The Art of the Show

SEMA News—September 2016


By Mike Imlay

The Art of the Show

Look for the New 2016 SEMA Show Visual Makeover and Signage, Courtesy of Ed Tillrock

  Ed Tillrock
The 2016 SEMA Show art and graphics have received a makeover, courtesy of the pencil stylings of famed automotive artist Ed Tillrock. More than functional, the new look for signage and other marketing materials is meant to help create an authentic industry atmosphere conducive to business.

Slated for November 1–4 in Las Vegas, the 2016 SEMA Show is getting a strikingly fresh graphics makeover, courtesy of the pencilings of celebrated automotive artist Ed Tillrock, whose creative sketchwork will grace not only Show signage but related marketing materials as well. According to Peter MacGillivray, SEMA vice president of communications and events, this new look goes far beyond fresh art demarking Show aisles.

“Our goal is to present the best industry marketplace in the world,” he explained. “To that end, we work to gather the most innovative and qualified buyers and exhibitors in an innovative and authentic atmosphere. The artwork that is woven into the Show directional signage and printed material is intended to do more than help attendees get from point A to point B in the most efficient way possible. Rather, the artwork is a deliberate attempt to heighten the energy to the overall Show experience. In order to achieve that goal, you need to make sure that the artist is authentic and the artwork strikes a tangible chord with the people who experience it. Ed Tillrock strikes that chord.”

SEMA Show Director Tom Gattuso added that Show planners strive to feature a new artist every three years to help set the pace for the vibrant and ever-changing aftermarket.

“We believe that the SEMA Show should mirror the industry in terms of trends, innovation and the buyer/seller relationship,” he said. “Breaking away from traditional tradeshow artwork and working with authentic automotive artists such as Ed Tillrock helps us connect the dots so that our Show participants feel as though they’re also woven into the fabric of the automotive world.”

For his part, Tillrock—a longtime SEMA Show fan—confessed that he is “totally blown away” at his role in creating a unique industry trade environment.

“It’s a challenge but also a dream job,” he said.

As an artist, Tillrock takes a unique approach, capturing the essence of his automotive subjects in pencil alone, and he is probably best known for his highly detailed, almost photographic depictions of go-fast vehicles and iconic car-culture scenes. However, it’s his equally dramatic, loose, sketchbook-like drawings that will help brand this year’s Show.

“It all goes back to when I was 21/2 and my grandmother taught me how to draw with pencil,” Tillrock said. “That kind of started the whole thing. But because of my father, I’m a gearhead. In school, I’d draw hot rods and dream cars.”

Following his school days, Tillrock embarked on an architectural career, where he often worked with pencils, pastels, markers and tempera paints. Around 2007, he craved doing something different and dove headlong back into automotive art, treating his subjects like oil paintings but with graphite strokes.

2016 SEMA Show Colors and Exhibit Spaces

The sheer size of the SEMA Show, along with its diverse array of exhibits, can at first feel overwhelming. There are so many places to go, people to meet and exciting things to see and do. Fortunately, the SEMA Show’s color-coding helps make getting around the more than 1 million sq. ft. of booths and attractions easy.

Performance Pavilion Westgate North Hall Lower South Hall Central Hall Upper South Hall
- First-Time & Featured Exhibitors - Collision Repair & Refinish
- First-Time & Featured Exhibitors
- Mobile Electronics & Technology
- Restyling & Car Care Accessories
- Tools & Equipment
- Global Tire Expo—Powered by TIA
- Wheels & Accessories
- First-Time & Featured Exhibitors
- Hot Rod Alley
- Racing & Performance
- Restoration Marketplace
- Business Services
- First-Time & Featured Exhibitors
- Powersports & Utility Vehicles
- Trucks, SUVs & Off-Road
The Performance Pavilion and its popular collection of first-time and featured exhibitors are color-coded orange.  Green signifies the Westgate and North Hall, the places to see many first-time and featured exhibitors and the Collision Repair & Refinish, Mobile Electronics & Technology, Restyling & Car Care Accessories and Tools & Equipment sections.  The Lower South Hall is depicted by purple, which also signifies the Global Tire Expo—Powered by TIA and Wheels & Accessories sections located there.  Red denotes the Central Hall, where you will find many first-time and featured exhibitors along with Hot Rod Alley and the Racing & Performance and Restoration Marketplace sections.  The Upper South Hall is blue keyed. It includes Business Services, more first-time and featured exhibitors, Powersports & Utility Vehicles, and Truck/SUVs & Off-Road exhibitors. 

 “I just love black and white and the warm feeling I get from it. I want to develop a scene or a story, not just [portray] a standard car,” he explained, noting that he still occasionally takes on other media. In fact, he recently completed a large, 4x5-ft. acrylic color painting for the new SEMA Garage at the association’s headquarters in Diamond Bar, California.

Visual Direction and More

For the 2016 SEMA Show, Tillrock’s sketchwork will flag all of the various Show sections, offering easily recognizable visual direction from hall to hall and feature to feature while depicting scenes reflecting the excitement to be found in each destination. Although the drawings themselves are black and white, signage will be keyed with specific colors matching the color-coding of each Show sector for easy reference.

The Art of the Show

This year's SEMA Show signage is color-keyed to match exhibit destinations.

In addition, all Show marketing pieces and presentations will be branded with Tillrock’s signature images and color-coding to help set the dynamic mood that planners envision for the automotive specialty-equipment industry’s premier trade gathering in Las Vegas (see sidebar, “2016 SEMA Show Colors and Exhibit Spaces”).

MacGillivray believes that turning to world-class artists such as Tillrock to deliver such attention to detail is part of the reason the SEMA Show remains the industry’s favorite trade event year after year.

“The SEMA Show is constantly pushing the limits of what a tradeshow is, and our Show art is just one example of how we break the mold and customize it to fit our industry,” MacGillivray said. “We know we’re onto something each Show when attendees ask if they can take our signage at the end. There are not many tradeshows in the world where people think even the signs are cool enough to keep.”

The SEMA Show Art Walk

While experiencing all that the 2016 SEMA Show has to offer, don’t miss the SEMA Show Art Walk, located on the Sky Bridge between the South and Central Halls.

“It’s the place where we encountered the artwork of Ed Tillrock, this year’s Show artist, and Max Grundy, who preceded him in designing our Show art,” said Tom Gattuso, SEMA Show director.

Art Walk visitors will be able to meet and network with exhibiting artists, see their latest creations, and even take home artistic souvenirs for the office or home.

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