What Would Mark Do?
     - Musings on design, opinions on business and discoveries to be shared. 
              by Mark Bendickson.

RIP Massimo Vignelli

I just heard that Massimo Vignelli passed away this morning at his home.

This makes me sad, not only because he was such an inspiration and exemplary role model for every designer, but because I kind of assumed that someone whose designs were so incredibly timeless would be as well.


He has said, "If you can design one thing, you can design everything," and this is reflected in his broad range of work. His work is timeless (with the exception of the American Airlines Corporate ID, which was replaced with an eagle that looks like the pull tab on a cookie package). and we see it every day. Timeless hallmarks for brands like; American Airlines, J. C. Penney, Knoll Associates, IBM, Bloomingdale's and Cinzano. He created the graphics for the United States National Park Service in 1977, and the subway map for the MTA New York City Transit Authority in 1970.

I was lucky enough to meet him at a seminar and spend time talking with him, and still smile when I remember a fellow speaker saying that design cannot be timeless and we shouldn't even strive for that, but renew it frequently to change it, refresh it, and create more work for us. Which Massimo answered with an impassioned explanation of why the opposite is true, a persuasive statement that he began with "you vulgar hippies". This is a man who taught us that no matter the profit or promise of future work, there is no excuse for producing ugliness and vulgarity.

The Vignelli Canon

The Vignelli Canon

For inspiration sometime read The Vignelli Cannon (http://www.vignelli.com/canon.pdf) and learn from a master. Someone who knew that a logo is not a brand, but that a brand is a promise and a logo is the uniform it wears to be easily recognizable. Watch the movie Helvetica and be inspired by his mastery and efficiency. There have been many times that his example has given me the incentive to try one more time to convince a client not to do something stupid that they have their heart set on, and more than once the courage to realize that no amount of money is worth producing something useless and vulgar and telling them thanks, but no thanks. And for that I am forever grateful.

I don't know about you, but as someone who makes a living from a field he pioneered,  gets inspiration from his body of work and the courage to try and do it right following his example, I am going to miss knowing he is out there not compromising.

Hard to drain something that wasn't there to begin with...

I just finished reading The Brain Drain by @StantonTravis in @Exhibitor Magazine, and, while I agree wholeheartedly with the observation, I think it goes deeper that lower budgets and smaller staffs. In the column, Travis also says; "After years of doing more with less, exhibit professionals' creativity has been sapped, and many shows have been reduced to glorified flea markets." I agree that creativity has been sapped, and the belt tightening may be a factor, but I don't think it is entirely the fault of "doing more with less", nor is it a recent recession generated malady.  I remember about 20 years ago when someone asked my Father (who was in the exhibit business for 50+ years) what the most negative trend was he had seen, and he pointed out that when he started out, his client was not only much higher up the decision chain and had budget authority, but was also well versed in all the aspects of the process, both creative and construction.  As he put it "all my Clients used to have MFAs and most did painting or sculpture as a hobby, and now they have MBAs and move numbers around on a spreadsheet for fun".  So, the lack of understanding of creativity and design management isn't a new phenomenon. Causation and correlation are two different things, and I personally think the "belt tightening" justification is more excuse than reason.  Smaller staffs and smaller budgets don't make us suck as much as they give us an cover story.

As for the 'flea market' characterizations, I could not agree more.  And most of this comes from people who think that event "creativity" is 'theme' based'.  I hate the word 'theme' because most people that choose a theme don't necessarily use it to reinforce the exhibitor's brand.  They act more like they are planning a child's birthday party.  They might as well be renting a pony and getting all the attendees little cowboy hats and cap guns.  At Exhibitor 2014, while Skyline's WIndscape Exhibits aren't exactly a bouncy castle, some exhibitors came pretty damn close to having face-painting

I have seen the entire spectrum of bad theme based exhibits.  Like the company that wants to do a "tropical theme" and rent some palm trees and surf boards and serve drinks in coconuts because the boss loves Tommy Bahama Shirts and sees it as a way for everyone to expense 4 or 5 of them each for booth-wear. Or having the booth staffers wear tie dye and peace sign medallions and have the graphics all look like 60's black light posters, with the word 'groovy' overly used.  I even read an article recently that suggested that an exhibit could recreate a sidewalk cafe because it would be really cool to put the product price list on little table tents on the cafe tables.  This is justifiable maybe, just maybe, if you are selling coffee or biscotti or barrista supplies.  But if the connection is any more tangential than that it makes absolutely no sense, and is the result of a total absence of creativity and a colossal waste of budget.


