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Imagine there’s a trade fair and hardly a train traveller gets there: sadly that is exactly the situation that the show organisers had to contend with at last week's Viscom 2014 in Frankfurt.

Usually, one in four visitors travels to the International Trade Fair for Visual Communication by train. Usually. But the largest strike in German railway history caused massive disruptions. Even though viscom organiser Reed Exhibitions Deutschland operated a live ticker with the latest traffic updates and possible travel alternatives, the massive disruptions affecting the railway did end up impacting the event.

The three-day trade fair, which alternates between Frankfurt and Düsseldorf, had to accept a decrease in visitors for the first time in ten years. The organiser recorded a total of 10,064 visitors (prior event: 12,075), representing a drop of 17% compared to viscom frankfurt 2012. “Many of our customers were unable to come or had to change their travel itineraries in order to get to viscom”, says Hans-Joachim Erbel, CEO Reed Exhibitions Deutschland, in summarising the consequences of the tense traffic situation during viscom. In prior years, viscom had seen clear double-digit annual growth rates.

Those who did make it to viscom in Frankfurt this year found the entire world of visual communication awaiting them – from the latest digital printing solutions to innovative digital signage applications to interactive displays and print finishing solutions for packages used in brand communication at the POS. For the first time ever, the altogether 325 exhibitors from 29 nations (2012: 327) occupied both of Hall 3’s floors. viscom was able to enhance its profile thanks to the new, clearly structured hall layout with six core segments: large format printing, signmaking, object design, digital signage, POS display and POS packaging. The new appearance was defined by the “main axis” consisting of “digital printing, advertising technology and materials” downstairs and “brand communication, digital signage and illuminated advertising” upstairs.

“The idea of providing better orientation to print service providers and advertising technicians as well as to major brands from retail, industry and agencies was very well received”, says viscom Director Petra Lassahn. The new structure aligns with visitors’ interest in being able to access each topic in a targeted way. The revamped POS display area, which presented the sector’s leading companies under one roof, resonated particularly well with a broad audience. Also very well received was the POS packaging area, which showed print finishing solutions for designing and producing high-quality folding boxes.

The “heart” of viscom was once again the world of inspiration. Taking up 800 m², this special show highlighted best practices from all six of viscom’s topical areas, including trends for the point of sale, award-winning packaging solutions, print finishing innovations and the latest digital signage projects. The central theme here was inspiration; trend discussions and workshops were held, including the one hosted by the Packaging Design School showing visitors how designs make it onto the packaging for anything from mass-produced articles like laundry detergents to premium spirits. “This was our first time attending viscom as part of the ‘Packaging Design School’ cooperation – and we were very pleasantly surprised. We had an excellent response and many visitors, from individual advertising designers to larger agencies, schools and universities. The entire spectrum was represented”, says Guido Möller from the Wacom/Packaging Design School. Other world of inspiration highlights included 3D-printed exhibits, microwavable pizza boxes, luxury packaging, multi-touch solutions for walls and tables, POS gesture control solutions and an innovative installation of media blinds.

Once again, viscom served as a stage for numerous innovations, as demonstrated by the awards handed out here in various branches of the visual communication sector. Presented again this year were the viscom Best of Award in the areas signmaking, large format printing, textile finishing, software and illuminated advertising; the Digital Signage Best Practice Award; the SUPERSTAR for new display solutions; the European Wrap Star; and the Designmaker Award for creative designs that work on a variety of advertising media.

Next year Viscom wil be in Dusseldorf from 4 to 6 November 2015 - and hopefully will not have to contend with a national rail strike.