It's a little known fact that our very own Managing Director Jon Powell was one of the founding partners of the leading, international design exhibition, designjunction. As the Modus team busily prepares to take the expanded Edge collection to this year’s show, I managed to catch Jon for a few minutes to reflect on his time as a trade show organiser.
First thing’s first, where did the idea of designjunction come from
It was initially a group event that we organised in Milan. We brought a number of, mainly British, brands together (about 10-15 for the first show), many of whom hadn't exhibited in Milan before and it enabled us to both secure a larger, more prestigious venue in Milan as well as a collective voice. It was so popular in the first year that we decided to bring it back to the UK and replicate it during London Design Festival. So that September the same year we launched designjunction in London with around 30 brands.
I guess the original idea was to help us and other brands establish a presence during Salone del Mobile. But the London show was more because we felt all the existing shows in the UK were very staid. We didn't feel we had many choices of appropriate design shows in the UK, certainly there was very little in the way of options for engaging, interesting, enjoyable shows that catered for design furniture brands.
Out of all the founding partners, what role do you think you played?
The Entrepreneur? I guess it was our initial concept, we saw the opportunity/need and we brought together the team that made it happen. Deborah (Spencer) was the marketeer and Michael (Sodeau) the creative director. We were also able to provide an objective opinion, as a furniture brand, on what exhibitors actually wanted from a show.
Did you ever think the show would be as successful as it is?
Not at first, but after the launch of the London show we realised there was potential to create a leading design show during London Design Festival. designjunction had a spark, a buzz about it. In the second year we moved to the Sorting Office location in Holborn and after this we were confident designjunction could become the most innovative and creative exhibition in the UK.
What was the biggest challenge of running two companies at the same time?
Time! :-). Although designjunction created benefits, it also distracted us from our core business, which is why we sold it, predominantly so we could focus on our own brand.
What do you think designjunction has which other trade shows don’t?
Style and creativity. It's less polished/corporate in a good way, it's got personality, it's focussed on not only having the best brands at the show but also creating a unique visitor experience - great food and drinks, interaction, a bit of retail - it all makes for an enjoyable visitor experience as well as putting a raft of the best design brands under one roof.
What was your lowest point of running the show?
Just before we opened designjunction in its second year, this was an operational marathon, we had our own stand that we were building, designjunction operations and our own event in our showroom so naturally we were quite stretched - and 1-2 hours before opening the show it was hard to see how we would be ready!
What was the highlight?
Following the lowest point, the highlight was just after we opened designjunction in its second year, standing back and observing what had been created and seeing the lengthy queues of people trying to get in.