On the other hand, there was a great example of a 'theme' (your word, certainly not mine) based approach by Deckel & Moneypenny, a concept that won Best New Exhibitor at Exhibitor Show 2014.  Their exhibit, a small inline, wasn't a cupcake themed exhibit.  They instead used cupcakes as a metaphor for what their strengths are, and how they dovetail with the client's needs, calling the overlap in that tasty Venn Diagram 'the sweet spot' that makes them a good fit for certain potential clients.  Most importantly, the "We're Sorry, We Didn't Bring Enough For Everybody"  pointed out that they were looking for Clients that were a good fit, that they could really do some solid work for, and create a long lasting relationship that was mutually beneficial.  Further, that they weren't looking to be a vendor, but a trusted partner that could become an integral part of the Client's marketing programs going forward.

The attendee could use different toppings to customize their cupcakes while they engaged with a booth staffer and described their program and their goals.  The decorating was a metaphor for the customizing that makes each exhibit different, and that each exhibitors purpose and needs are truly unique.  The toppings and sprinkles represent the tools in Deckel & Moneypenny's bag of tricks that can be used in different and appropriate ways to create a successful exhibit.  Not only that, but the box that the finished cupcake went into was just big enough not to fit in a literature tote bag, so they attendee carried it, and the label on the box pointed back to their space so everyone that the cupcake toting ambassador interacted with was directed back to them.  Add to that the preshow promotions that created curiosity (it's a fact that advertising copy that starts with an apology is almost guaranteed to be read) and made attendees put them on their 'must see' list at the show, the preshow website and social media exposure to reinforce that (and provide a shareable channel).  Lastly, for after the show, the clever post show video that took all the boring, perfunctory bullet points about a company that too many exhibitors use to confuse their message and clutter their pitch in the exhibit and delivered them back to the Client in a tongue in cheek, but no less sincere method that served to greatly increase memorability.

In addition Steve Deckel, the Design Director at Deckel & Moneypenny Exhibits, and Leslie Word did a session called 'Smaller Can Be Better: How You Really Can Do More With Less' that reinforced the skill they were exhibiting on the show floor.  

It made me recall the exhibit Steve did at the beginning of the economic downturn a half a dozen years ago where they were communicating how they could shrink costs for the unproductive parts of a Client's program and used Shrinky Dinks (remember those?).  They discussed the problem areas of the budget and had the client draw them on the film and, while it was baking in the little oven, discussed what they could do for the Client.  After a few minutes the film, now a fraction of it's original size, came out of the oven with all those budget problems much smaller than before.  The film was put in a nice gift box, with some company information, and sealed with a sticker with the tag line for the campaign on it, giving the attendee a 'show and tell' object to use to explain the concepts back at the office to management.  An incredibly effective metaphor for shrinking waste in a budget using an children's toy.  I swear, these Deckel & Moneypenny folks can do a better job communicating a message with a 10 x 10 exhibit than a lot of exhibit houses (and 'creative' Clients) can do with 1200 square feet.

