Exhibition Design by Edgar Reinhard
Human Practicality Serves Human Emotion
Text by Adalbert Locher, Hochparterre
Design by Jean Robert, Zurich
Lars Müller Publishers, Baden, 1998
Rationale Strukturen und emotionale Werte
Introduction by Wally Olins, London
Reinhard’s work is remarkable: powerful, memorable and imaginative.
But perhaps the most extraordinary thing about the man is that he is still toweringly successful at a time when some marketing and communications people might feel that there is no need for his kind of work at all. After all, who needs trade fairs and exhibitions when the Internet and other technological marvels can bring everything into your home and office?
OK, we all know the answer to that: there is no substitute for personal relationships, meeting people, face-to-face discussions, eye contact and all that.
But, the argument runs, you can have all these things without paying a fortune for what are likely to be, however beautiful and full of impact, ephemeral pieces of three-dimensional design and construction. And anyway, what about cost effectiveness? How many people visit a show compared with the numbers of people who visit a corporate web site? And what is the relative cost of each visit?
I have to say that this ‘rationalist’ argument collapses when being fair about the context of the best trade shows and faced with the reality of Reinhard’s spectacular and magical work.
Yet, even if you brush these points aside, there is the second line of argument. Where does the trade show fit into the new holistic approach to corporate communications? And more particularly, where does Reinhard’s work fit?
The new thinking, to which the world’s most sophisticated corporations now subscribe, is that the advertising campaign, the new product launch, the web site, the Chairman’s speech, the internal communications video and all the rest of it contribute to, and are part of, an integrated programme of marketing and corporate communications.
Surely, within this context, the grand set-piece show stand cannot be an integral part of a corporate whole. Although it may have a secondary role in bringing people together, in a world of co-ordination, integrated marketing and communications, it must surely be a costly irrelevance.
In the hands of designers of lesser calibre, this might be so, but this is where Reinhard’s skill, perhaps amounting to genius, emerges. At his best (as he so often is) Reinhard manages to capture the spirit of the client and encapsulate it in his design work. His exhibition design for trade fairs projects a three-dimensional version of corporate identity.
So, I believe that perhaps the most remarkable characteristic of Reinhard’s quite extraordinary achievement is that, at a time of the most dramatic and turbulent changes in communication and marketing techniques and tools that I can remember, he manages to keep his work relevant, powerful and at the heart of his clients’ mind set.
And this of course is not only a tribute to the work of Reinhard, but to the wisdom of his clients.