Building Narratives Through Spatial Design

  • Article
  • Interview
  • Grand Stand 6
POINT OUT – the second chapter of Frame Publishers' Grand Stand 6 focuses on building narrative through spatial design.

Interview for Frame Publishers, GRAND STAND 6. Designing Stands for Trade Fairs and Events

For the sixth edition of Grand Stand, one of the most relevant book series about contemporary design for trade fairs and events, Guido Mamczur, one of the Managing Directors of D’art Design Gruppe, was interviewed. With Ana Martins, author for Amsterdam Frame Publishers, he talked introductory to the second chapter “POINT OUT. Building narratives through spatial design” about Dart’s long-time experience in the world of trade fairs and the construction of effective brand narratives through spatial design.



The first Grand Stand was published in 2003. How has stand design changed over the past 14 years?

Trade fairs define the cutting edge of what is possible in terms of brand experience. Today we are moving closer to a seamless alliance between digital and analogue. If you compare recent stands to projects 14 years ago, we can see that media-technology has evolved from bombastic sensationalism to much more reasonable and useful contributions to brand experience. To put it briefly, ‘digitisation’ has a huge influence on society and therefore on what we do as designers. People, brands and their messages are changing constantly and we are gladly taking an active part in this development.



How can these fleeting spaces make a lasting impact on a brand’s image?

Temporary spaces are free from the shackles of permanent buildings, they can be much more experimental, focused and provide a preview of future developments. In this respect, they are an ideal solution through which to put new strategies or concepts to the test. It’s like learning under realistic conditions. With the input you can improve the concept and turn it into something more permanent.



Engagement and interaction are necessary components of stands, but the focus on creating an experience through which visitors can actively engage with a product, concept, or company have become more and more prevalent. Do you think this trend creates a competitive precedent that will turn it into a requirement across the industry?

How can space and design-focused stands compete? We do not see experience and architecture or design-driven as contradictions or competitors. Interaction aims to create dialogue and empathy, whereas a spatial-focus often leads to a more contemplative exhibit. Both should be seen as different, but equally valuable, ways of addressing people.

Large spatial volume, striking materials or impressive media installations are actually quite often found at the top of communication hierarchies, accentuated by interactive subsections. We think that the challenge rather lies in the smart combination of these two dimensions. It is imperative to create a seamless, fluent and meaningful communication between the two.

By focusing on narrative, a brand becomes tangible and fun to explore.
Guido Mamczur, Managing Director D’art Design Gruppe

In Grand Stand, the text introducing Dart’s projects mentions that, for the studio, ‘communication is the most important starting point, while the design itself is the instrument to reach a solution’ (Frame, 2003: p 74). Could you expand on this idea?

The starting point is always the conceptual engagement with the brand or company and the people behind it. It is a search for the story worth telling or, if you are working for a longstanding partner, the meaningful and sensible continuation and development of what happened before – the next chapter, so to speak.

Open communication and direct engagement at a very early stage and between all the stakeholders are the ideal foundation for any project. This way, we start to find the right balance among the various wishes, goals and viewpoints, and to identify a strong, individual narrative. This can take the shape of a dream-like state of abstract perfection, a broken urban narrative, or a collaborative workplace layout. No matter the resulting design, the story guides us through it.

How do you approach a narrative through design?
Designing spaces becomes the implementation of the idea. Space is a language, and as with any language, you will find characters, syllables, old words and fancy new ones. Cast an eye over syntax, semiotics, protagonists and ideals worth fighting for and voilá, you get your own unique (brand) story.

What are the advantages of focusing on a particular narrative that drives the design?
To put it simply, people are able to internalise and memorise stories best, that is basically how our brain works. What is more, some companies or brands offer highly complex products or services and a narrative is the most effective way of explaining their solutions. By focusing on a narrative, we enable an emotional approach to technological or complex topics for all users: a brand becomes tangible, sustainable and even fun to explore.

How do you balance the construction of fresh narratives for a particular fair or exhibition with a brand or product’s own established narrative?

The fair design may be a step ahead of the other brand spaces or projects, but it is never detached from them completely.

You have to stay true to the brand, be authentic and consistent. We have always seen it as one of our main strengths that we do not seek to impose our look on a brand, but strive to stay true to its essence. We do not see that as a hindrance to the creation of fresh, modern and technologically up to date brand spaces and narratives, quite the opposite. You cannot arbitrarily alter an identity: brand trust is never gained by randomness.

Photography: D‘art Design Gruppe
Publication: Grand Stand 6, Frame Publishers, Amsterdam 2018. To Frame Store.

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