Mike Ellery, 40, leads a team of 30 designers at Sparks, a Philadelphia–based event marketing agency that produces corporate meetings, product launches, trade show exhibits, and retail spaces for clients such as Google, Macy’s, Michael Kors, and Safilo. He personally works on about two dozen events each year, which in 2012 included the design and layout of one million square feet of space for SAP’s Sapphire Now conference, as well as a 3,000-square-foot exhibit for Olympus that won a “best booth” award at the American Academy of Otolaryngology Annual Meeting and Expo.
Ellery says every project begins with the client’s objectives. “You have to understand the brand and where they are in the market and leverage the key strengths that brand brings. We don’t start with architecture, we start with messaging,” he says. “And then, when they are at the event, what is the priority, what do they see first, what are they going to remember.”
On a crowded trade show floor, Ellery says he tries to create an environment that catches peoples’ attention. “This is a trend we are seeing, what we are calling ambiguity. So rather than being so straightforward that people get what you are saying in an instant, you are catching their eye and they think, ‘That’s awesome, what does that mean?’ And that’s what gets them to come into your event or space to check it out further. It’s really about engaging them on a thought-process level rather than telling them what to think.”