What makes pop-up ventures truly exciting?

Aleksandrina Rizova, Architect/ Director of ALEKSA studio explores how pushing the boundaries of traditional design and engagement can bring the customer.

Alongside traditional methods, mobile flexible designs and new techniques could create higher levels of engagement.

It’s summer in London and new pop-up ventures are in full swing. Whether food or retail, they are usually trendy, cool and one can argue, affordable for both organisers and the consumer. I love trying new places that are here today and gone tomorrow. I’m also always looking forward to stepping into a disused industrial building or run-down rooftop and taste new menus accompanied by a DJ set and even visual effects. What more can one ask for?

Pop-ups can certainly reach a diverse audience but will rely on effective marketing and PR activities. I recently came across a story where mobile pop-up caterers in Covent Garden stressed the importance of early advertisement – with the anticipation of the customers being crucial. They argued that the offer may have disappeared before many people were able to discover. It raises the question of what ingredients are needed to create a buzz for a new hot temporary pop-up venue.

As an architect I believe design is vital for a successful entrepreneurship. The choice of interiors, furnishings, materials, colour, pattern, signage, lighting and sound can turn heads and make headlines. The location is equally as important – bohemian rooftops and warehouse buildings seem to be highly popular at present. Taking over empty buildings can be a sustainable way of rejuvenating decaying architecture. Branding goes hand in hand with the food – menu and uniforms design and food presentation complete the winning package. I wonder if a successful design can even mask some not so good tasting food in the hype of attending a pop-up?

In my architecture and design practice ALEKSA studio we are particularly interested in the use of digital design tools and fabrication techniques to create affordable, reconfigurable designs that can be fabricated quickly, delivered pre-installed on site (saving cost and time for on-site installation) and reconfigured for a different venue or event later on. Recycled materials can save costs and be quietly spectacular whilst promoting corporate sustainability. We have worked on a range of small scale pop-up installations in the past for exhibitions retailers but also private clients who are keen to push their business forward by investing in a mobile flexible design.

An example project is the temporary pop-up window display we designed for make-up brand Kiko Milano on Regent Street in 2016. The window display was in place for three weeks in September and corresponded to the Kiko Milano latest limited edition. The new products were exhibited and celebrated within a colourful and eye-catching installation inspired by the play between light and shadow, opaque and transparent, clear and textured. The installation created a sense of perspectival illusion as one walked by – allowing for dynamic views into the shop. The bright colour gradient and the surface pattern created a three-dimensional spatial experience within otherwise concise window space. The sense of movement was further accentuated by the ripple like effect and feminine curves found within the display elements geometry. The installation consisted of vertical fins and product display components fixed to a free-standing frame. The colourful vertical fins were made of CNC cut digitally printed acrylic where the colour and pattern gradients were carefully crafted digitally to achieve the desired visual effect of dissolving solidity.

The appeal of pop-ups is certainly high at the moment and many can see how they can benefit the customer. This is also witnessed in both the leisure and business world. Reconfigurable designs can be a huge advantage for those looking to make short visual impressions and can easily be set-up and moved around depending on customer’s need. The world has increased in speed and we must now do more to catch the eye and make an impact.