Designing a Trade Show Booth in The Wild: An AU 2018 Case Study

A snapshot of our booth design prototype in The Wild.

In November, we had the privilege of attending Autodesk University (AU), a conference and expo for “those who design and make the world around us.” This year, over 10,000 members of the AEC community converged in Las Vegas for talks, classes, networking, and knowledge-sharing.

The Wild is built for designing immersive experiences, so exhibiting at AU was a no-brainer. Over the course of four days, we spoke with hundreds of people and demoed our product on the expo floor to show them how they can work better together in The Wild.

Design on a Budget

The Wild is an early stage startup—we were lucky to attend AU and had to be extremely budget-conscious in order to make it work. We didn’t want our booth to look like everyone else’s, but we also didn’t have the money to build something custom. We approached Portland-based creative director and friend of The Wild, Felix Ballerstedt, to design our 10x20 booth on our tiny budget.

Drawing inspiration from his own experience with trade show design for Volkswagen, alongside years of designing products and environments for an impressive list of clients, Felix also actively researched low-budget booth ideas. He found that cardboard came up often as an inexpensive building material, and we decided that a painted display made out of stacked boxes would be budget-friendly, visually interesting, and reminiscent of our product experience. Additionally, we’d use this structure as a backdrop for our augmented reality demos.

Meet Me in The Wild

It was important for us to create a photo op, where the viewer could see the entirety of our booth and our product offering (AR, VR, and desktop viewer) in a single shot. We created an ideal viewing angle from which viewers could read the phrase “Meet Me in The Wild” on the boxes, and we designed the remainder of the booth to fill in the rest of the composition.

While some of Felix’s initial concepting was done in SketchUp, he quickly brought his ideas into The Wild, where we could all see the booth designs at scale, create the perfect box configuration, and find the best viewing angle for our photo op. When you work on a digital product, you’re not always the target user, and it was really great to use The Wild exactly for its intended purpose. It truly was the best way to collaborate on, and be immersed in, the design.

Our budget didn’t allow for a custom wall to be built or printed, so we had to use the white back wall that the show provided. Felix came up with a simple wall treatment with black tape, depicting a Portland skyline, that hinted at the architectural nature of The Wild.

A bar table and stools were provided for further client interactions, and a shelving unit acted as a storage area for t-shirts, Scout Books, and stickers, as well as a place to put our hardware when not in use. Arm lights and table lamps provided some much-needed ambience in a poorly lit exhibit hall.

From Physical to Digital

The Wild team in The Wild booth
Cheesin’ for the camera before the crowds descended on Day 1. You can see Autumn in avatar form on the screen, awaiting the week’s first demo.

On the ground in Vegas, our scrappy team of five spent a day constructing, assembling, and painting our booth. As a result of spending so much time working on the booth in The Wild, we knew exactly how it would look and feel, and it was satisfying to see the physical manifestation of so many months of work and coordination.

In our product demos, we showcased spaces designed by our friends at Open Studio Collective (read our blog post about this). As a visitor entered The Wild using a VR headset, a large screen facing the expo floor showed the visitor’s avatar talking to our team member Autumn, who was in a headset back in Portland. We used our cardboard backdrop to show off our AR experience using an iPad Pro, overlaying some retail items onto it. These intriguing visuals attracted passers-by and drew a lot of interest.

A few more details rounded out our booth experience—a marker board invited visitors to leave their reactions after they’d taken off the headset, and as a takeaway, we gave them a Scout Book that we stamped after they’d been in The Wild.

The Wild After Hours

After long days on the expo floor, we made sure to fit in some fun, Vegas-style. Gabe and Mischa ziplined down The LINQ Promenade, Nick sampled some “fine dining” at Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen + Bar, Clay and I took some time to hit the hotel spa, and Gabe made us all go to minus5.

Oh, and we all had a blast at the Peppermill.

See you next year, Vegas!