Your corporate parent wants a unified look and feel for each of your company's divisions. The component divisions all want to maintain their own brand identities. Is it possible to make everyone happy?

With planning and communication, the answer is a resounding YES!

3D Exhibits had the honor of working with the four divisions of Toyota Industries Group to design and fabricate its exhibit presence at ProMat earlier this year. The project took months of planning, but the end result was a massive 80' x 200' exhibit that allowed Toyota Material Handling corporate brand to dominate the show floor—without diminishing the individuality of constituent brands: Toyota Material Handling, Raymond, Bastian Solutions, and Vanderlande.

So how do you create a multi-divisional exhibit that showcases both the constituent brands and the parent company? Here are four best practices:

1.Set the rules up front. You'll save yourself a lot of pain if you set the parameters and procedures before you even start to think about the design. These should include pretty much everything that will impact how decisions are made and how the process will be handled:

  • Who will pay for what?
  • How will space assignment/division be handled?
  • Will there be any shared areas or elements?
  • Will there be consistent overall branding elements that everyone will have to use?
  • Will each company get to select its own design and properties or will corporate control everything?
  • Who will make the decisions?
  • How will disagreements be handled?
  • What must be approved by corporate or run by the other divisions—and what will the process for this be?

2. Create a cohesive brand identity. If the individual brands want to go their own directions on exhibit design—or even use their existing components—it's important that there also be some sort of consistent element at the perimeter of the exhibit that creates a corporate umbrella. This could be some sort of overhead signage or even a perimeter wall. 

Toyota accomplished this with an overhead lighting rig that served as the ceiling of its space and by suspending a series of 9'-high LED walls along the front and rear edges of the exhibit. This signage alternated between shared brand messaging and individual logos. The coordinated and consistent messaging made it unmistakable to attendees that these companies comprised a group.

Pro-tip: Overhead signage works well from across the hall, but once attendees get close to the exhibit it's hard to see. Toyota tackled this challenge by angling its overhead LED walls downward at 30-degrees. This greatly improved visibility to people standing at the front of the exhibit.

3. Clearly divide the space. If you want visitors to notice when they transition between brands, you will need to create some sort of a divider. This could be open space between sections, a raceway cut into the carpet, a flooring change, a level change—or even a gate or archway.

Toyota divided its space using vertical aisles that corresponded with the spaces between its suspended LED walls. This approach was highly cost effective because it enabled Toyota to make its physical presence appear larger—without having to pay for the aisle space between its brands. (Toyota's 200-foot wide exhibit was spread over 250-feet of space.)

4. Encourage each brand to design a space and experience unique to its brand. If you've made the decision to let each brand design its own space—then make sure each brand has its own look and feel. Encourage them to use their unique colors, shapes, and ambiances to ensure that the differences are obvious to attendees.

Toyota excelled here, too. Every component company displayed its own distinctive style—from Vanderlande's orange reception area to Bastian Solutions' soothing tonal blue towers.

How do you approach the design of your multi-divisional exhibits?