Contrast this with what I would imagine the typical decision process for a 'cupcake themed' exhibit would be like.  Picture a handful of marketing folks from an exhibiting company (and probably some other department heads as well, since when it comes time to build a new exhibit it seems like everyone thinks it would be fun to join in) trying to be clever and not coming up with much when suddenly, viola, a brainstorm;
"Hey, I saw this cool show on cable called Cupcake Wars where they made these great designer cupcakes".
"Yeah?  What about them?"
"Well, I bet if we gave them out people would stop at our exhibit."
"Where would we get them?"
"Oh, they are really trendy.  They have them all over. Every Woman who quits her corporate job to spend more time with the kids yet do something meaningful and rewarding starts one.  I bet there's half a dozen in the show city where we could get them."
"Really?  I have never seen them."
"There's a place not far from here where we could try them out."
"Hmmm, how about we all go over after this meeting to do some 'research' (chuckle chuckle)."
"OK, sounds good.  Anyone have another idea? No?  Well then, sounds like a plan."

I would posit that a lot of the lack of creativity is a byproduct of consensus driven decision making.  And, as I always say, "consensus is the stupid decision normally smart people make because they are in a hurry to end the meeting and get to lunch".




Why (relevant) blogging is more important than ever...

It's been 5 1/2 years since I blogged.  Not sure why.  Maybe I got too busy.  Maybe because I was getting a ton of registered users on WordPress that were obviously spam bots from a country that was a former member of the Soviet Union.  Maybe I was bored.

Or, what's more likely, I was feeling that social media streams were going to take over that channel.  I mean, who didn't get all excited about Facebook, worked up over LinkedIn, and all atwitter about, well, Twitter.  I have since noticed that (like all forms of communication) different types of messages are better suited to different media, types of delivery, and audiences.  Most of my posts are narrowly focused on the design space, exhibit and product design in particular.  I realized early on that straying from this would disappoint, and result in falloff. 

For example; Twitter is awesome for tossing something brief out there.  A quick comment, or a link to a particularly apropos article or news story.  It's also great for using hash-tags and cross pollinating with an event audience, or mentioning a company or individual by their handle and getting feedback, or leveraging your reach through re-tweets and favorites.  With only 142 characters you can't really rant or blather on about something no one else cares about.  So, even if I want to opine about the burger I had for lunch I am limited in how much of my readers time I take while they watch their feed go by on the screen.  And if I want to Tweet 20 times a day (I usually only have one or two) it probably won't annoy anyone enough to unfollow me.

Facebook (and Google+ as well) on the other hand allow for a richer experience.  Longer posts, links to other companies or people (that are on Facebook or Google+), tagging them in posts or photos, and having a huge amount of organized, characterized, information like photo albums, videos, links to other places.  But, unlike Twitter where every tweet flows past every follower like flotsam in a stream. floating by to be ignored, noticed, or fished out and studied, Facebook posts only end up in a user's feed if they interact with it, follow it, or Facebook determines there is a reason to include it (more than likely based on payoff, or their best interests, not yours).  So, if I over-post on there, or start including startling, off topic revelations about my lunch, people are going to unfollow my page, or make it not show up in their feed (which is even worse, because I don't realize it and still think they are seeing what I post) and if people don't care enough to interact Facebook will make the decision not to show it to them all on it's own.

LinkedIn, created basically by the HR industry to get all of use to fill out a super detailed resume database for them, and give them access to not only all our relevant employment history and goals, but also to how we network and who with, and what really interests us by the groups we join, is another avenue for creating communitie(s).  I say that plural because you have your own community of connections, and if you want, a company page for your business.  And somewhere in that Venn Diagram of audiences there is a thin slice of ones that overlap.  But there is no reason for someone I worked with in Healthcare 25 years ago to follow my design page.  Unless of course, they need design help, in which case my vast healthcare experience will certainly prove invaluable.

The only thing that really concerns me is that LinkedIn now allows people down to 13 years of age to belong (because who knows who on your 8th grade soccer team is going to turn out to be a valuable member of your network) and with the prompts for birthday wishes and work anniversary shout outs it might become a little 'Facebooky'.  I have already seen a recent outbreak of inspirational poster type posts, and am sure a few clueless souls will no doubt start the "click this picture of a cute kitten if you hate genocide in Darfur" thing  that will invariably make me disconnect from them on there.

