Skyline® WindScape® is an inflatable exhibit system for use in tradeshows and corporate events. The airframe technology consists of a series of interconnected air tubes encased in a semi-rigid fabric frame, which is covered by a dye-sublimate printed, wrinkle free, fire retardant, and stretchable fabric. Currently available in 46 standard shapes, units range in size from a small table top display to 18’ diameter rings for use in large island exhibits. Integrated accessories, such as system connectors, lighting, stabilizing feet, iPad® mounts, and 3D overlays enable the customer to replace their entire existing exhibit or integrate WindScape® with legacy systems.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
In the trade show industry, we are always searching for ways to make the process of shipping and building a booth simpler for our clients. We spend a lot of time figuring out how to make something small, then temporarily big, and back to small again. Typically, these products are made from metal, wood, plastic, and fabric and utilize clever connections to assemble quickly with a relatively low amount of effort. These frame structures are then covered or wrapped with a branded graphic to create an exhibit, afterwards being repacked and shipped home.
The merits of portability for an inflatable product are obvious. They’re lightweight, efficient to pack, and with the aid of an inflator, set up with the push of a button. As such, albeit unpopular, inflatable trade show booths are nothing new. But for most people, show attendees and booth staffers alike, previous inflatable booths lacked the sophistication and fit and finish that is expected in the industry.
Our goal was to design a pneumatic exhibiting system that didn’t look like a conventional inflatable, but instead resembled the high-end custom exhibits our clients’ desire. This meant creating components as lightweight and compact as a beach ball, but as low profile, structural and rugged as a bicycle tire.
The challenge of an Industrial Designer in the Trade Show industry is to create a display that is portable and easy to set up, but still functional, structural, and interesting to look at. Beyond the booth staffer who exhibits with the display, there are other users to consider during development such as the laborers who set up exhibits, and exhibit designers who rely on our various systems to create unique and tailored solutions for their individual clients.
To create an exhibiting system that would change the experience for all users, improved portability and set up time were required, as well as providing an intuitive operation, design flexibility, and excellent fit and finish.
Skyline has a legacy of producing products made from more traditional materials, so understanding inflatable technology was a steep learning curve. In truth, had we known this would take about 4 years to master, we probably wouldn’t have seen it through. In this respect, as elsewhere in the project, naiveté was paramount. With a subject matter so foreign to us, we explored ideas differently than in the past. When a concept failed in the experimental phase, we didn’t abandon the idea but instead asked, “What could we use this for?” An example of this is how we fasten accessories to the displays. Initially the idea was to have pre-determined attachment points for accessories built into to each frame. A major critique among our Exhibit Designers was how limiting this would be to the number of designs they could create. After revisiting an early construction technique, we came up with a less-limiting connection method—an attachable cuff. The cuff, a small patch of material that zips onto the internal frame of the display, features a specialized piece of hardware that interfaces with various accessories. Because it simply zips on, accessories can be placed just about anywhere, on any frame, making the exhibit design possibilities endless. While it hadn’t worked as a construction mechanism, we found the cuff to be the perfect solution for accessories. This transformation in thinking improved the efficiency of development as well as capabilities of the product.
Early participation in the project was voluntary as everyone was excited to work on something so different from the norm. People felt more inspired and passionate than in the past. The elevated enthusiasm helped motivate us during the various snags of development, overcoming the many instances where significant compromises could have been made. An example of this came about when trying to reach our goal of fitting a 10' display into a single carry-on suitcase (which was a lofty goal, since traditional displays that size take two large cases that are too big to even check on many airlines). At first the experience of packing into the carry-on, while doable, was much too difficult for the average person. Had this been another project, the requirement may have been dismissed, as a quick fix eluded the majority of the team. But with great perseverance, one of our engineers finally found a solution by referencing his years of packing parachutes. This type of passion and perseverance helped to create a great user experience.
Research also played a larger role than it had in the past and we went to great lengths to learn as much as we could in the front end. We soaked up everything regarding manufacturing techniques, flexible materials and textiles (even down to types of fibers). As stated earlier, being a bit naïve was only to our benefit. With no wrong place to look, we interviewed many different people such as experts in textile industry, industrial sewers, as well as an Apparel design professor at a nearby college.
Skyline® WindScape® revolutionizes the exhibiting experience. A tabletop exhibit fits into a backpack and sets up in less than 1 minute. A 10’ free-standing backwall fits into an airline carry-on and sets up in 7 minutes. A 10’ conference room fits into a duffle bag, and sets up in 11 minutes. As WindScape® grows in size to larger island structures, operational cost savings grow exponentially. To address this market segment, a collection of larger shapes – panels, facets, rings and arcs – can be combined with infinite variety. Complementing 46 standard shapes, proprietary patterning and manufacturing processes enable designers to create custom architecture per client specifications.
Additionally this product significantly reduces the costs of exhibiting by saving; set up and dismantle time; travel time and costs, and shipping expenses enabling companies to market their own products and services more efficient. Impact on the environment is all lessened due to lower shipping weights and lower electricity consumption from shorter set-up times.
While other inflatable marketing products have existed for years, most of them require noisy constant inflation and none of them address the level of beauty, design sophistication, durability or architectural appeal and ruggedness that our clients expect in their exhibiting systems. WindScape® surpasses the aesthetic of bouncy castles and wiggling, waving arm characters with rigid airframes that are sealed and pressurized, achieving attendee experiences that mimic structural exhibit designs. The structural capabilities of WindScape’s airframe technology create a scalable exhibiting system that designers can leverage as a design tool.
A thoughtful and well resolved solution. This project shows what is possible when expect better and are prepared to put in the work.
Suffers from being in a somewhat unexciting field but I do believe that there will be a bunch of professional show-goers who will be very excited and benefit directly from this. It looks to be simple to use, flexible, compact and light.
I like that they seem to have looked at the problem with a clean sheet and synthesised existing technologies into a new product that solves some very easy to articulate problems.