Interviews

Published on June 1st, 2016 | by gareth

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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

days.

 

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.


About the Author

Syndicated movie & game critic, writer, author and frequent radio guest. His work has appeared in over 60 publications worldwide and he is the creator of the rising entertainment site and publication “Skewed and Reviewed”.He has three books of film, game reviews and interviews published and is a well-received and in demand speaker on the convention circuit. Gareth has appeared in movies and is a regular guest on a top-rated Seattle morning show.He has also appeared briefly in films such as “Prefountaine”, “Postal”. “Far Cry”. and others. Gareth is also an in-demand speaker at several conventions and has conducted popular panels for over two decades.



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