Saturday, March 17, 2018


After having done the Time Out Lounge at South-by-SouthWest (SXSW) for the Vision Council last year we got the gig this year for a second time around. The lounge is always a design challenge transforming a pretty bland space into a hot venue exciting enough to draw a crowd. The difficulty comes from the Austin Suite at the Austin Convention Center being located on the third floor, a ways away from the main action with three story high ceilings, a bland color palette and the inability to attach anything to the walls or ceiling. Then the center and the managerial firms involved in the SXSW event are the main source for furnishings and accessories and what they have to offer is a meager selection of white leather or dirty brown upholstered sofa and chairs.
There is a small hint of an Arts&Crafts influence to the room and that's what we built on last year but this year we decided to move in another direction.
We went balls out this time.
The prospectus from the client had a list of requirements for the lounge. It needed to be a place where attendees could come to unwind between seminars and events, it needed an area for breakfast and snacks, there had to be space where several lectures could take place on digital eye strain, it needed to be able to be transformed into a party space for cocktail events and it needed to have a dynamite space where participants could try on different glasses then take selfies of themselves and Instagram them out into the universe.
We really wanted to make the space fun and we wanted people to see that as they passed by the open doors of the lounge.
We decided to go for balloons and exotic flowers. This was a stretch for the client who at first could only see a kiddie birthday party or an out of control bar mitzvah.
They hadn't seen any of the current balloon installations that are trending right now and actually we hadn't either until we started doing our research and became aware of how au currant we were being.
Last year we had contracted a local florist, Texas Blooms, to do the flowers. We went back to them again this year. We are never traditional and they got the message but we also wanted to add balloons and this wasn't something they did.
They recommended a guy who goes by the name of Nate the Great and great he was. You are always at the risk of things not turning out when you try out an unknown vendor.
We sent image after image of inspiration image and went back and forth about what we described as a balloon wall to surround the step and repeat background banner for the selfies.
Our vision of the wall was to combine various sized and multi-colored balloons with a matte finish. What Nate did was to take the wall and have the balloons not only work as side wings for the background but he made the balloons crawl up the wall to the ceiling like a flowering vine growing up a building fa├žade.

We then extended the balloons around the bar and had them flow out of trashcans that had been left in the room.
We really had to sell this idea to the client but once they saw the results they were totally on board. Our color palette was pastel.
The balloons disguised the blandness of the room.
The flowers added that extra punch the way beautiful jewelry can complete an haute couture ensemble.
The results were very sophisticated and joyous on an adult level.
We gave it our best. They lounge was highlighted on local news programs in Austin. Over 3,000 attendees took advantage of the lounge. People learned about digital eye strain and what the eyeglass industry is doing to help. I think we succeeded. Now we have our fingers crossed that we'll be given a whack at it again next year.

Le Premier Ballon au Parc, Montsouris Paris, 1931-34
Brassai, photographer
Represented by Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York City

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