For exhibit and event professionals  

Shining a Light on Exhibit Design: eConnections Talks with Paul Fine

September 10, 2018 By Caroline Meyers, Editor eConnections

Paul Fine extends his deep knowledge in lighting to the development of our high-end exhibit designs.

Recently eConnections spoke with Paul Fine, the founder and a principal designer at Fine Design Associates. The insight that Fine provides for exhibit designers in the field of lighting design is simply unsurpassed.

Current Resurgence of Lighting

According to Fine, there is currently a resurgence in trade show lighting thanks to a bustling economy. The bigger the budget, the more that can be invested in lighting. However, when budgets are slim, as they were post-recession, Fine explains that lighting was the first item taken off the budget.

At the same time, lighting matters more today because of how a brand appears on social media. The reality is that everyone is snapping pictures and posting them on various platforms and you want to portray your brand in the best possible way. “Lighting,” says Fine, “offers luster and vibrancy to any design.” Lighting also works to frame your branding message or logo for photo moments, which adds impact when these images are shared on social media.

The Process of Trade Show Lighting Projects

As an exhibit marketer interested in corporate-level, high-end exhibits, lighting is going to be at the forefront of your exhibit’s design. And while the actual process of designing the lighting for one exhibit will differ greatly from the next, everyone starts at the same point. Fine explains that “everything we do for a custom trade show exhibit design is based on the rendering or design for the client. The process starts when a company like MC2 comes to our team with an idea and a budget.”

But what happens if you don’t have exhibit house expertise to lend a hand?  Fine says that for customers who do not have a concept, his team can do that for them. This ranges from installing simple, ground-placed LED uplighting to extensive overhead truss structures using elaborate rigging systems. To showcase some ways in which Fine Design uses lighting design to create star worthy exhibits, Fine discussed a few of his favorite exhibit projects.

For a Heavy Equipment VIP Event

Construction equipment company event

Imagine getting bulldozers and backhoe diggers into a ballroom for a special VIP event. That is exactly what MC2 had to tackle while lighting the space in an evocative manner. Fine explains, “When visitors entered the experience, there was a full-sized Earth Harp band and live performers on silks. And, of course, the lighting of the product, the construction equipment, was front and center for our crew.”

Fine Design also provided supervision and labor for the actual design. As for the actual building of the space, lighting is first in and last out to allow the customer to get their products or displays set up. They worked backward from the event opening to get what is necessary done on a budget.

Fine continues, “We understand the layout of ballrooms, corporate lobbies, and any other place you can have an event. We get very creative in mounting and supporting lighting equipment. Regardless of the venue, we work the client to figure out a lighting solution.”

For Samsung at Consumer Electronics Show

Samsung CES

Each year, Samsung exceeds expectations for guests at the Consumer Electronics Show. In fact, the annual CES Samsung exhibits are some of the biggest events Fine has ever participated in as a lighting designer. He recalled one of the Samsung’s exhibits from way back in 2010. “We created an optical illusion using lighting. The outside supports (aka leaves) were full size for the building’s ceiling height. However, using a mirror effect with lighting on the ceiling, visitors never suspected that the actual height of the booth was half that.”

The rigging, structure, lighting, LED technology, audiovisual, and 7.1 sound created a truly immersive experience at that Samsung exhibit, according to Fine. One that pushed the design edge. In another Samsung booth for the SUHD TV display, Fine used rigging to completely support an LED spiral staircase installed within the booth. These are excellent examples of how lighting and technology are integrated to create individual branding opportunities.

For a Biopharmaceutical Booth

Shining a Light on Exhibit Design

For smaller spaces,MC2 must truly get creative. Take the 20-by-30-foot booth space that was designed for a biopharmaceutical company. Fine says, “There was lots of truss overhead that we jam-packed with lighting technology including LED downlights. These downlights were used to internally light frosted plexiglass tubes custom-made by MC2. We engineered these lighting sources to fit our fixtures. In addition, we added strip lights around the interior of the hanging banner surrounding the booth to add luster and color.”  Fine notes that this technique provides massive impact using lighting. As a value-added bonus, he says that with lighting you can change anything such as color, movement, speed or intensity at any time.

Choosing a Lighting Designer

A lighting designer is instrumental to the overall process. In fact, the earlier you start with a lighting designer, Fine notes, the better the overall project will be. Also, this may sound like common sense, but if you are designing an element for your booth, you need to make sure it will actually fit in the venue. A lighting designer is able to help you meet those specifications.

An example of this was a client of Fine’s who developed a large-scale flying piece for a booth space. Fine explains that “While it fit the booth space, the client didn’t take into account the height of the venue. The lighting rig could not be flown over the display because the booth selection manager noticed that half the booth was under a low ceiling.”

A lesson learned here is that if you have a massive design that will involve rigging or other such elements, you also need to have an open flow of communication with the lighting design team which includes designers, production electricians, master riggers and programmers. This really starts with the technical issues since lighting goals are driven by the advanced order date for show services. If you miss the deadline for rigging or any design, you are penalized. Fine says, “We take every opportunity offered by the venue or GC to participate in a pre-rig which gets the rigging/lighting completed before targeted freight.”

Current State of Lighting

When it comes to the current state of the trade show and event lighting, we wanted to know what customers are asking for. LED lighting has been a game changer. According to Fine, “After the LED source was introduced, permeated the lighting industry, and became a mainstay, we haven’t seen many technical advances in optics. Currently, industry lighting designers are sticking to the same fixtures we used for the moving lights in the 80s and 90s, LEDs are a much more robust and less fragile source now.”

About Paul Fine

After graduating with a Master of Fine Arts in Lighting Design, Paul Fine has spent more than 25 years as a principal designer in corporate and show and event lighting. Fine Design Associates’s client list includes Samsung, Volvo, Verizon, and Timberland and extends to special events and trade show productions.

Want to learn more about MC² in action and the current industry of lighting for events? MC² has worked with dozens of top brands including Samsung, Canon, Pioneer, and Toyota.


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