Trade Show TalesBlog

Design Monday and Mike Swartout

May 1st, 2016 COMMENTS


Relentless Discipline

If you read Kevin’s moving tribute to Mike Swartout last week, you know how much he meant to the Classic Family. What you may not know is how much he sweated over Design Monday. No one was more devoted to ensuring Design Monday was creative, professional, and on-time than Mike. His insistence that we never miss a week was an internal driving force that pushed us to be amazing on an unforgiving deadline.

That said… it didn’t start out that way. When we launched Design Monday in 2005, Mike had concerns. He agreed that far too many distributors saw Classic as a basic portable-modular manufacturer, which he felt was unfair and just plain wrong. Our design portfolio was substantial, our production capabilities impressive, and he wanted the Classic distributor network to know that.

Mike_Design_Monday2After we sent the first Design Monday, Mike said to me, “So what will we do in six to eight months when we’ve exhausted the best of the best?” “Mike,” I said, “we’ll never exhaust our design talents. Your department in tandem with our distributors will push us to innovate. Yes, we may not always get it right, but no one will ever out-design us again.” True to form, he accepted that challenge and by doing so, he pushed his fellow designers, our project managers, and mostly Production to be a better company.

Two weeks ago, Mike’s health was failing quickly, and there was a chance he would need to go to a hospital. He called to let us know. Not long after, I got an email from Mike. He wanted to know what we were planning to do about Design Monday. He was determined to the very end, never to miss a week as long as it was on his watch. And we didn’t.

Mike, my friend, this week is for you. Thank you for propelling Classic Exhibits to new heights and for reminding us that creativity and discipline go hand-in-hand. I’m a better person, and Classic is a better company because of you.

RSMGC Donation Fund

Many have asked how they can help. Janet, Mike’s wife, has requested that donations be make to the Randy Smith Memorial Fund. Several years ago, the Randy assisted the Swartout’s with medical expenses at a time when it was most needed. Please click this link — — and select the Mike Swartout RSMGC Donation Fund. Thank you very much!

–Mel White


Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or



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