But I digress. And I guess that's OK in a blog because, unlike a venue where you are measured by your likes, follows, +1s, or connections that show up on a weekly graph of your social media self worth, in a blog you just put it out there. 

Awhile back I went to Gravity Free and wrote a rather lengthy post about it.  And if someone likes that sort of thing I am sure they will enjoy it.  Of course, at an Apple launch event, for example, there are those that live tweet it, or post selfies of themselves there on Instagram or Tumblr, or on Facebook so they can tag the people in the picture with them, or collect a bunch of pictures of the new products and pin them to their Pinterest page, or collect reviews of them on Evernote.  But it is the bloggers, the ones who really researched and paid attention (without the distractions of all of those selfies and tweets about how cool the box lunch was) that are going to give you not only the width but depth of information that lets you learn more than if you were actually there and not be some voyeur peeking through a window and what other people are doing.  I think Tweeters and Facebook Posters comment as something is happening, sort of like a play by play announcer at a game. 

Bloggers, I feel, usually experience the event without the distractions of posting, and do more of a review after the fact.  And, on some subjects, expand on it with research and background on the subject and incorporate the thoughts and impressions of others.  That's the role I see, and the reason I decided to start blogging again.  What I won't do is keep to a schedule.  I see so many people that blog once a week, whether there is something interesting to say or not.  I am going to write something when I see something writing about.  I may do it 12 times a week, or once a month. 

Hopefully you will enjoy reading it.  But in any case, I will enjoy writing it.

"The trouble with statistics is that most people use them the way a prostitute uses a lamp post. For support, not illumination"


I received my June issue of Exhibitor today and read an editorial entitled "As a Matter of Fact", which related the story of a bullshit statistic that has been circulating for half a year in the exhibit industry. 

It first appeared in the December Trade Show Week and said that an EPA report had targeted trade shows as the number two source of commercial waste in the United States.  The gist of the column was that this "fact" that was made up by someone out of whole cloth, quoted by an industry publication (apparently fact checkers were eliminated during this companies productivity enhancements) and then repeated and quoted ad infinitum.  Eventually it was corrected, but I am sure it is still quoted often even thought it is totally false.  The editorial, on the other hand, was quite informative and pointed out some valid and important things, and provided the advice that we should all be a little more skeptical and not believe everything we read (especially on the internet I might add) and hear.  I came away from this article with two questions; where was my Knight Errant this month, and how often does Travis Stanton get carded at an R rated movie?  One thing I didn't question is how this "fact" made the rounds so quickly.   The trade show industry gossips like a bunch of old women and a juicy tidbit like this one is hard to resist.  Travis quoted Tex Stout when he said "There are two kinds of statistics: the kind you look up and the kind you make up", and then advised us to be careful of the facts we cling to.  Amen.  

One of my favorite sayings is from David Ogilvy, who said; "The trouble with statistics is that most people use them the way a prostitute uses a lamp post.  For support, not illumination".  And I am beginning to see a lot of that.  Whether due to concern for the environment, an effort to create a demand for a new product category, or because "everyone is doing it" I have been inundated with advertisements for exhibit products that are made from recycled materials or are otherwise "green".  Everyone is really pushing the envelope on what is truly helpful.  This is really great until they do something stupid, without realizing it, that makes it all look like a fashion statement. They do something like touting a "green" exhibit at the Exhibitor Show and then hand out bottled water in it.  For someone that is truly interested in sustainability this makes about as much sense as a Bush-Cheney bumper sticker on a Prius. 

Don't get me wrong, I applaud efforts to make things better, but when someone sends me a sample of a new fabric made from recycled pop bottles and sends it out in a box 3 times as big as the contents, it somewhat mitigates the good feeling I get.  If they sent this out to 500 companies, then the wasted space in those 500 boxes took up 54,862.5 cubic inches.  That''s about as big as a refrigerator/freezer.  I guess that's what I took away from the editorial.  That we shouldn't do things like that.  Don't do something kind of green when with a little extra effort it could be totally green.  Of course the chances of this industry being objective about that isn't too great. 

