Creative spaces for the “brand environment”

©  Katja Velmans

Interview with Constanze Frowein, D'art Design Gruppe (Group), Neuss

The D'art Design Group specializes in brand communication for the conflicting interface between area and space. This interdisciplinary agency is made up of designers and marketing experts, who see themselves primarily as idea contributors and sources of inspiration. The main emphasis is exhibition booths. One of the topics in an interview with Constanze Frowein is how these experiences can be utilized for store layout. The specialist in German studies came to D’art in Neuss in the Lower Rhine area as a film writer.

Brand communication is nothing new. Why do you think this topic now gains new importance?

Brand communication, especially due the “digital shift” and the resulting more complex communication channels, takes on a different meaning. Even though the change itself is not new, the quick timing however requires the constantly new rethinking of brand communication. Especially due to digitization, space establishes itself as a multi-sensory experience. There the desired holistic brand communication – not least due to the third dimension – of course comes in very handy for us.

What is important when it comes to the integration of traditional brand communication and Social Media?

Social networks represent dialogic communication, which can be optimally utilized, particularly to form an emotional bond with brands. However, in doing so, you absolutely have to pay attention to the differences between the media. After all, a website on Facebook does not replace traditional advertising and vice versa.
For some time now, social media has utilized advertising and brand communication with QR code connections or the announcement of pop-up stores very skillfully to integrate all elements.

What importance do trade shows have in today’s brand communication? How do trade fairs and exhibitors have to change in times of social media?

Social media can be wonderfully used as an “extended arm“ of trade show communication. The dialog with trade fair visitors can be continued. Social media at the trade shows themselves is still used very cautiously, since a direct exchange with the consumer is important at the fairs. But what is the situation with network communication on the part of the trade show organizers and exhibitors with all the prospective customers that are not on location? Many incentives could still be created here for the trade show medium. These are well-directed invitations to exciting presentations and events that show that although we can no longer do without social networks, we also cannot do without direct economic communication at trade shows. It pays off considerably with image plus to hire social media managers to communicate these contents.

You have been an exhibitor since 1993 at the EuroShop. What do you want to sell retailers?

Every three years, D’art Design faces up to the here and now at the EuroShop – combined with the luxury of being allowed to set our own briefing for the exhibition appearance. This way, we can introduce all of our contents by means of our core competency, spatial brand communication. In 2008, we demonstrated our cross-media competencies with the guerilla-like project THING where we very playfully tied together movie, Web, guerilla, print and spatial communication as well as interactive applications. It was our goal last year to strengthen our professional brand empathy on an nternational level, which we successfully achieved with Projekt one.

How does trade show design differ from store design?

At this point, there are many trade show projects, whose material processing definitely and without any problems holds a candle to shop fitting projects. We were able to feel this in the truest sense of the word at the EuroShop when architects and other trade show visitors kept touching the walls of our wooden communication room in awe and asked about the materials and processing technology. Blurring the borders between the “store” brand environment and the “booth” brand environment makes ever-higher demands on us. The sustainable use of materials, that is the repeated use of tradeshow booth elements, also supports the quality of booth design and booth construction.

Will there soon be more and more mono-brand stores where a manufacturer can present his products unmediated by competitors?

We are not able to foretell whether there will be more and more mono-stores in the future. We primarily experience that the brand environment more and more takes its place as an element. Many years ago, we still had to strongly battle for the term brand environment as an important marketing element in the advertising and marketing industry. Today, spatial brand communication and the associated industry supporting conventions and awards enjoy enormous popularity.


©  Joerg Hempel

adidas is one of your clients. How do you communicate this brand?

Due to the brand identity of adidas Originals at the Bread & Butter Trade Show in Berlin, we rethink adidas Originals every 6 months without losing the central theme of the trade show presentation. Since the return of Bread & Butter to Berlin, we have creatively played with brand staging at the popular Berlin Fashion Week. The booths are shielded in most cases to guard against the competition. So far, the brand architecture of adidas Originals has time and again flirted with people catching a forbidden glimpse, be that with 10 kilometers of tubing, with fog or recently with a fine pored, semi-transparent sprinkler cover. So far, this translated into many, many compliments on location and many excited entries on the Internet on scene and design blogs.

Gabor is also among your clients. What ideas did you develop for the shoe manufacturer?

We have designed the trade show presentation for Gabor at the GDS Trade Fair for more than ten years, yet the Gabor-Monostore was also one of our creative ideas. The pavilion of the company at the National Garden Festival in Rosenheim (“Landesgartenschau”) was an exciting project. Gabor has its headquarters in this Bavarian town and highlighted its more than 60-year history at the exhibition titled “ZeitRäume“ in the context of world affairs. The link was a 15-meter wavelike shoe presentation with more than 200 original Gabor shoes from all of the outlined decades of the exhibition. For the first time ever, Gabor opened up its archives for ”ZeitRäume“. By the way, after the National Garden Festival, the exhibition moved to the Gabor company premises in Rosenheim...

The equipment in consumer electronics looks more and more the same. One flat screen TV looks almost the same as any other on the shelf. A hopeless case for brand communication?

For starters, we actually ask ourselves what advantages the equipment has and where the unique selling proposition is. How is this tied to the deliverable brand contents? And how can we tell this story spatially? By the way, many brand environments move away from traditional product presentation and very much appreciate our suggestions to for instance take brand environment visitors on a journey. Usually, those linger more in people’s memories than a gigantic array of products.

At the EuroShop 2011, you supported students with a booth. What happened to the project and the young creative minds?

Freddy Justen and Dieter Wolff, both Managing Directors at the D’art Design Group, have taught tradeshow, exhibition and store design for many years at the University of Applied Sciences in Düsseldorf. This gave birth to the idea for students to independently put theory into practice with a tradeshow presentation. The students went on very different paths after they graduated: one student now works as a “traditional” interior designer for offices and practices, while another one oversees international joint tradeshow presentations until their implementation. Last year, we welcomed one of the students into our team. By now, she has very successfully designed several of our projects in teamwork with her colleagues.

Interview by René Schellbach,



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