Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

July 2013

Dwell Media

By Sarah Beauchamp, Assistant Editor
Powered by the premier architecture and design magazine, Dwell on Design knows how to grab people’s attention, engage their emotions — and make them feel at home.


Dwelling Place ‘I want attendees to come away filled with ideas and inspirations about their own homes, offices, whatever it be, so that they just can’t wait to come back, and hate to see us close.’

When you’re standing in the middle of the show floor at Dwell on Design — the largest modern design event in the United States — it’s easy to forget that you’re inside at all. In the center of the exhibition, engulfed in thousands of plants and trees, sits Dwell Outdoors, a 20,000-square-foot space that showcases vignettes of cutting-edge outdoor design, this year including five homes and two airstreams. “My goal is to keep people there all weekend,” Michela O’Connor Abrams, president of Dwell Media, said of the show floor, and “to design a completely immersive experience.”

Instead of a traditional trade-show layout, Dwell divides its annual exhibition — attended by about 30,000 designers and 400 exhibitors, ranging from small-furniture artisans to the Lincoln Motor Company — into “zones of interest and influence,” O’Connor Abrams said. There are also three stages on the show floor for presentations and discussions pertaining to design innovation, sustainable design, and the business of design. To keep people at the show longer, the floor doesn’t close at night. “The lights go down. The bars come up,” O’Connor Abrams said. “We have an award ceremony. We have a grand keynote.” The idea is that “you are coming back and you are bringing colleagues or family or clients,” she said, “and enjoying it because you could not possibly see or participate in everything in one day.”

The planning process for the show — held this year at the Los Angeles Convention Center on June 21–23 — is year-round. “We kick up the innovation and the floor plan to new heights every year,” O’Connor Abrams said. One example: moving Dwell Outdoors from the back of the show floor, where it was last year, to the center of everything. “We decided it was such an important element that we wanted it to be a centerpiece,” she said, “and it provided a great sense of circulation for the attendees.”

Dwell on Design is curated by Dwell magazine editors and intended to reflect the content of the publication; however, that vision has evolved over the years from a literal interpretation of Dwell to something more expansive. “Eight years ago,” O’Connor Abrams said, “we hung big blowups of magazine covers, and it was very much about stepping into a Dwell magazine event.” About five years ago, Dwell magazine became Dwell Media, and the event has changed to reflect that transition. “The voice of Dwell completely and totally informs what it is that we are producing,” she said. “But we really give the live event permission to push the boundaries into areas and subjects that we may not cover in the magazine."

That includes things that the magazine simply can’t offer - such as hands-on opportunities. The Design Materials Lab, for example, is where Dwell displays materials used to build the expo itself for designers to “look at and understand what the properties and the various applications are.” About 15 feet away is the Pinterest Pavilion, which debuted at Dwell on Design this year. In the 30-foot-by-40-foot space were 10 designers who had won a contest held by Dwell to bring their Pinterest boards to life. Working on an eight-foot-by-10-foot piece of wall, O’Connor Abrams said, each designer built “in sight, sound, and motion their Pinterest boards in front of 30,000 people for a weekend.”

In the past, it’s not only attendees who have been impressed by the experience at Dwell on Design. Exhibitors have also seen nothing like it. “They really appreciate the experience that we produce,” O’Connor Abrams said, “so they step up their presence also. I could do this show for 20 years and never get tired of walking in the door, even as things are being built. I love seeing that come to life. There is just noth ing like that feeling [of] ‘Wow, we did it.’”

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