I am constantly seeing ads telling us to buy flooring made from recycled tires, or buy fabric made from old pop bottles.  The sustainability mantra is reduce, reuse, recycle.   Recycle comes last.  To reduce maybe we should look at our show schedule and reduce.  Cross off a couple shows that really aren't pulling their weight, ROI-wise.  I doubt the people who put on shows or haul freight to them would suggest that in their email newsletters. 

Or we could reuse.  Taking the time with a good design process to create an exhibit that would  last a few more years would be great.  Or we could do more renting to decrease the amount of structure that''s needed as well as the fuel to ship it around (if it's rented locally, kind of like produce) but I can't see the people who make the exhibits being huge advocates.  If you own your carpet and go to 4 shows a year, that carpet spends 97% of it''s time in a warehouse.  That meas if you use rental carpet, and it is rented 60% of the time, that''s about 5% as much carpet that needs to be produced.  I saw a really cool report  in Newsweek.  The CES Show commissioned Carbon Fund to do an audit to determine the size of their carbon footprint so they could do carbon offsets (which I consider the equivalent of buying indulgences from the Catholic church, the thing that made Martin Luther cancel his subscription, but their heart was in the right place) and actually broke the audit down by category.  I was fascinated.  They found that twenty thousand metric tons of CO2. was released attributable to the show.  Most of that is the hotel space: 63 percent is from hotels, 24 percent from freight, 12 percent from the convention center and then the show space at the Sands, the Hilton and the Venetian hotels. And I bet most of that 12% was for cooling/heating and lighting that hall. 

I posit that show managers that insist on hotels that practice water and electrical conservation would do more for the environment than anything.  Or we could make sure there are more comprehensive shuttle bus service, maybe mass transit to/from the airport should count for something (I can hear the taxi drivers screaming as I type).  Let's face it folks, buying new LED lamps for our exhibits might make us feel good, and fuel the LED light economy.  But if you want to change a light bulb and make a difference you should try and find one that's on more than 3 hours a day, three days at a time, a few times a year. 

I wish people in this industry would start using their calculators.  We need to stop using LEED ratings and create some industry algorithms of our own.  Take for instance the power needed to heat/cool and light a show hall.  I did a little research  and found on a DOE web site that if you go to a show in Orlando a lot of that power is coal generated, if you are at McCormick in Chicago a good potion of it comes from nuclear generation, and if you are in Vegas, Nevada has a huge geothermal initiative.  Wouldn't it be cool to have a chart of show cities that ranks them by their sustainability practices, and lets you use factors like that to actually count how much less carbon a light bulb powered by a geyser puts in the air?  I guess we''ll find out real quick if convention and visitor's bureau types read this blog. 

For the reasons I noted above, I think we can all agree that industry trade groups and vendor companies  have a bit too much skin in the game to be totally objective.    Maybe there is a graduate program out there that needs a project, this has got juicy, page turner master's thesis written all over it.  Wouldn't it be cool to have a big, macro filled excel spreadsheet we could slap a bunch of metrics into and find out if we were doing something that is good, rather than just making us feel good?

Pay me now, or pay me later

At Gravity Free Bob Gruen said "the only bad thing about working free lance is waking up every morning unemployed".  That is mostly true.  I will add that one of the best things about being self employed is having scheduling freedom.

Google Streetview of our Lunch

Google Streetview of our Lunch

Last Wednesday it was beautiful out so I met a friend for lunch at Pracna a lovely Minneapolis bistro on the banks of the mighty Mississippi. This is our usual lunch spot on a sunny day (as well as a regular lunch spot with my web developer) and it was very relaxing.  The sun was beautiful (I am still quite burned) and it turned into a three martini lunch (for him at least).  He is a world traveler (as he is an internet security consultant) and it''s always fun to hear stories and talk business with someone who lives in Minneapolis and has an apartment in Moscow.  As you can imagine, you can cover a lot of topics during a 3 hour lunch, and one of the topics was air travel and the airline industry. 

