"Cultivating Exhibit Designers" by Dana Esposito

Dana Esposito   VP of Creative Services  Elevation3D

Dana Esposito
VP of Creative Services Elevation3D

Although Exhibit Designers can come from many backgrounds; Industrial design, Architecture, Fine Art and other majors, we are fortunate within the EDPA, that the University Affiliations Committee (UAC) has been building strong relationships with Bemidji State University (BSU) and the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), for well over ten years. Although some other colleges may offer a few exhibit design classes, BSU and FIT are currently the only two colleges within the US that offer degrees specific to exhibition design.

What is happening all year long?
With the alignment of the EDPA UAC, BSU and FIT, several programs have been fostered.  There are scholarships, mock and real projects, student tours at shows and exhibit house facilities as well as exhibit house partner facilities, the mentorship program, and several one-day classes at each college from many unique industry professionals. For students about to graduate, industry professionals are invited to each college to participate in their final project presentations. At ExhibtorLIVE in Las Vegas each year, several companies sponsor the EDAP student exhibit. The students pay for themselves to travel to the show, where they are exposed to our industry firsthand. There a couple behind-the-scenes tours given to the students by industry professionals, and students also benefit from Creative Directors and business owners stopping by their exhibit. This offers a chance to engage with the students, who will walk visitors through their portfolio. This is great experience and practice for the student, and a way for potential future networking to take seed. For the mentorship program, each Spring, students are paired with working exhibit designers and Creative Directors in our industry for a 8 – 12 month mentorship. Both mentee and the mentor share ideas, practice presentations, and inspire each other. The partnerships that are strongest and smartest, use this opportunity as an “in” to the industry and the beginning of a long networking relationship that will continue beyond the timeline of the mentorship end date. Every three years, when Euroshop happens, the EDPA UAC offers an exhibit design competition. Because this is such an important project, the professors incorporate it into the curriculum and the students work on it for weeks, with classroom critiques and constant development. Both schools follow a rigorous RFP and each student creates an exhibit solution presentation. The projects are judged by EDPA members and the prize for the winning student is paid travel to attend Euroshop in Dusseldorf Germany. Exposure to actual trade shows when they are happening: the setup, the build, the exhibits in real life with their lighting and AV running...to see and understand the scale and trials of the show floor, is immeasurable experience for a designer.
Not counting the mentorship program. Over the 2018-2019 school year, there were over 30 touch points between the colleges and industry professional initiated by EDAP UAC relationships. There are currently over 150 graduates from these two colleges working within our industry.

How can my company benefit?
How can your company reap the benefits of these partnerships? You could hire a student for an internship or as a Junior Exhibitor Designer upon graduation. You could meet with the students at ExhibitorLIVE at their exhibit and have a few of them show you their portfolio. Build relationships for potential future exhibit designer needs within your organization.

How can my company get involved?
You could hire a student for an internship. You could meet with the students at ExhibitorLIVE at their exhibit and have a few of them show you their portfolios. Perhaps there is an opportunity for an experienced individual from your company to offer a one-day class at one of the colleges? Offer a scholarship. Perhaps one of your designers could become a mentor?

There are a lot of things happening with the EDPA UAC and we value not only the members of the committee, but more importantly, we value the time and effort of all the working professional who get involved with the colleges and professors. The list of industry professionals who engage each year is well over 60 individuals. We appreciate their efforts, as each opportunity they offer some sort of engagement with the students, builds stronger and well-versed future designers. As they say, it takes a village, and the selfless professionals who participate in sharing their knowledge, ARE that village.