October 28th, 2008


Layout is important

One of the random conversations I had this weekend centered upon the layout of the average, and above average A&S displays. This is not a criticism of St. Luke's, but A&S displays and hall layouts in general. So much planning goes into the event; the food, the directions, the schedule, etc. that it seems that the room layout just goes to default. The problem I've seen is that the default does not suit the human animal.

We tend to line tables up in rows, but we don't often leave enough space between each row for folks to stop and admire while still letting others past. (Excuse me, pardon me, can I squeeze by to see the next thing over?) We don't allow for booty room, not to mention big skirts, large sleeves, baskets on arms, etc. The rows also don't give a default front to the display, so some may set-up facing one direction while others set-up facing another direction. It can make it a bit confusing and you have to wiggle your booty by someone else in order to move around to the other side of the table to see the correct side of a display. The classic set-up also doesn't leave room for artisans to stay with a display and do a presentation or demonstration, unless you snag an end of the table, and then you might stick out into an aisle. It should also be noted that if humans naturally easily followed zig-zag lines then banks, concerts, amusement parks, and graduations wouldn't need stanchions to give line guidelines to people.

I still distinctly remember the one KA&SFest held in Greenville, SC for many reasons, (the poor epileptic herald, Jake's fine road trip company, the fine Indian food afterward, crashing with Bera and Chris) but what I remember the most is the amazing set-up. I don't know if it was consciously done or to accomodate the setting's limitations, but it was the best ever. Instead of one big room there were two medium sized rooms for displays and competitions, a sanctuary for performing artisans, and a large room in the basement for active displays. In the two medium sized rooms the tables of displays lined the walls. This gave folks a path to follow, but also allowed plenty of room for folks to go around the one person who was admiring something they found truly amazing. There was a default front to every display so you didn't get a crick in your neck trying to look at things from other angles. Simply put, this was intuitive for the meandering human; you walk in, you stick to one wall, you follow it around until you are back at an exit, but there is plenty of room to accomodate gawkers and spontaneous conversations.

But the basement for the active displays was also brilliantly laid out. There happened to be a dais in the middle of the room, so they put some artisans there, but then the rest were arranged like spokes on a wheel. Again, you could walk into the room, follow the circular path around and back out easily. But there was also plenty of space for you to dive in, sit down and chat with any artisan who's display caught your interest. I remember Bera had a weaving display with samples up front for folks to touch/see, and she was doing an active display closer to the wall for anyone who wanted to come in out of the path and observe closer. Maddalena had a similar set-up with some handsewing she was working on. It was again, intuitive and accomodating.

Look, I drew a ruff pikshure:

I know there is already so much to consider for a large event, but if a little more consideration could be given to the layout of a hall for A&S, it could improve attendance and attention. We'd never create a field layout and then plan the fighting based on layout. The tournament is considered first, and how much space is needed and then tents are arranged around it. (and this is totally right BTW!) I'm just asking that the same level of thought is put into hall layout too. If you are hosting a brewing competition, how do the brewers naturally gather? Instead of a row of tables, what about a row but with a circle for the judges/competitors/those interested to gather around and sit and chat. For those who do scribal arts, there is a definite top/bottom to works, you want them approached from a certain angle. A table up against a wall means that you guide observers to approach the display from the best angle. If folks are doing an active display, plan on space behind a table for the artisan to sit and demo, and/or extra chairs for others to pull up and learn. For a costume display, plan on a space where there is room for dress forms beside a table (not blocking a path) or a clothing rack to hang items on for those who don't bring/have dress forms.

Just a random brain dump.