It’s a Whole New World
There are many things that I have done for more than six months. Many tangentially related to the design of trade show spaces and structures. For example, building scenery, painting sets, designing and producing environmental graphics. What I have not done (until now) is work for any organization for anywhere close to six months. As Ariel said in the Disney version of The Little Mermaid, it’s a whole new world.
My wife and I decided to move to the West Coast from the Upper Midwest. A return journey for me. A new one for her. No plan, no place, just a realization that it was the right time. Since I’ve never worked in a similar situation to Classic Exhibits, my perspective has more to do with large life changes vs. a job career.
My background and skill-set led me to Classic via a placement agency. After a few meetings with Mel, Kevin, and Katina and a mock-up later, I was hired as a Designer in the Design Department.
Has it been all sunshine and roses? Not quite. Working with a large group of people is different than working for oneself. Things that you take for granted working solo require more attention in a group.
Like communication, where everyone needs to be on the same page. I am still trying to find the appropriate level of email redundancy. I spent a week reminding myself that when I write “Good afternoon, Projects” that the Projects email is a recipient (thank you to those distributors who took the time to respond with “Are you sure this went to Projects? I don’t see them listed”). And it’s not just what I communicate. It’s how I communicate to ensure it reflects the values of the company. I have to remind myself that it’s coming from Kevin Schuhl who works at Classic Exhibits.
Every single day I work on various design projects. Then move on to the next one. And after six months, there are occasionally surprises when I walk through the shop. As a Designer, my work gets tossed over the fence to Customer Service for a quote. As a result, I don’t always know when a design becomes an order. Then, lo and behold, there is a backlit L-shaped counter being photographed that not only seemed like a long shot to be produced, but ultimately was produced with the same placeholder graphics used in the original design.
For example, Gravitee kits have food-based graphics, a decision by Marketing to differentiate it from other lines. So it should not have been surprising that one of my first designs was purchased by a food-based company.
Not every design is successful. I’m learning. There was that unique approach to a charging station kiosk that looked great on the screen but didn’t quite function as expected on carpet. Or an elegant curved wall designed for multiple booth configurations that didn’t make the cut as a 10×10. Thankfully, we get the opportunity to address and correct these flaws.
In the end, I am here to draw pictures. It’s something I’ve done my entire life. I had no idea one could study experiential design in college; yet, I now have the opportunity to apprentice under a designer who did just that. When you think about the people and processes involved from taking a rendering to a structure that will travel to shows, events, or even in lobbies, you start to understand the benefits of working in concert with others toward one goal.
That sums it up for me. I am generally a curious person, always looking for something new, always looking to learn. I have arrived at a place where I can use inherent, lifelong skills and experience while still exploring new arenas, learning how to navigate from people who have been there, and hopefully contribute something in the process.
My wife also reminds me that it doesn’t hurt that Classic happens to be a place where people seem to genuinely get along and are able to take the work seriously, without taking themselves too seriously. The culture matters. Inside the main entrance, there is a large backlit graphic that describes the company’s Shared Success philosophy. If you’ve ever read it on Classic’s website, I can assure you that those values, from my experience after six months, are reflected in the company.
Let me know if I can assist your efforts. I look forward to working with you on your next project.