From Concept to Reality: How One IIDA Student’s Booth Design Made it to Orgatec

In October 2018, more than 63,000 visitors from 142 countries descended upon Cologne, Germany, for five days to attend Orgatec, the biennial commercial interior design trade show dedicated to the modern office.  The show offers a broad international scope of work that some of us stateside very rarely see and a wider platform to share one’s design vision. It seemed only fitting that we use our presence at the future-facing trade show to showcase the skills and talent of IIDA student members.

We were proud to have IIDA Member Sana Khan, former student of the New York School of Interior Design now design professional at HOK, design the IIDA booth at Orgatec. Her concept was chosen as the winning submission of the IIDA Student Booth Design Competition at Orgatec by a jury of design experts including Todd Heiser, IIDA, creative director and principal at Gensler, Eileen Jones, IIDA, SEGD, AIGA, principal and global practice leader at Perkins+Will, and IIDA International Board President James Kerrigan, IIDA, design principal of interiors at Jacobs.

Using product from Vitra, the competition sponsor, Sana’s booth offered a fresh and modern interpretation of the space with opportunities to provide an engaging experience for Orgatec visitors.  We spoke with her about the project – the inspiration, challenges, and lessons learned.

Sana's Booth Concept

Sana’s concept for The IIDA Cloud. “Seeing something that only existed in my head in real life is a pretty incredible thing, and I was overwhelmed with joy looking at the booth I designed. My father owns a construction firm and since my childhood I wanted to become like him. It was my first design that became a reality and it was no less than a dream come true.”

A Hub for Design Ideas

“The inspiration was really IIDA itself,” said Sana. “The idea of connectedness, standing out and creating a network struck me as a great concept for the booth that would represent IIDA and its ideology to a layman in the best possible way.”

To reflect that network, Sana found inspiration in clouds, even titling her project The IIDA Cloud. “Just like how a real cloud plays an important part in atmospheric circulation, the IIDA Cloud would be the hub of circulating design ideas around the world,” she explained. Sana also unpacked the meaning of the digital cloud. “Today’s fast paced generation exchanges information through a storage cloud. Similarly, the IIDA Cloud would be the hub for exchanging design thoughts and talk about designing for the future.”

booth ceiling

Look up. “The idea of the cube is to reflect the purpose of IIDA, to make designers come together under one cloud – or roof – and extol design.”

Understanding the Client

Designers typically communicate with the client throughout all phases of the design project, but for this competition, students had to be resourceful when gathering information. Sana approached this by trying to understand IIDA as a brand before designing the booth itself. “I felt it was important for me as a designer to understand what the client profile was,” said Sana. “The biggest challenge was creating a design that represents IIDA as an organization and to do justice to its brand.”

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Sana (far left) with select members of the IIDA International Board of Directors, IIDA staff, and her mentor inside the finished booth.

Balancing Aesthetics and Meaning 

For the competition, students were given a design brief that outlined what products needed to be in the booth and what features should be accommodated to allow for collaboration, engagement, and recharging throughout the show. What students didn’t get was a budget. As a result, value engineering the winning design concept was inevitable. Where some would see this as a setback, Sana saw it as lesson in the booth’s essential purpose: to connect. “During the competition, I learned how to design something that is practically and economically feasible to construct. The design should not only have an aesthetic value, but it should have a concept that people connect with.”


Follow Sana’s journey to Orgatec by checking out the Orgatec 2018 highlights on the IIDA HQ Instagram account.

The Student Perspective: Orgatec 2016

Today’s post is written by Kelsey Ballast, Student IIDA, winner of the inaugural IIDA Booth Design Competition at Orgatec. The competition provided students the opportunity to design a trade show booth at this year’s Orgatec Trade Fair in Cologne, Germany, on Oct. 25-29. Kelsey received an all-expense-paid trip to Orgatec to see her design concept realized, courtesy of Vitra, as well as a tour of the Vitra campus.

The amount of incredible design that I have been immersed in over the last couple of weeks has been completely overwhelming in the best way possible. I was fortunate to have been selected as the winner of the IIDA Booth Design Competition at Orgatec, where I was flown to Cologne, Germany to attend Orgatec, an event billed as “the leading international trade fair for the modern working world.”  

As I wandered through the chaos that was the day before Orgatec’s opening, hoping to find the IIDA booth, I was overwhelmed and in awe. The mess of boxes and people running around setting up complicated and massive showrooms made me feel a bit anxious to see my design. I was hoping that it all came together and would be able to fit in among these other impressive spaces.

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Kelsey inside the booth she designed with IIDA International Board Members (from left) Scott Hierlinger, IIDA, LEED AP, Marlene Liriano, IIDA, LEED AP ID+C, and Cheryl Durst, Hon. FIIDA, LEED AP, and James Kerrigan, IIDA, LEED AP ID+C. All the furniture in the booth is by Vitra.

As the booth came into view, relief overcame me when I saw that it had actually come together. The team wandered through the booth, but I found myself observing. Seeing the team interact with the space – knowing the thought and intention behind it all – I was overjoyed. 

On the first day of the show, we arrived early to get all of the IIDA brochures and accessories in place. At 9 a.m., the PA system echoed through the halls, signaling the show was now open. Not 30 seconds later, crowds of people were streaming past our booth. Visitors stopped in and took photos of different areas and elements in the booth. I did not expect this at all! As the day went on, the atmosphere around the booth was very positive. The space was used exactly as I had hoped – as a place of respite and relaxation for visitors to sit and have a conversation with one another or just kick their feet up for a minute.  

I was also able to spend time exploring the hundreds of showrooms spanning almost 1,400,000 square feet. The part that amazed me the most was that all of these showrooms were constructed solely for the show. They were all within large halls, so each vendor constructed their own architecture to define the space.

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Shots from Orgatec. Inside the Cascando booth.

It was such an eye opening and inspiring experience to explore the madness that is Orgatec. The amount of innovation, new companies, and variety widened my perspective of the industry and opened my eyes to the endless possibilities of a career in interior design.

The next part of my trip was a tour of the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany, which is near the border of Switzerland. The hillside surrounding the campus was covered in the warm golden tones of the changing fall leaves and harvested fields. The juxtaposition of nature’s perfection with the clean lines of the many buildings at the Vitra Campus was something from a dream. I witnessed the brilliance of multiple architects’ and designers’ work, including Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron, and Zaha Hadid, just to name a few. 

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Exterior of the Vitra Fire Station by Zaha Hadid Architects.

These buildings were like nothing I’ve ever seen or experienced before. Every element was intentional and thoroughly designed in the purest way. But don’t take my word for it: Check out vitra.com for a virtual tour of the campus. 

I am so thankful to IIDA and Vitra for providing me with this opportunity. Everything I was able to do and see has altered my view of design for the better and enhanced the way I see and will execute my designs going forward. My time in Germany has taught me that design should reflect authenticity, purity, and the value of experience, and that’s a lesson I won’t soon forget. 


See Orgatec from Kelsey’s point of view by visiting the IIDA HQ Instagram feed and searching #iidatakeover.