken off so much of late. Many of those huge backlit signs that you see are fabric print, (many that are not backlit too).
Would it be possible, I wondered, to come up with a new display system? Something that looks really professional but can be put up by a shell scheme exhibitor? Bearing in mind that a shell scheme exhibitor is not a stand builder and never wanted to be a stand builder. This new display system would need to be easy to put up, easy to tension and easy to pack up? Could we, in effect, turn a standard shell scheme tradeshow booth into a giant soft-signage frame?
Questions and answers
In my experience inventing is not so much about answers as questions. Answers don’t go anywhere. They may be good or bad answers but they just sit there – take it or leave it. Questions on the other hand are dynamic, they lead somewhere and these turned out to be good questions.
You know you are getting somewhere with an invention when problems turn into improvements and that is how it has been with ShowSuit. The other thing I always find encouraging is when a design gets simpler as it progresses. Yes, you may have to throw away many hours of work but simpler is nearly always better in practice. Simpler is by no means easier though, simplicity takes focus whereas complication just happens. Designing in elegance and stripping back to what works naturally is, in my humble opinion, what made Apple the most valuable company on planet Earth.
ShowSuit had to be manageable by one person with simple instructions, no tools and a small stepladder. So a magnet and hook-&-loop-fastening system (patent pending) was developed to “self-fold” the fabric and keep it under control. ShowSuit had to be tough so it is made from nylon and stainless steel and aluminium and knitted polyester canvas. Above all, ShowSuit had to be beautiful so it uses dye-sublimation print. Quite simply the best (and 100% recycle-able and fade- and wash-proof).
When the problem is also the solution
Shell schemes are pretty standard and visually that is the problem. Because shell schemes look the same, the exhibition visitor, walking past a row of shell scheme booths, begins to glaze over. But, precisely because the shell scheme frames are standard, we knew that we could develop a system to fit that frame and to hide that standard frame. Which is exactly what ShowSuit does, beautifully and simply.
For me at least, the process of invention is evolution speeded up a bit. Prototypes ask good questions, problems may slow you down but they also suggest new alternatives if you keep an open mind. Mix questions with experience and you can cook up something that seems to take on a life of its own.
For example, as shell scheme graphics specialists with a range of unique products, we have been struck by how many of our customers want to use their display again and again. ShowSuit is designed with this in mind and copes easily with different stand layouts. Our new display system was inspired by our experience both as exhibitors and as suppliers.
It’s only natural
Most people invent stuff and then forget about it, inventors are just more obsessive. Maybe this is because they enjoy doing it or maybe because they just believe they can do it. Thomas Edison, arguably the greatest inventor of them all, said it was 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration but, if you think you can, my advice is to go for it – inventing a product and bringing it to market is a great adventure. There’s no myth to inventing, even patents are quite simple and cheap to get filed. You have a year to tidy them up if the idea takes off.
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