Talking Design Trends at MWC 2018

Abs Patel, Account Manager, discusses the latest design trends at Mobile World Congress 2018 and how brands utilised the trends to show off their technology. 

So much of the coverage from Mobile World Congress talks about the trends in technology. This is, of course, interesting but it got me thinking: what about the way those brands showed off their technology? Here’s everything you need to know about design trends and influences at the 2018 show.

Scandi influence
Be careful exhibitors of MWC 2019, there may be a shortage of wooden slats at next year’s show. Many stands at this year’s show were touched by a Scandinavian influence with wooden textures such as stools, walls and plenty of white space. This type of design represents simplicity, minimalism and functionality: three words that have also become synonymous with the technology industry in recent years as they all go for “The Apple effect”. Pine wood is also often used in stand design because it makes a stand feel homely and therefore altogether more approachable: something you definitely want if visitor numbers are the aim of the game.
I wasn’t surprised to see this as a key booth design trend at the show and while it does look great, I’d like to see stands go for a different type of design next year and not be afraid to break the curve.

Living cities
Another big design trend was stands designed around the “living city”. From Nokia who showed how their products would work throughout a city, using graphics to depict scenes such as Grand Central Station, to our own client Coriant, who used touch technology where visitors could interact with a hospital or rooftop to see how Coriant’s technology would be used within that environment.
The touch technology used by Coraint brought forward the standard living city design and gave it another element, one where visitors could be part of the experience. This is a key flag for exhibitors who want to use technology on their stand. Without thinking about how the technology tells the story and what this means for the visitor, brands are in danger of becoming yet another stand showing a video of yet another “smart city”.

The smart home was also a big feature, with plenty of fridges and microwaves on stands. I’d like to see brands think more creatively about how they use their products next year. There are plenty of exciting ways to put a product on a stand that make visitors sit up and look, without it having to look like a Currys shop floor.

Tech talk
Let’s talk technology on the stands. As it has been for a few years now, virtual reality experiences are still a focal point of MWC. VR seemed to play a bigger part than AR, with the HTC Vive and Samsung Gear coming up again and again as the technology of choice.
The Samsung rollercoaster, as always, was busy but it was its new skydiving and snowboarding experiences that really brought the crowds. This shows the power of the “new” experience and how quickly visitors get inertia around the things they have experienced before. One way to enhance the VR experience for future shows is to also think about the setting. Visitors don’t just want to put a headset on, they want a start-to-end experience that begins the minute they step onto the stand.
Think chairs that move as the reality does and staff who are fully immersed in the experience, to provide a full-theatre effect.
In terms of display technology, many exhibitors went for LED walls instead of standard graphic displays. Unfortunately this did make it feel a bit like everyone was throwing them in for fun on any blank area. Is this the best use of a brand’s budget and content? Probably not.

Mobile World Talks


Next year stand design agencies will need to think about how their clients can use the standard LED videowall for more than just a video display. Like Nokia (above) who had LED in the stand rather than just on it and others who used moving LED which gave the content a 3D effect.

Let’s get graphical
A couple of nice touches on the Huawei and Samsung stands were layered graphics that were used to create depth. Not only do these look great but they also have an effect on the way visitors then interact with the stand, with many visitors going up to touch.
Causing this type of visceral reaction is definitely something brands should look to embody more of for 2019. The visitor who feels, sees and hears a brand, is the one who remembers it.

Unpredictable and undoubtedly exciting
Unlike 2017, us mobile worlders unfortunately shouldered a bit of bad weather at the 2018 show. For some brands, this actually rendered their promotional activities useless, such as Android who did a big push in the outside areas to talk about Google Home and Google, who created ice cream rolls, that were best left in the fridge.
If there’s one thing this reminded me, is that MWC is always there to keep you on your toes as a designer and marketer. Whether it’s the unpredictable weather, finding new ways to reinvent technology (such as a fridge or car), or finding new experiences that make visitors gasp in delight, it’s unpredictably exciting.
I look forward to seeing what we, and other design agencies, come up with next year.

To speak to me about how 4D captures the latest trends and ideas to inform your stand strategy for Mobile World Congress, ping me a message or email on