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Posts Tagged ‘John Zipay’

John Zipay Takes an Alaskan Cruise

August 24th, 2016 COMMENTS


Recently, I took a much needed vacation from the trade show world and visited southeastern Alaska via a cruise ship.

Spending a day at sea heading out of Seattle was perfect for clearing my head of the constant stresses that we all live with each and every day. The soothing calmness of the water and the subtle waves rocking this ship ever so slightly was ideal to catch up on reading and much needed rest. This was the perfect setting for me to reflect on the first half of this year and my life overall (which is pretty fantastic).


Upon arriving in Ketchikan, Alaska, I noticed the sea planes taking off and landing. I thought to myself, “I bet they don’t miss waiting in line at red lights during their commute to and from work” or worse yet “waiting through green lights when your vehicle doesn’t quite have the space to inch across the intersection without blocking the cars perpendicular to you.” Nope, Alaskans don’t stress such a thing. In fact, red lights themselves are probably few and far between.

What do they stress about up here? In all of the rugged, raw beauty, everywhere I looked, there must be a catch. The COLD! Yes, the cold harsh Alaskan winters must be horrible and miserable with most of the non-winter months spent planning winter survival and keeping warm. Whew, for a brief second I thought I found paradise and the simple life, a stress free happily-ever-after place, free of all of the industry-related trade show variables and issues that arise every day in our world. Moving to Alaska would bring on a life stressing the COLD.

Would that be so bad? How cold does it really get? I set about investigating this thought over an Alaska Stout beer near the pier. Beer would surely help ease the pains of winter in this part of the world! Problem solved – a stress free life surely awaits me in Alaska! Time to hop back on my floating hotel for the week and find a place to fantasize about living in.

Next Stop Juneau

I was excited to visit Juneau by the time we arrived. I had heard of a glacier, Mendenhall, that was only a short bus ride away. As we made the trek through the quaint little town of Juneau, our bus driver spoke of all the wonderful bears, eagles, and salmon that called the area home. He advised us to take the Nugget Trail up the falls for a better view of the glacier.

Upon exiting the bus, I grabbed my day backpack and approached the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center in search of the trail. Never mind the visitor center. I wanted to see the chunk of ice!!

In my typical turbo style, I hiked the 1.1 mile trail in a handful of minutes with my heart racing and adrenaline pumping the whole way. Wow! An amazing and jaw dropping view as I came to the end of the hike. So much beauty with the whole spectrum of the color blue on display along with an impressive waterfall right next to me. Like a child, I had to bend over and touch the water to see how cold it really was. As I bent down, a small mini iceberg lapped up on shore and I shouted with excitement! I picked up that football sized piece and took a few pics with my very own baby iceberg. After spending a half hour or so enjoying the gaze, I headed back down the trail to the visitor center.

This time I actually went inside the visitor center and was astonished to learn that the Visitor Center was built right in front of Mendenhall Glacier in the 1930s. The photos on the wall looked like a different piece of ice. Today, the glacier is over a mile away and has been shrinking at a furious pace over the last 60+ years. The lake in front of the glacier didn’t exist when the Visitor Center was built. GULP!

Climate Change

At that moment, all the talk of climate change became a reality. A huge lump formed in the back of my throat as I witnessed first-hand what climate change means. It means a lot for Alaskans. Their environment is experiencing more drastic effects than what we are experiencing in the lower 48 states. I thought that I had found a paradise with a life involving only a little bit of stress (staying warm during the winter Alaskan months), but in reality, Alaskans are stressed about the rapid change occurring in their environment. As I became more aware of the impacts that they are feeling, I began to sympathize with them and wondered how can I really help the situation. I’m not going to turn into a tree hugging, save the planet hippie, but I will surely think twice about my footprint on this planet.

In our industry, we can certainly help steer clients towards eco-friendlier exhibit options. At Exhibits Northwest, we offer recyclable fabrics for our displays and use recycled aluminum. I’ll end my sales pitch and invite you to peruse the photos in this post. Yes, a Caribbean cruise is nice, but I encourage you to take the Alaskan trip soon. The clock is ticking….

John Zipay
GM, Exhibits Northwest Portland and Seattle

SEGD (Society for Experiential Graphic Designers) Conference Notes

June 24th, 2016 COMMENTS


John Zipay, GM of Exhibits Northwest (Observations)

Last week, I attended SEGD (Society for Experiential Graphic Designers) in Seattle.

The speakers covered topics from Landscapes & Way Finding Signage to Crafting Experiences & Shaping Space with Art. Each topic gave me insights into the creative process. Typically, the artist starts with an idea that evolves into something similar but different during the fulfillment process.

