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The Future of Exhibit Design

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Back in August, I was having a conversation with Randy Acker from Exhibitor Media Group about changes in the industry, Optima’s involvement, and eventually found ourselves talking about exhibit design. Randy mentioned his involvement and passion for the exhibit design program at Bemidji State University and suggested I contact Dr. Bonnie Higgins if I was interested in learning more about the school, its program, and possibly sharing Optima’s perspective with the students. I thought about his last comment a bit and decided to reach out to Dr. Higgins and see where a conversation may take us.
So in late August Bonnie and I talked for nearly an hour about the very interesting Design Technology program and specifically, the Exhibit Design specialization. She shared with me that they are always looking for industry experts to come and speak with the students about their respective niches and perspectives within the industry. Previous speakers have included Norm Friedrich from Octanorm and Rob Cohen from DS&L. As the son of a college professor, I wondered what it would be like to go play professor for a day, so I suggested that I make the trek up to the northern woods and spend an hour or so with the students and discuss the Exhibit industry from the perspective of a grand format printer.
Bemidji State University-CampusMy potential hour of class time turned into the better part of two days with an extremely impressive group of young adults. I was truly impressed by this group of twenty somethings who were fascinated with the profession of exhibit design and creating functional, effective, exciting, and experiential works of art. A common theme emerged – most wanted to be one of three things – an Architect, Interior Designer, or a 2D designer, but once exposed to exhibit design they all focused their attention into a career path. I have to tip my hat to each and every dedicated one as I at 21 let alone 42, I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up, but these young adults all do. BSU has already placed a number of interns and graduates with companies like Star, Hamilton, and Artguild-Avalon and I had the pleasure of meeting one of those grads, Mary Strukelin early September.
I did my best to explain the Optima perspective, Optima value proposition, and answer dozens of very broad and very specific questions about the biz. Topping the first day off was a dinner with three faculty members and seven seniors. It was very refreshing to see such eagerness to learn and ask me personal and professional questions – “Mr. Brown, how did you get into the industry and why”. I’ll save that answer for another day, but “Mr. Brown” – please call me Dr. Brown – I got to play professor all day and thought it was pretty cool.
If you are interested in a great young designer, BSU has a few professionals graduating in December and another dozen or so next spring. Dr. Higgins can be reached at bhiggins@bemidjistate.edu if you would like to learn more about these upcoming graduates. Optima is working on a longer term plan to help further influence these young professionals – so keep an eye out for future updates in our newsletter and blogs. A special thanks to Randy Acker for suggesting our involvement and a huge thanks to the staff and students at BSU – I look forward to playing professor again next spring!
David S. Brown
VP of Sales
Optima Graphics
Categories: Business
  1. November 1, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Sounds like you had a fun couple days with the Beavers.

  2. mike olsen
    November 1, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    Watch out for Paul Bunyan & Babe, his blue Ox!

  3. Randal T. Acker
    November 3, 2011 at 11:20 am


    Nice blog entry. It is great that you had such a positive experience and could see first hand why I have such a passion for the students and the program. It is immediately clear how excited these students are to learn more about the industry they have “chosen”. Most of us fell into this industry and I feel it is important that we share what we know so as to continue to escalate the role and effectiveness of Face to Face in the marketing mix.

    Kudos to you for taking the time and for making the trek to the North Country.

    • November 3, 2011 at 2:51 pm

      Thanks Randy. I look forward to further involvement with BSU! Dave

      Sent from my iPhone

  4. November 3, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Thanks again for making the trip up here. It was great learning all about your company and learning some new things about the industry that will help when I hit the job market in December. GO BEAVERS!

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