Taking Inspiration from Chelsea…A focus on Event Design

At this time of year the pillars of the quintessential British summer start to come to the fore, beginning with the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Whilst perhaps previously perceived as archaic and old fashioned, such opinions are gradually being dispelled as the event proves to be one of the jewels of our design year. I’m fascinated by garden design, and believe that my world of events and experiential sits in parallel when looking at how an idea and design is brought to life.
A garden is often designed with a story in mind, whether it be a childhood memory, or replication of a regional landscape that is pulled into the 21st Century through backdrops and planting. One of the most fascinating parts for me is the ability to take a blank canvas and twist the perceptions of what is possible, pushing the boundaries of garden design to give the viewer a new perspective.

Two sponsored gardens, the Cloudy Bay Garden and L’Occitane Gardens, are focused on telling the brand story through garden design. The Cloudy Bay Garden reflects the tasting notes of their wine through the materials visible within their space, and L’Occitane’s garden is a celebration of their 40th year, using the brand’s roots in Provence as their horticultural theme.

As well as gardens giving us great pleasure they can also provide inspiration and spark ideas for other industries. The designer Paul Smith has often referenced how he has taken stimulus from the Chelsea Flower Show, and incorporated rows of colour and textures in his ranges, synonymous with those seen in so many gardens at Chelsea.

A personal highlight for me from this year is the showcase of great interactive design, which is expertly displayed within two art installations.

First is the New Covent Garden Market’s art installation Behind Every Great Florist, which formed the centrepiece of their debut garden. Their 3D image of the Queen created from flowers claimed multiple column inches, as the Queen was captured admiring the design from its centre.

Secondly, The Marble and Granite Centre’s rock installation encouraged consumers to interact with it and look through the strategically placed holes, giving the visitor multiple viewpoints of the garden beyond.
One display at this year’s Chelsea I couldn’t avoid referencing is the Poppy Installation. 300,000 poppies have been sewn together and laid outside the Royal Chelsea Hospital, clearly showcasing the intricacies and detail of design. This was also so visible with the ceramic poppies installed at the Tower of London last year, a living exhibit that truly captured the nation’s imagination.

In the world we work in we are often focused on the brand being central to the event design. One thing I take from Chelsea Flower Show, is that increasingly we should take a step back and pull out finer details of the brand’s make-up, and look to connect the consumer to the brand through the use of textures, colours and materials. It is in our nature when we are planning and producing experiential campaigns to focus on logos and lock ups, but there won’t really be a logo in site at Chelsea. These gardeners use intricate planting, contrasting materials, textures and lighting to tell their story, transforming their space into a garden that stands for something. From an events design perspective, be it in hospitality, experiential or PR, we can learn a lot about how to create the best look and feel for a consumer from these horticultural experts.

Consumers are always looking to share their experiences, and crave photographic details to share on their social networks. However, millennials are becoming more immune to branded activity and yearn for new, cool experiences to showcase those ‘I was there’ moments. At Chelsea all of the installations have never been seen before, so cameras are at the ready and consumers share thousands of images, helping to make the show the famous attraction it is.

As kings of the retail experience, Nike are a great example of a brand who think about the intricacies of their brand when creating experiences. A visit to the Nike FlyKnit experience, or simply a walk through their flagship store, showcases how every detail has been created to deliver an immersive experience for the consumer, exactly like that of a Chelsea garden.

With all of this in mind, when we were challenged by Canterbury to showcase their latest training range, and in particular their Vapodri technology, we wanted to immerse the consumer in a unique, Canterbury-owned experience.

We created a bespoke gym space in a warehouse in Shoreditch, which would make the guests sweat and showcase the product technologies by immersing the consumer in the brand. But we didn’t stop there – we tailored the lighting to evoke the emotion of each area of training, whether it be Speed, Power, Strength or Endurance. The music we used supplemented this and took the consumer on a wave of sub conscious emotions throughout the day. Importantly, our clean space design combined well with the dark environment and sporadic lighting, helping to hero the neon training product.

It is clear the finer details are becoming increasingly important. Using gardens as a platform for inspiration is one thing, but I believe we should be looking to architects and urban designers to help shape our thinking when bringing a brand experience to life. At Chelsea the designers are using many of the latest technologies that we use to create brand experience; personal 3D scanning, touch screens, automated directional lighting and sensory chimes to name but a few. Who knows, next year may see leap motion, VR, holograms and projection mapping!

There is more expectation for brands to become more immersive and focus on a sharable narrative for their followers, therefore budgets need to be used shrewdly to ensure the most engaging creative and design is at the heart of the experience. The traditional notion of removing the ‘nice to have’ branding installations are now the expected norm from consumers as they have become more savvy to standard brand showcases.

Everything we see and interact with builds a picture of design, something that we can all create, but those marginal details and nods to the brand are what separates the great from the good, just like a gold and a silver gilt!