IMG_2076As the creative energies flow, the artist makes changes to get the look they want. More often, it’s the trial and error, the missteps along the way that creates something extraordinary. In other words, their failures contribute to their success. Attending SEGD allowed to take a deeper look into the creative world and understand the importance of creative failure as a stepping stone to creative success.

My brain sees the world as a square grid with capital letters and dollar signs. As a result, I have never been very good at managing designers. SEGD provide me with insights into their world. Going forward, I plan to create an environment that fosters creativity and that allows designers to tap into organic uses of a space, whether exhibits or corporate environments.

While at SEGD, I met with vendors at NEXPO, the conference for directional signage and substrates. Just like in our world, LED’s are the wave of the future in signage and substrates. In the trade show business, large backlit fabric lightboxes grab the most attention on the show floor. This is also true in the world of SEGD. I discovered signage companies backlighting 3-D acrylic letters, plastic-formed logos, and graphics.

Finally, I attended the SEGD Seattle Chapter Networking bash where I talked with local Seattle architects and other creative agencies, including a great conversation with a firm working on the Seattle Waterfront development. I was intrigued by the process of how they incorporate so many creative ideas into functional space planning along the Seattle Waterfront. For example, just imagine the time and spacial studies involved to ensure views of Mt. Rainer and the “Pikes Place” sign are maintained.

Katina Rigall, Design Director (Observations)

What a well-done conference! Several Classic employees attended the SEGD “Experience Seattle” Conference from June 9-11. It was well-attended by top professionals in the Experiential Graphic Design community, well-stocked with expert presenters, and well-staffed with knowledgeable personnel.

IMG_2071The “Experience” conference jumps from city to city each year. Last year it was in Chicago. Next year it will be in Miami. It capitalizes on the intrigue of each host city by pulling together historic and present-day experts who discuss the areas’ architecture and large-scale graphics.

Attendees are encouraged to explore the city. Tours of distinctive landmarks, such as the Space Needle, are part of the conference schedule, and restaurant recommendations are readily provided by all the locals – both presenters and attendees.

What a great way to experience a city! I’m from Portland, just a few hours south of Seattle, but I found myself learning so many things and falling in love with the personality of this place, what locals call the “Seattle Spirit.” How cool to be in the home of innovators like Amazon, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Microsoft, and Boeing (in its 100th year of business), just to name a few. Not to mention the valuable networking and education.

So as an exhibit professional, you may be wondering how much of this applies to what we do? Quite a bit actually.

  • Most of the agenda focuses on the large-scale graphics that are applied to built structures in distinctive and informative ways, a.k.a. Experiential Graphic Design. How valuable are well-appointed graphics on a trade show booth? I’m convinced after designing trade show exhibits for nine years now, that booth structures are close to worthless without strong graphics.
  • IMG_2083Quite a few of the presenters shared their expertise with permanent installations, from museum exhibit design to exterior applications of digital and 3D signage. The crossover Classic has experienced in retail and museum projects has steadily grown over the last five years, not to mention exhibitors looking for booth properties that can withstand the outdoor elements.
  • This conference brought together cutting edge architects, installation artists, museum exhibit designers, UX designers, fashion designers, and retail designers, in addition to experiential graphic designers. From a designer’s perspective, any chance to see how other creatives work and what they are doing is beneficial. By bringing together so many different creative mediums, I discovered new ways of approaching design challenges and new technologies. That aspect reminded me of the Gravity Free Conference by EXHIBITOR Magazine for several years which brought together a plethora of design experts to stimulate the cross-pollination of ideas.  The unique element that SEGD’s “Experience” brings is that the experts are all from one specific locale.

Creativity is fluid and crosses a lot of professionals. There is much to be borrowed from the experts in fields adjacent to the exhibit industry. I hope to see you all at next year’s conference.


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


John Zipay: Six Month Update (or What I Did During My Summer Vacation)

September 4th, 2015 1 COMMENT


Wow! I can’t believe it has been six months since I joined Classic Exhibits as the General Manager for Exhibits Northwest! Either I have been super busy, or I’m getting older and time is accelerating beyond comprehension. Either way, I wanted to share some insights about my professional life as a newbie at Classic Exhibits.

Where to begin…

The Northwest is fantastically beautiful with postcard views in every direction. The folks are down-to-earth, extremely health, and environmentally conscious. Professionally, my daily challenges haven’t changed very much, and the overall industry feel is more or less the same. Just like you, we use our experience to recommend the best exhibits and services to our customers. We want them to succeed as exhibit marketers, and it’s our goal to be an extension of their business, if they are receptive to this approach. If not, well, then we guide them to an exhibit that meets their trade show or retail needs.

