Tangent

Visionary Thinking: World Expo 2020

Starting in 1850 in the legendary Crystal Palace in London, the World Expo (or World’s Fair as it was then known) has been a constantly evolving showcase of the planet’s greatest achievements in technology, architecture and visionary thinking. You’ve probably already used something today that first debuted at a World’s Fair.

The technology we see at this World Expo will give us a glimpse of our future - possibly of a future we never saw coming.

Starting in 1850 in the legendary Crystal Palace in London, the World Expo (or World’s Fair as it was then known) has been a constantly evolving showcase of the planet’s greatest achievements in technology, architecture and visionary thinking. You’ve probably already used something today that first debuted at a World’s Fair.

Anyone at the 1876 World’s Fair in Philadelphia would have seen Alexander Graham Bell debuting his new invention ‘the telephone’ - perhaps you would have been as surprised as the Emperor of Brazil, Dom Pedro, who reportedly exclaimed “My God, it talks!” upon viewing the demonstration.

Famously, of course, there’s the Eiffel Tower, which was constructed specifically for Paris’s 1889 Fair. Originally intended to be pulled down after the Fair closed, it remains the architectural landmark to beat in terms of World’s Fair installations.

Chicago’s fair in 1893 introduced the Ferris wheel, the zipper, and the dishwasher to the world. In 1904, visitors to the St Louis World’s Fair could see the first X-ray machine, electric typewriter and the electrical plug and wall outlet. Also, equally importantly, this fair debuted the first ice cream cone. Broadcast television began in 1939 at the New York World’s Fair (and they’d introduce colour TV to the world at their 1964 fair, too). Seattle had their own Eiffel Tower moment with the Space Needle, which was created for the 1962 Seattle Fair.

Visitors to the 1964 Worlds Fair in New York would perhaps have been surprised it took until 2020 for video calling to become completely normal and mundane; an everyday occurrence - because the first ever video calling machine was a big attraction in 1964, with fairgoers given the chance to step into a booth and video chat with people across the country at Disneyland.

Osaka 1970 introduced IMAX, Tennessee 1982 introduced touchscreen technology (and cherry coke!). 2001 in Hannover had the world’s first hydrogen powered car, and it’s all starting to feel a bit more familiar now, isn’t it?

Visionary Thinking: World Expo 2020
It’s been particularly rewarding for us to be part of a process that ensures every country is represented and has a voice on this global stage.

Expo 2020, even though it will arrive late, promises to deliver the pinnacle of technological, architectural and sustainable achievement the world has to offer. The theme of the event is Connecting Minds, Creating the Future - which feels particularly prescient given the world we now find ourselves in. Connecting minds becomes even more important as physical connections are limited to those in the same household. The technology we see at this World’s Fair, or Expo, as it is of course now known, will presumably give us a glimpse of our future - possibly of a future we never saw coming. It’s happened before. It took sixty years for the dishwasher to get from the Chicago World’s Fair into people’s kitchens.

Tangent (you knew I’d mention us eventually) was contracted for a few different projects in the Expo lead up. We've been working with the Expo team and our partners TRIA to establish the event’s entire visual system. We’ve created guidelines on how to activate the brand across campaigns, publications, digital, ticketing and retail. We will define the look of over 120 thematic pavilions that represent countries from across the globe.

Initially, we created the overarching brand identity of the event (that’s what we do!), using 3D renders of the stunning site architecture to convey the scope and scale of the first World Expo held in the Middle East. In addition, we're rolling out all event-time wayfinding signage across the site, which is basically a purpose built city in the desert. We’ve created a system that works in harmony with our brand; that complements the permanent signage (which will remain after the Expo is over and the site is used for other purposes) whilst still being distinct.

Along with this we’ve been working with countries who haven’t chosen the expense of a unique pavilion, and instead have personalised simpler structures with breathtaking photography of their country and their people. Tangent’s role has been to dress the simpler pavilions with photos of incredible landscapes, traditional dress and customs and, most importantly, the people of each country - it’s been particularly rewarding for us to be part of a process that ensures every country is represented and has a voice on this global stage.

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Whatever happens, the World Expo, since its inception, has been a spectacular, historical, often world changing event.

Every Expo wants to change the world. Every host country wants to be noted on a future list of amazing technology debuted at World Fairs. Expo 2020 Dubai is in a unique position in that the world actually has just changed, very dramatically, around us all. Their theme and sub-themes were chosen years ago, and yet are as relevant as if they were decided on yesterday. Technology is racing to keep up with the new frontier we find ourselves on, and I think it’s safe to say, when Expo 2020 Dubai gets underway, there will be some generation defining advancements on display.

No-one can be sure, at the minute, what the future holds, but as of right now, Expo 2020 Dubai is due to open on October 1st 2021. We can expect stunning architecture, incredible photography and amazing new technology. I expect the year delay will also ensure we get some technology specific to our times - advancements on the way we communicate, now that it’s so much harder to do so face to face. Perhaps there will be a sequel to the video calling machine from 1964.

Sustainability, conservation and protecting the natural world is higher on most people’s list of priorities than it ever has been before - undoubtedly there will be incredible new ideas on display on how to tackle these issues.

Visitor safety is going to be a huge priority, and assuredly the precautions taken to keep the pandemic as far from the site as possible will be cutting edge.

Perhaps some changes will be for the better. Organisations the world over have adapted to the ‘new normal’ with online events becoming more successful and sophisticated every day. Perhaps there will be opportunities for people who could never have afforded a flight and a stay in Dubai to get involved in the spectacle from their home. Maybe there will be virtual tours of the site. Maybe for those lucky enough to visit, the event will seem more connected to the world than they could ever have hoped for or expected. Whatever happens, the World Expo, since its inception, has been a spectacular, historical, often world changing event, and Dubai having an extra year to prepare, to plan, for participating countries to develop technology that can improve lives across the globe - I’m just saying, there’s a silver lining.

While it’s a huge shame in a year full of them that we can’t be posting a piece today about the opening of this sure to be incredible event, it’s still been amazing for Tangent to be involved in this project for the last few years. We’ve seen how a huge, global event can react quickly and responsibly and we’ve been witness to the efforts being made to make sure that the World Expo 2020 - held in 2021 - will be even more spectacular than we could have imagined.

Visionary Thinking: World Expo 2020