Fantasy to Reality: 4 Steps to Creating a Realistic Design From an Off-The-Wall Idea


There’s no doubt that when our clients find out what we can do in our shop, their gears start turning. And more than anything we encourage our clients to dream big, really big. What isn’t always seen is how we take crazy concepts and ground them in practical design, without sacrificing the fantastical aesthetic, or desired functions of the space. Whether we’re starting with some rough notes and a sketch on a napkin, or a detailed graphic representation, we apply our knowledge of best practices and safety precautions to take concept to reality.

1. Defining limitations.

One of the first things we do is take a look at the activation space. Whether it’s in a park, at a convention center, or a traveling unit, we need to know the physical limitations and lawful restrictions put into place for a given area. Immovable objects such as trees or fire hydrants, and height restrictions imposed by convention centers or municipalities all contribute to these imaginary boundaries of what can be built. Like finding the edge pieces of a puzzle, defining these limitations gives us rules to abide by so we can ensure a design that works wherever you’re going.

2. Incorporating innovative materials.

We’re in the business of creating environments that personify your brand. That means customizing materials, and branding space to your marketing message. Unbeknownst to our clients, and anyone that isn’t a shipping container modification expert, many traditional materials like ceramic tile or drywall, don’t fare well traveling down the road at highway speeds. That’s why we’re constantly researching alternative materials that mimic traditional finishes, but are lighter, stronger, and more durable.

For instance, a recent food-service client wanted an environment that felt like a modern kitchen, with large slab counter tops and tile walls. We were able to use a special flexible grout to keep the normally breakable tile in place, and achieve the sleek counter with a lightweight, flexible porcelain tile sheet applied to a wood base.

3. Tweaking the design.

When ‘The District Detroit’ came to us to help with the unveiling of their plans to revitalize the areas downtown district, they envisioned a large amphitheater-like space defined by shipping containers stacked five high, and woven together in a circular formation. Plain and simple, this feat couldn’t be achieved without considerable engineering and a complex installation. Our team reworked the design to stack containers in a fashion they are more accustomed to, laid next to each other in the same circular pattern. Using this method in conjunction with large fabric signage, we were able to achieve the look that District Detroit needed, while simultaneously reducing the labor and engineering needs, and the installation requirements.

We don’t expect you to know what it takes to set up and install container structures safely, that’s our job. And our clients trust us to come up with designs that are not only safe, but efficient during fabrication and installation.

4. Checking our work.

Before we finalize a design, we send our work for review and sign-off by a third-party structural engineer, MEP engineer, and architect licensed in the applicable state. These third-party inspections not only ensure that we’ve covered everything in our designs, but prepare us for any permitting that we may need to obtain. The requirements set by the city of Chicago are probably not the same as the regulations in Miami. Our attention to detail means that your project is safe and legal no matter where you decide to activate.

Creative ideas and innovative thinking is what drives us here at Boxman Studios. And if you have an idea that you think is just too crazy, give us a call, we’ll make it work.