In the shadow of Toronto’s Thompson Hotel, at the end of an alleyway you’d walk by with little notice, is a creative little studio quietly causing quite a stir in the Toronto event rental market. Inside is a team of eight is gathered around a giant table, surrounded by laser cutters, 3D printers, light walls, and shelves of tech — designing the new breed of interactives taking the event scene by storm.
The company is called MakeLab. MakeLab uses the tools of the Maker Movement for events, a huge trend of hands-on creation that’s produced creative outlets like Etsy, and has driven the proliferation of makerspaces in schools, libraries, and member’s workshops across the country.
The diverse team brings expertise from design, technology, and theatre production. They take new technologies and creative tools out of the lab, set them up at events and create hands-on experiences for guests to explore. The results? Edible selfie photo booths, laser cut bow tie bars, 3D printing pop-up rentals, and giant digital graffiti colouring book walls.
Walking around the studio, it’s clear the focus here is on new experiences. A tour of their studio starts with the laser cutter: a device that can slice clean through planks of wood but is instead being used on food. With it, they’ve created a new take on the classic photo booth: an Edible Selfie Photo Booth where guests get their mug shots on delicious French macarons. Guests snap a selfie and watch as the laser cutter precisely caramelizes their photos in front of their eyes.
The studio’s focus on Maker technology began three years ago, taking 3D printers to local cafe’s, teaching drop-in design classes until the last call. It attracted the attention of the Royal Ontario Museum, which was hungry for relevant entertainment for their 19+ Friday Night Live event series. MakeLab created an interactive space at the ROM to guide party-goers in designing ancient Mesopotamian city buildings. Setting their cocktails aside design stations, guests had a few minutes of hands-on creating. They would then watch in delight as their creations were printed and added as a piece of a miniature city. It was hugely popular, with several hundred buildings made over the course of the series. MakeLab regularly takes its 3D printers to events, printing guest-designed pieces, or takeaways that drive home brand themes and messaging.
Next on the tour is a giant, 10-foot wide digital colouring book showcased at this year’s CSE Live! conference for event and meeting planners to experience first hand. Event guests grab special digital graffiti spray paint cans and colour in the pages. Digital paint can be blended like real spray paint to allow for anything from simple colouring-in, to intricate mural art. Finished artwork can be shared via email, social media, or printed as a personal takeaway. It’s another physically interactive piece that lets guests be creative, and gives them an experience worthy of sharing.
If you are missing the more old school analog vibes, MakeLab has thought of that as well. A statement piece for any room, they have a large six-foot wide Analog Instagram Light Table where guests mix and match physical photo layers to make physical Instagram-like mashups. It’s a throwback experience to before digital screens were a mainstay. It gets people collaborating around the table, before taking their creations to a classic overhead projector (think grade 9 science) to create their own vintage backdrop.
The MakeLab team has built a studio focused on creative technology and event interactives. They leave the coordination to their event planning and agency partners allowing them to prioritize finding new tech and exploring how to use them at events.
For event planners hungry for new ideas, learn more about MakeLab’s philosophy and unique offering at www.makelab.ca