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Two-thirds of the innovation in the U.S.A. is the result of trade shows.
~ Nolan Bushnell

TRADE SHOWS

The serial entrepreneur Nolan Bushnell once advised would be entrepreneurs to spend a month attending all the trade shows in Las Vegas. He asserted that regardless of the subject, walking a trade show floor is one of the best ways to generate new ideas and creative thinking, and the thinking and best practices in one industry or subject is transferable to other industries and subjects. Bushnell still follows his own advice wandering trade show floors whenever possible. Although Bushnell provided his advice in the context of business, it really applies to any creative discipline – it applies to anyone that wants to innovate.

Bushnell’s onetime employee at Atari, Steve Jobs, wrote in Wired magazine that “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.” The process of creating architecture and convincing a client to build it is not that much different than giving birth to a start-up.

Trade shows are an opportunity to make connections between the architect’s agenda and processes and products that come from everywhere but the Architect’s mind. Trade shows are a place where we can escape ourselves which is hard to do. The best trade shows provide an un-curated collection of precedent and innovation side by side. No matter the subject, a trade show provides multiple perspectives and multiple ways to present and convince multiple stakeholders of the usefulness of a specific process, device, or product. Trade shows encompass the expertise and passions of hundreds to thousands of personalities for whom many’s livelihood is dependent on offering something useful.    

The Owners and mills studio attended and continue to attend trade shows both together, separately, and with consultants. Attending trade shows with a client is one of the best ways to quickly get a client’s reactions to a myriad of products and approaches. It is important that they are unbiased because there is no attachment to the success or failure of these third parties.

It is important to attend varied shows from high brow to low brow, from general to specific, open to the public and exclusively to the trade. It is important to recognize that popular or mass-market, and innovative are not mutually exclusive. It is important to attend shows with varied general subjects from technology to furniture, lighting to materials, sustainability to art. It is important to attend shows with varied specific subjects from concrete to hardware, photography to low voltage, and hospitality to green.    

It is easy to forget what makes architectural concepts tactile and real. Trade shows serve as a reminder and a catalyst for the Architect to make connections intended and never intended.    

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.
~ Steve Jobs