IMG_6747In my previous job, I used Exhibit Design Search, but now that I’m part of Classic, I have a renewed appreciation for this research tool. I am amazed at the vastness of the catalog of exhibits and accessories. I see firsthand how Mel and the Classic Design Department are constantly updating and adding designs, graphic dims, setup instructions, and refining the user experience.

My team at Exhibits Northwest has closed more than a handful of deals simply by walking a client through EDS and identifying elements such as lightboxes, workstations, presentation areas, etc.  On several occasions, the client has chosen an Eco-Systems Sustainable Exhibit based solely on design without realizing its eco-friendly benefits. This gives us an opportunity to discuss those benefits. All that would have been far more difficult without EDS.

In my former tradeshow life…

We would personalize a design and then hope our price point was in the ballpark. Next, we would check in periodically and use a call to action (general contractor or advanced warehouse deadline) to nudge the client into making a decision. In my new role with Exhibits Northwest, we take a different approach. Since pricing is visible on EDS, we can confirm a price range based on specific kits or design elements. Then we schedule a time when the prospect can tour Classic’s manufacturing facility with us.

IMG_5813Honestly, I wish every Classic Distributor had the ability to tour Classic Exhibits with their clients. The facility is impressive. Clients see how raw extrusion and wood are transformed into a finished exhibit via production workstations, CNC equipment, and skilled technicians. Each display goes through multiple quality control checkpoints along the way.

Whenever an ENW prospect takes a guided tour, we know at some point we’ll hear, “It’s such a pleasure to see a strong, organized US manufacturing facility in our own backyard.” I then direct their attention to the Peek-a-booth cameras and let them know that they can log-in and watch their exhibit being assembled from their desk.

IMG_0725Make no mistake…

As a former Production Manager at a point-of-purchase display division of Weyerhaeuser Corp in Charlotte, NC, I love seeing an organized, streamlined, and efficient manufacturing facility with highly skilled, motivated laborers producing well-made American products. Classic has the equipment, skilled labor, project management, and design staff to handle any trade show need from an inline Perfect 10 to a large custom island assembled entirely from wood and laminate.

I have worked side-by-side with the heavy hitters in our industry, and I have also worked with small husband and wife companies whose needs are much different than the big kids on the block. I have learned that Classic has the talent to compete with the best skilled custom exhibit builders in the country, yet they can handle the needs of smaller display distributors as well.

With a partner like Classic, I am able to focus on what I was hired to do… manage the culture and growth of Exhibits Northwest! BTW — having a record sales month in August certainly helped the cause!

I would love to hear from you. And I always look forward to meeting Classic Distributors when they visit for a preview or during Shared Knowledge University. The next SKU is November 9-10.  Set aside the dates and I hope to see you then.

John Zipay
GM Exhibits Northwest


John Zipay Joins the Classic Exhibits Executive Team

February 20th, 2015 3 COMMENTS

John Zipay, Exhibits Northwest

Classic Exhibits Inc. announces the addition of John Zipay to the Classic Exhibits Executive Team. John will serve as the General Manager for Exhibits Northwest.

According to Mel White, VP at Classic Exhibits, “Overall corporate growth has been steady with rental sales increasing even faster than our other divisions. Jim Shelman, who previously split his duties between Exhibits Northwest Portland and rentals, will now manage Classic Rental Solutions full-time. John Zipay will assume the GM role for ENW.”

John Zipay has an extensive background in operations, sales, and marketing within the trade show industry. Over the past ten years, John progressed rapidly from I&D to account manager and then from VP of Operations to General Manager. His background at one of the largest exhibit and show services businesses in the South provided him with extensive experience in strategic planning, union labor coordination, sales and marketing development, and financial management.

“After working with a variety exhibit systems over the years on the trade show floor,” says John, “I’m thrilled to work for Exhibits Northwest and Classic Exhibits, the highest quality manufacturer in the industry. I look forward to showing the ENW staff my passion for helping clients achieve their trade show marketing goals. I hope to be a huge asset and resource for the team in Portland and Joe Shelman’s staff in Seattle.”

NewLogoFinalJohn will be joining Classic Exhibits at EXHIBITORLIVE in Las Vegas. The company’s theme this year is “Sweet Solutions.” The island will be stocked with licorice, lollipops, salt water taffy, and a variety of cavity-inducing treats for our distributors and guests. Who needs caffeine when there’s a bowl of sugar for a midday energy rush?

According to Kevin Carty, VP at Classic Exhibits, “John’s team-oriented approach, business management skills, and overall Customer Service expertise will provide a seamless transition for leading the Exhibits NW team. His past experience managing install and labor crews on the floor will add even greater depth and understanding for Exhibits NW clients.”

Please take a moment to welcome John to the Classic Family. He can be reached at

–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