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Obernai, 28th March 2019

"Pop Up": a temporary exhibition to take you behind the scenes of Hager Group

In January 2019, Hager Forum launched a new "Pop Up" event format: temporary exhibitions to take you behind the scenes (and more) of a Hager Group product or solution. 

With Pop Up gallery, the Design Studio gave visitors a chance to understand, touch, feel and see through the eyes of a designer from mid-January to mid-February. In this first edition, employees, customers and visitors were given the opportunity to discover gallery, the new range of wall-mounted equipment launched in France, from a design angle. All interested parties could freely access the exhibition space at the Forum entrance. In addition, they could interact with the Design Studio team every Monday. Video here.

Interview with Erwin Van Handenhoven, Design Studio Director at Hager Group.

The "Pop Up" exhibition from gallery at the start of the year was a first. What are your impressions?

I thought it was a very "fair" exhibition, in other words, faithful to its name: "Pop Up" is unpretentious, lightweight, no need to take the lead, go when you want, and don't feel obliged to stay an hour. It is passing, fleeting, well worth coming to see. The format is neither pedagogical nor artistic, it is not like a course or a training session. The formula is fun, informative, based on impressions, which I think strikes the right tone for that kind of thing.

What have you heard or observed about the exhibition?

Only good things: the feedback is very positive. People are thrilled to discover the products created in-house, to go behind the scenes. Employees rarely get the chance to do this and sometimes even find references to products in the catalogue.

What I observed: there was a buzz, people were sharing their enjoyment, the interest gallery had aroused. I also noticed that visitors really respected the exhibits. People touched them - which is important - but then put them back in place and respected the set-up.

This exhibition came just before the launch of gallery on the French market. Does this foreshadow a new way of launching products?

Yes, I think it can certainly provide ideas. You can see how product launches are very important events in other companies - think of Apple's keynotes. It makes people understand the amount of work behind the product, and this is celebrated. With this "Pop Up" format, the event lasts a limited time but it is longer than one or two hours. I can't really imagine this format as a live broadcast, like a keynote. On the other hand, I quite like the idea that the "Pop Up" can be a travelling show.

How did the audience and the participants react?

Basically, the proposal was a story to be told plus the experience of an additional visit. This exhibition was a chance to bring visitors to Hager Forum within this story and to give the product another dimension. This is an extra experience for our outside visitors and generates a good dynamic. Besides, we used it in the D-events (design events) with our internal customers and I know that training participants at the Hager Forum also benefited from the exhibition.

Has this exhibition made design work easier to understand?

The technical side of things is our essential raison d'être at Hager but Design allows us to stand out in our sector of activity. As you know, in our industry, many products that we make are similar - they are subject to standards, rules and regulations. So we end up with very similar things. What makes the difference is the story, the perception, and therefore the emotion. And all of that is the design work. So yes, this exhibition has made it possible to see the product from a different perspective, specifically a design angle.

What did the project mean for the Design Studio team?

The exhibition was created by the entire team, and we worked on it for several months. We had to create, to think of the formula and then make things happen. We wanted a presentation that was both unpretentious and classy. We wanted to convey the "new start" spirit that marks all our design productions. It wasn't easy - we made models, we gave it a lot of thought, we made furniture specifically for the exhibition. It really is a joint creation and it built a good team atmosphere. We were all very proud to show our work. Furthermore, every Monday each member of the team had the chance to meet the public, to tell the story, to meet new people. We have invested a lot of energy and time and next time it should go faster.

So tell us, what will the next "Pop Up" exhibition present?

We are preparing a "Pop Up" for H3+ which is a very technical product. It's a huge challenge! We want to underline the fact that it is not only the switches and the wall equipment that are associated with design. It's another job, another story, another user experience: everything is different but the design also contributes to developing very technical products. H3+ will be launched in France, China and Germany and it was actually the members of the project team who suggested doing an exhibition! They appreciated working in design: in this scenario, design and engineering worked hand in hand, with very strong interactions and a great deal of cooperation. It will be drier, more surprising, because we expect less design in this area, but it is important for us. We want to talk about all this!

gallery, a very "Design" product

gallery had already won the Janus de l'Industrie 2018 award, and received the "Good Design® Award 2018", an international award for the most "avant-garde" products and graphic designs in industrial design.

Interview by Stéphanie Formery and Olivia Hanschke

People are thrilled to discover the products created in-house, to go behind the scenes.

Erwin van Handenhoven