5/24/2011 10:30 AM
A few weeks ago I wrote about the steps involved in getting to a good design. This week I had the opportunity to once again participate in the Fashion Institute of Technology Capstone event which involves the review and comment on the senior projects of those students in the Exhibit Design program. As I walked around and listened to the various presentations I began to formulate what I would look for in a prospective new hire for our trade show design department. Here’s what I settled on:
1. Presentation skills - Why start here? Because even an average design can look great if presented with clarity and passion. Everyone in my firm is in a sales position in one way or another. We’re either selling our ideas to our internal and external customers or we’re selling ourselves as someone worthy of trust. As such, trade show designers need to “tell the story” of their design, not just show the pretty picture. Describe the experience of the trade show attendee/visitor. Talk about the visual, auditory and tactile sensory stimuli. Tell me what you think I’ll be remembering a week later and the impression left by the company and brand. Make me want this project built so I can immerse myself in the experience!
2. Design to a budget – When I asked the FIT students about this, all of them admitted that budget was not a criteria in their creative process. OK…if this is the case then we’d all be living in Frank Lloyd Wright residences with waterfalls and ocean views! Get real! Every client has a budget and, if the Account Executive has somehow gotten the client to admit to one, then design to it (within 10% at least)! Good project development is now dependent on budget criteria now more than ever and design HAS to collaborate as part of a team effort to “wow” the client with not only design magic, but value as a function of a cost-to-value calculation.
3. Team Orientation – As mentioned above, for too long trade show designers were treated as “those crazy people over there” who were excused for sometimes irrational and eccentric behavior because they were “creative”. Those days are over! Account development is truly a team effort and design needs to be as flexible and communicative as the rest of the team.
4. Ego-Balanced - Okay…what does THAT mean? Like successful sales people, designers learn to balance between the confidence to take a risk and aim high, and the ability to be open to coaching, constructive criticism and occasional heavy handed management. Nobody likes it, but when asked to be part of a team solution, sometimes you need to check your ego at the door and sublimate your “genius” to the rest of us mere mortals! Ah, the burden of being a higher life form!
Well, there’s my criteria for looking for a trade show designer. Do these folks exist? Yes, but sometimes they are “made”, not “birthed”. The young, New York City, designers I met the other day have a world of choices before them. If they stay open to advice, curious and malleable, they have a chance to be truly great.
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