Now, I am no fan of the airline''s customer service ethic (mostly NWA, being a Twin Cities resident) but I did have to defend some of their recent practices.  I am sick and tired of hearing people whine about paying for baggage, and paying for snacks, and paying for beverages.  What the hell do you people expect?   Delta Airlines lost 5 billion dollars last year, for example.  The price of jet fuel has gone up 90.5% in the last year. Unfortunately, we live in a "shop on the internet, auction style" environment where everyone just calls up a list of prices for a flight, sorts from low to high and picks the first one.  If an airline raises their prices to try and cover the cost of fuel they fall to the bottom of the list.  So, unless they all raise their prices at the same time (which would no doubt get them hauled before some Congressional Committee so they can be flogged on CSPAN for the entertainment of potential voters for price fixing) they are stuck.  The only way they can try and recoup is to do the little things, which due to the law of large numbers, will hopefully give them some significant savings.  So, they charge for bags, and charge for snacks, and charge for drinks, and charge for aisle and exit seats, and leave the black olives off of the salads and anything else they can do that, if multiplied by X passengers a day, will push a little more revenue towards the bottom line.  After all, about 70 million people fly scheduled airline flights each month in the US.  So, that''s $ 140,000,000 a month for $2 Pepsis, if everyone bought a Pepsi. 

US businesses have been using productivity tools to keep prices flat and try and maintain profitability for far too long.  Let''s face it, the only part of the check in process at the airport that I don''t do for them is to look at my driver''s license and stick the luggage tags on the bags.  It happens in every business, and the airlines have all decided to compete on price alone.  We get the government we deserve, we get the TV shows that we watch (and bitch about) and we get an airline industry where almost all the carriers are developing the ambiance of a Trailways bus full of people who use Hefty bags as luggage.  And to top it off I read an article last week in US News on how to stretch a dollar and one of the suggestions was that you save popcorn bags at the movie theater and every time you go use it to get a "free" refill.  I guess I can blame this asshole when theaters start charging us extra for aisle seats. 

I think it''s high time we start to get what we pay for, and pay for what we get.', 'Pay me now, or pay me later',


RIP Sydney Pollack

Yesterday I was saddened to see that Sydney Pollack had passed away.  For those of you not familiar with his work (who obviously live in a cave) he directed such classics as Jeremiah Johnson, Three Days of the Condor, Absence of Malice (1981) (one of my favorites of all time if for no other reason than a great Wilford Brimley performance totally unrelated to oatmeal or diabetic supplies).  His 1985 film Out of Africa won him Academy Awards for directing and producing; he was also nominated for Best Director Oscars for They Shoot Horses, Don''t They? and Tootsie, the latter of which he also starred in. Later films included Havana (1990), The Firm (1993), Sabrina (1995) and The Interpreter (2005).  In addition to producing and directing, he appeared only as an actor in many projects, like Will''s father on Will & Grace. He also did a great documentary about commercial aviation (one of my loves), One Six Right, where he appeared as himself, describing his joy of owning and piloting his Citation X jet aircraft.  Rumor also had it that he was an Israeli Intelligence Asset that used his work and piloting to transport agents and gather information.

While I loved his work, my favorite of all time has to be Sketches of Frank Gehry by Sydney Pollack, a marvelous DVD. This was a really special film as Frank and Sydney were great friends. The shots of Gehry''s work process and studio were fascinating, but the best parts were the one on one interviews, some while they were driving around in a car together, that were the kind of conversations you'd hear in a bar rather than a movie set or formal interview.  One of my favorite scenes is when Frank was describing a moment early in his career. He had designed a shopping mall (a rather run of the mill one, used as the exterior mall shots in Fast Times at Ridgemont High) and had invited the client to dinner at his house. The client looked around and asked Frank if he really liked this style (Frank had basically cocooned a really unremarkable old house in a shell of the materials he loves to work with). He replied that he did, and the client replied that he must have really hated what he asked him to create, and advised him never to do that again. I love it when you get a glimpse into the corners that someone has turned in their life that were so pivotal to where they ended up.  Thank you Sydney, for letting us see all the things you have shown us. You will be missed.

