Other Stuff

Portable Stage Design

This article is sponsored by Full Compass—stage systems and lighting to help you create the right atmosphere.

In this article, Glendale Matias talks about the power of portable stage design—even if you aren’t in a portable church situation.

Portability can enhance your stage design by allowing your idea to become flexible in unfamiliar territory. It aids in volunteer management, allows greater creative control, and ultimately saves you a lot of time. There are a lot benefits when thinking about portability when designing for stage or environment.

That’s why I propose you make your stage design portable—even if you aren’t working with a portable environment.

Portability is flexible.

Being portable eliminates any margins for error. You can quickly setup and edit a space. If something isn’t working, you can quickly edit it. For example, we were tasked to develop a stage design that could be installed and removed quickly—something that would be near impossible to do if we had to build on site.

We built portable stage boxes for the venue. But once we got to the space, we noticed that the space was smaller than expected. So we ended up removing a few crates and repositioning others. Building portable stage elements made this possible.

Portable Stage Design Boxes

Portability is empowering.

Portability empowers volunteers. Using our Easter project as an example, we easily managed and distributed delegation. We gave volunteers a picture grid of the stage design and gave them creative control to interpret and execute.

Portable stage design gives people the opportunity to feel more engaged with the process and appreciate the design.

Portability is creative freedom.

Portability allows the freedom to be creative in an unknown space and be resourceful with time. Not having to spend energy on figuring out logistics stage/space geography, you can freely move your idea and adapt it in real-time.

Making things interestingly portable.

Making things modular doesn’t mean it’s going to look visually pleasant. Take note on the type of space you’ll be in and take advantage of it. I try to focus on less interesting spaces and emphasize it’s lack thereof as interesting content. An example would be a project we worked on that tasked our team to work with a parking structure and make it the main focus. The parking structure was the least favorable space, but it offered the largest square footage and it was open and raw. So the idea was to first bring color into the space—bold, graphic color to contrast the cold grey concrete. We couldn’t paint the walls, so we physically brought color by painting Tyvek and hanging it in the space. We also concentrated our design by designing interest above the horizon and below the horizon. When you pack large amounts of people in this space, your horizon line is obstructed with other people’s heads. Your main eyesight tends to be either up or down. We focused on making large color fields that were very high. Exaggerate life a bit, play with scale, and expose those shadows!

The portable aspect of this piece was two-fold. First we built large rolling walls and second, we painted huge sheets of Tyvek—which we foam-taped to the concrete. The walls had three purposes. They were designed to be hollow so we could add light fixtures inside and to reduce weight. We also added wheels so they could be positioned easily. We skinned one side with clear Coroplast and the other side with luan. One side of the luan was painted to match the color scheme on the walls, and the other side of the luan was painted with chalkboard paint for a special event at the end of the conference.

As the event progressed, we simply repositioned the walls to divide the space, or positioned them as large torchlight fixtures. For the last transformation of these walls, we flipped the painted side to expose the chalkboard and it was revealed as a large notepad. In a relatively small amount of time, we were able to transform the interior of a large first floor parking garage into an exciting space that morphed into 3 different floor plans.

Portable Stage Design Flats

Being portable ensures your design remains as flexible as possible when dealing with variables that you can’t control. Being portable surprisingly adds community to a somewhat task-oriented setup. In the end, portability saves huge amounts of time during project installations and teardown. Portability should always be considered when creating a design that is temporary or permanent.


Glendale is a graphic designer at Disney and does stage and scenic design for his church in Los Angeles, Oasis Church.


Revealing Burning Boards

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Solve : *
6 + 14 =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.