The exposition industry continues to look sunny and bright with a new crop of exhibit designers graduating with Master’s Degrees from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) located in New York City.
Many members of the Exhibit Designers and Producers Association (EDPA) proudly support this program, as well as the design programs offered through Bemidji State University, which offers an undergraduate degree.
This is the eighth year of the master’s degree program in exhibit design at FIT, and each year the bar is raised to reach a higher standard for excellence.
“This will be my fourth year attending this event, and each year I am more impressed with the students’ thought process and the quality of their presentation skills,” said Norm Friedrich, president of Octanorm USA.
This year’s crop of 15 graduates from around the world conducted their thesis presentations on May 18th. The presentations were made to 32 exhibit design professionals, as well as to the staff instructors at FIT. From this group of judges, 23 were members of EDPA.
“Most students bring industry experience and are from countries that are up and coming in the exhibition profession,” said Brenda Cowan, chairperson for exhibition design at FIT. “The dynamic hub of creative talent in our FIT studio continues to generate new ideas and innovations in exhibit design.”
For the thesis presentations, each student is asked to select a design concept for a real company and a real venue. The students must then discuss the attraction of the exhibit and the design strategy that was used. They also needed to identify what the driving force was behind the design and how this was best communicated in the form of the exhibit.
“The companies and sponsors of our program make sure that everything we do is based in reality,” said Cowan. “They challenge our faculty and students with their real world experiences.”
Imaginative topics for student presentations ranged from a museum design approach to show the work of fashion photographer Cecil Beaton, to a tradeshow exhibit for a company who manufactures space-saving furniture that transforms into multiple applications within the home environment.
Each presenter was given a 10-foot space within the atrium level of the FIT facility to showcase and support their conclusions with graphics, models, audio/visual equipment and even a tap dance. Judges rotated every 20 minutes to hear each student present their project. One of the key elements of the presentations also required that the students effectively communicate their subject, the design direction of the project and their conclusions.
The day concluded with a presentation to the students and the judges from Cowan and a keynote speech from Dr. Leslie Bedford, director of leadership in museum education for the Bank Street College of Education.
Jeff Provost, executive director of the EDPA, also spoke on behalf of their continued support for higher education in the exhibition industry.
Three awards were also presented for outstanding support of the FIT program, given to Friedrich, Sam Lugarno of Fabric Images and Randy Acker of EXHIBITOR Magazine.
Each FIT graduate will now serve an eight-week internship at various exhibit companies before being hired to work in the industry.
“Our students for the class of 2012 came to the program from all over the world,” said Cowan. “Fifteen were selected out of 60 candidates who applied. The students’ background, their cultural diversity, as well as being located in the heart of New York City, makes for a creative recipe for success.”
With training institutions like FIT and Bemidji State that stress skills beyond creative drawing and structure, exhibit designers now have training paths that were never available in the past. Higher levels of learning serve to raise the level of professionalism for exposition marketing to heights that were never reached before.
And so, the future of exhibit design now looks brighter than ever before.