Published on June 1st, 2016 | by gareth0
Wayne Leonard At Kenwood Experiences Talks How To Design Award Winning Booths At E3
Recently I spoke with Wayne Leonard, Partner, Senior Account Director at Kenwood Experiences. Wayne and his company have designed several award winning booths for numerous conventions and he was kind enough pre E-3 to talk with us about their recent award winning game booths for Square Enix.
How did the design come about?
For the 2015 booth, two headlines arose during the early
planning stage: First, from a practical perspective we were in a new location on the show floor―directly in front of one of the main entrances. From a strategic perspective, Square Enix had a
great line up to present―with more AAA titles than everto highlight. So, howto create a user journey that welcomes the audience into the booth and showcases over a dozen titles without the experience feeling cluttered or disjointed?
Our solution was to situate our LED theater (24’ wide screen!) facing the
main entrance so that the very first thing E3 attendees see as they enter
the hall is Square Enix game trailers. Once we’ve turned their heads,
they’re greeted by a massive line up of banners spanning the width of the
booth space, each dedicated to one of Square Enix’s upcoming titles. So
immediately, as they enter the hall, they get the message: Square Enix has a
big, amazing, and varied lineup. Game stations peppered throughout the front
of the space then invited visitors to engage with games that interest them.
We also wanted to take advantage of the traffic that was flowing on the
opposite side of the booth, so we created the “Square Enix Spotlight
Theater” on the northeast corner, featuring live demos and presentations
from three new AAA titles. The live presentations constantly rotated, so
there was always a great reason to return to the booth. We also designed a
thoroughfare that bisected the booth to pull the audience in from both sides
and allow an easy flow through the booth, from front to back.
Given that E3 is essentially ground zero for the gaming world, we wanted to
create an experience for the millions of consumers (who aren’t allowed
attend the show) that are hungry for late-breaking E3 news and information.
We created a broadcast studio in the booth to webcast original programming
over the course of the three days of E3 via “Square Enix Presents,” Square
Enix’s YouTube channel. Our Square Enix Presents programming allowed us to
extend our reach beyond the 45,000+ E3 (B2B industry segment) to a broad
audience of gamers (consumer segment) with an entertaining and informative
mix of interviews, demos and exclusive content.
And of course, E3 being a trade event, with real business to do, we designed
a dozen branded meeting rooms for hardcore meetings and interviews.
Can you walk us through the process from pitch to design, modifications and
final design, as I would love to know the process?
Once we received fundamental input from our client (number of meeting rooms,
playable titles, titles with trailers for the LED wall), our strategy team
went to work building the audience journeys that would meet the marketing
objectives. We segmented and profiled our audiences, and clarified what they
want to experience. With a tight creative brief completed, our design team
developed three wireframe booth layouts for presentation to the client. With
input from the client team, we narrowed the concept down to a single
direction and migrated the layout into our fast-prototyping 3D workflow. We
used Oculus Rift to pre-visualize the resulting designs and give the client
team a virtual experience of navigating through the unbuilt booth in human
scale. Our pre-vis workflow allowed us to check sight-lines and spatial
relationships between elements and allowed us all to make highly informed
decisions about placement, branding, and overall layout. With design
approved, we moved into full execution mode.
How much time did you have to construct it?
We used a combination of pre-existing elements and new fabrication. The
whole build process took about four weeks, including in-person previews of
newly fabricated elements.
What were the biggest challenges and triumphs you faced?
The biggest challenge was how to fit all the required elements and diverse
titles into our space within a limited budget and without a creating a
feeling of clutter. The biggest triumph was that we overcame both
challenges. Not only did we present the line-up in an impressive and
cohesive way, but we were able to establish an inviting, “plaza effect” in
the booth that created tremendous focus for the brand without crowding out
attendees. In this context, it was easy for visitors to find exactly what
they wanted to experience―essentially creating a more personalized
experience for a mass audience.
As someone who attends many trade shows, I am always amazed at how elaborate
and detailed the booths area. Can you tell us about how long it took to
transport, setup, and then take down?
Our fabrication facility is in Portland, so we had a two-day trip down to
Los Angeles, and then about eight days of set up and rehearsal before show
time. Tear-down always goes faster and we were out-the-door within three
What were the themes that Square Enix said were essential and how did you
set about to capture them?
Square Enix’s line-up of games is broad and deep. We have a mix of
Japanese-style RPGs, cute Disney-themed games, and a deep selection of
western-produced shoot-em-ups (mature) and action adventures, across
multiple platforms. The common theme is that Square Enix delivers great
games with interesting characters embroiled in rich, “always unfolding”
storylines. With Square Enix games you always go on a journey and you’ll
rarely have another experience like the last. This is the inspiration our
strategy brought to the design of the booth. To support the concept of
“always unfolding,” we created a branded “unfolding” graphic motif that was
evident throughout the booth and prominently in LED wall animations that
presented the master brand and the line-up of new titles.
You have had great success on doing booths for Square Enix in the past. To
what would you attribute the ongoing success of the partnership?
We’ve worked with Square Enix for just over 17 years now. That’s a long time
and we’ve seen the company grow as more and more IP has acquired and
developed around the world. The key to maintaining a strong partnership is
to always keep innovating and to always push our thinking outside the box.
We have a very diverse and strategic-thinking team here at Kenwood
Experiences. We have people with backgrounds in production, advertising,
branding, marketing strategy, digital, and Hollywood style entertainment.
That mix allows us to bring an amazing free flow of ideas to the table.
Combine our team with a client trusts us and is willing to try new things
and you have a winning formula.
How many booths had you done prior and what do you have next?
We’ve done too many to count! At E3 alone, we’ve designed and managed
exhibits for PlayStation, EA, Tecmo Koei and Deep Silver in addition to
Square Enix. In fact we’ve been at every E3 with one client or another.
That’s quite a badge of honor.
In terms of what’s next, E3 2016 is just around the corner and we’re working
with Square Enix as well as Capcom. From here on out we have projects lined
up for San Diego Comic-Con, PAX Prime and GameStop’s Expo2016. In addition
to trade show work, we just launched a series of pre-release marketing and
advertising for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and produced a star-studded, global
broadcast event to hype the September launch of Final Fantasy XV.