Techno Textiles: Inner Space to Outer Space

Last week I was invited to an exhibition on textiles, Techno Textiles: Inner Space to Outer Space, opening  at the University of Minnesota Goldstein Museum (in the college of design).  I showed up at 6 with the card shark for the pre-reception (since we knew one of the speakers) so we got in on the martinis, in addition to a nice spread of middle eastern food and sushi.  Free food always raises an evening''s grade to at least a C on my curve.  The opening was curated by Bruce N. Wright, AIA, the Editor of Fabric Architecture, Design Minor Fellow and Karen LaBat, Professor of Clothing Design and Director of the The Human Dimensioning© Laboratory (HDL).  The museum had a variety of exhibits showing different textiles in use from many different disciplines.  There was space underwear that had cooling tubing built in (one was black mesh, and looked more like space lingerie to me).  There was a display of protective products, like a glove that had tiny armor plates woven in to make them impervious to cutting but were incredibly flexible.  I actually did some work for this company after 9/11 and they  were developing an apron for flight attendants, a perfect example of pure research having something on the shelf that is a perfect solution to an unexpected problem.  They had survival suits and several examples of high end athletic wear (read Olympic style suits to eliminate wind resistance and promote breath ability).

Chinese Olympic Swimming Venue

Chinese Olympic Swimming Venue

There were some furniture and lighting uses, as well as a really cool fabric that was electroluminescent. The application shown was used as a liner in tent fabric, so that when it was energized the whole inside of the tent lit up.  An application shown was for a military hospital. There are also some really cool architectural uses illustrated, from a use for dividers in a Chiropractor''s office, to a demo of the fabric used to create the bubbles on the skin of the China Olympic swimming venue that is internally lit with projections of water textures, to a green roof structure.

The exhibition is open from May 16-July 27.  I highly recommend it.

Following the  tour, there was a panel discussion at 8p.m. with Su Sokolowski of Nike and Mary Carey of Procédés Chénel International.  Su's presentation on technical fabrics from the Nike lab was really fascinating.  In addition to the overview of design process at Nike and their priorities in solution development, she also had some fabric samples to demonstrate and pass around.   One of the most interesting was a running top with little half moon slits in the back (like the wind slits in a banner) arranged in a concentric pattern (think BP logo) that, when wet (from perspiration, although we used a spray bottle), they opened like little awnings to allow for increased airflow through the garment.  Very cool.

Mary Carey (who has been a friend for longer than either of us care to reflect on) then spoke on the use of fabrics in architecture.  Her slides had some great examples of structural uses of fabric, as well as some examples of environmental design by people like Cindy Thompson of Transformit and Bill Moss, founder of Moss Inc and some newer masters of fabric architecture. I also was fortunate enough to join Mary and Bruce Wright for a long lunch the following day to discuss fabric architecture and barriers to it''s use and acceptance.

Back in the day Moss was a tent maker (Bill was a designer for Ford, and the station wagons he made lead to family''s traveling and camping)  that was a contemporary of Buckminster Fuller working on shelters for natural disasters.  The use of fabric as a marketing structure was truly in it's infancy.  I can remember Mary, who was with Moss then, flying out to help convince an exhibitor that fabric was a viable structure for their brand.  Imagine that, in today's age of the ubiquitous tension fabric hanging sign that has become a commodity, not art.  The slides of their Cad-less (although they didn't call it that, as CAD was not invented yet)  design where they laid out structures using math and a large floor like sail makers was a real exhibition of craftsmanship vs. marketing.  Back then, everything was unique and was purpose designed, not the same old cookie cutter signs that you can rent from quite a few sources. 

So, if you have ever made a dollar of commission selling one of these, and you see Mary at an industry event, you should really buy her a drink. If it wasn't for her passion, vision, and almost evangelical promotion of the art form back then it would not exist today in it's accepted form.  Just don''t be surprised if she makes a toast to Bill Moss