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First Look

Inside A Nerd Nerve Center: A Look At DC Entertainment's Giant Comic-Con Booth And Rebrand

DC Entertainment’s rebranding effort continues with its first San Diego Comic-Con booth redesign in nearly a decade. Fast Company got a preview as the Con geared up for opening night. Take a tour in the slide show above.

  • <p>All photos by Mike Jara of <a href="" target="_blank">Mike Jara Photography</a>.</p>
  • <p>Reporter Dan Burgos and cameraman Eli Contreras of <a href="" target="_blank">Comic Book Therapy</a> interview DC Comics co-publishers Dan DiDidio and Jim Lee.</p>
  • <p>DC Marketing VP John Cunningham gives the booth staff a pep talk before the floor opens.</p>
  • <p>Tre Ridings of <a href="" target="_blank">Picture U Promotions</a> directs a fan. The photos are composited on a Justice League or <em>Mad</em>-themed cover.</p>
  • <p>Attendees grab for free pins with superhero logos.</p>
  • 01 /15

    All photos by Mike Jara of Mike Jara Photography.

  • 02 /15
  • 03 /15
  • 04 /15
  • 05 /15
  • 06 /15
  • 07 /15
  • 08 /15 | Meet the Press

    Reporter Dan Burgos and cameraman Eli Contreras of Comic Book Therapy interview DC Comics co-publishers Dan DiDidio and Jim Lee.

  • 09 /15
  • 10 /15 | Pep Talk

    DC Marketing VP John Cunningham gives the booth staff a pep talk before the floor opens.

  • 11 /15
  • 12 /15
  • 13 /15 | Cover Model

    Tre Ridings of Picture U Promotions directs a fan. The photos are composited on a Justice League or Mad-themed cover.

  • 14 /15 | Pin scramble

    Attendees grab for free pins with superhero logos.

  • 15 /15

Floating "chunks of art in the sky"—a grinning Alfred E. Newman, mallet-wielding Wonder Woman, glaring vampire Skinner Sweet—command a view of the sea of attendees, signaling DC Entertainment’s reimagined presence at San Diego Comic Con.

DC’s booth redesign—its first in nine years—continues its ongoing rebranding effort which has included codifying the DC Entertainment restructure, logo revamp, and reinterpretation of existing intellectual property with The New 52 and Before Watchmen campaigns. The theme: edgy and aggressive, but inviting and interactive.

With a 5400 square-foot footprint, the DC booth is one of the largest on the convention floor, often serving as a landmark or meeting hub in a marketplace that has gotten increasingly overwhelming.

DC Comics co-publisher Dan Didio (left) shares a laugh with VP of marketing John Cunningham shortly before Comic-Con opens.

"We moved the imagery to the center to give the booth a more open and inviting feeling, and the hanging cubes feel like chunks of art in the sky," says DC Entertainment’s vice president of marketing John Cunningham. "The design reinforces our new branding of DC as both a comics publisher and entertainment company, while incorporating other elements, such as a gaming center and collectables."

Four large silicon fabric cubes cut diagonally hang from the ceiling over the booth bearing the overall DC Entertainment brand and its three main publishing divisions: DC Comics (superheroes), Vertigo (more mature themes), and Mad (the satirical magazine that celebrates its 60th anniversary this year). The cubes hover over distinct showcases on the floor featuring current and upcoming product from those divisions. The result is considerably airier than the previous design’s floor-to-ceiling banners allowed.

Interspersed throughout the space are glass cabinets housing collectibles and larger-than-life-size Watchmen, a dedicated meeting place for on-site interviews, a stage with giant monitor featuring related film and video clips from parent company Warner Bros., and lit kiosks where fans can browse DC inventory on iPads. A camera and green screen set-up prints photos of fans surrounded by Justice League characters.

A computerized rendering of the new DC booth.

Tangram—the global exhibition designer whose media clients include Disney, AMC, and HBO—won the DC account last October with an unexpected interpretation of DC specs.

"We put together a list of requirements of what we were looking for—the main frustration with our old booth being it wasn’t aggressive enough," says Cunningham. "The old booth design was closed and centered around corners. They put everything on an angle and changed the line of site, and, with it, the perception of space."

An added bonus is the new design facilitates much more cost-effective methods for transporting and storing it, which accounts for the bulk of the cost.

Still, with change comes trepidation. A couple of hours before the convention floor opened to the public, booth workers and DC brass milled about doing final checks. Cunningham was almost giddy with relief that the design pulled together without a hitch.

"We’re creatures of habit," he says. "When we decided to change, it felt like throwing ourselves off the edge of a cliff—the anxiety over everything working out. It got to the point where three weeks ago, I woke up at 2 a.m. in a cold sweat from a dream where I got to San Diego and there was no booth, and we had to figure out how to fill 5400 square feet."

He looks around the booth and takes a deep breath. "So right now, I’m really happy…"

Take a tour of the booth in the slide show above.