Event & Media Production and Event & Exhibit Design Students Present: Inspired By Design
By: Tanisha Smith
Inspired. It is one of those words that we often misuse. It finds its way into our everyday conversations but often lacks the conviction of meaning that the word represents. It’s rare to see a tangible result from so-called ‘inspiration,’ but Seneca College’s Event and Exhibit Design students have done just that.
Upon entering the showroom the designs were eye-catching. Each table was unique in its composition, and each was dazzling in its own way. The passion and attention to detail that went into the creation of these spaces was evident from first glance. But that is not what this challenge was about; it was about what you see when you look a little closer.
The event — called Inspired Spaces — that was held on February 21, 2018 is a tabletop design challenge that required students to design an event concept for a fictitious client. As the centerpiece to the Event and Exhibit Design program, much of the one-year postgraduate program’s coursework leads up to the Inspired Spaces event. The students are required to plan every detail of their event from beginning to end, including venue, catering and décor. This process culminates in the creation of a tabletop that represents their event in its entirety. Inspired Spaces allows them to showcase their tabletop with the help of generous sponsors: Seneca Alumni, Presidential Gourmet Catering, The Butler Did It Event Staffing and Canadian Special Events magazine, who all made the event possible.
The event featured not only talent from the Event and Exhibit Design program, students from Seneca’s Event & Media Production program were onsite to help run the event from beginning to end. The three first-year production students were responsible for ensuring the audiovisual system functioned flawlessly. “It looks like we just appear, install the stuff and then disappear,” explains Joe, one of the production volunteers, “but there is a lot that goes into the event.”
The Event & Media Production program is a two-year undergraduate diploma program and internship. The program gives students the tools to learn the technical skills required for the event production industry, while allowing their own motivation to drive the extent of their learning. “A lot of the hands on, technical skills are self-taught,” says Heather, another student volunteer. She explains that it gives them the opportunity to explore their particular interests, whether it is Photoshop, Illustrator, Premier or PowerPoint. The program gives students the ability to map their own route into the event industry.
As a student of the Public Relations – Corporate Communications program at Seneca, entering the Inspired Spaces showroom was a sneak peek into the careful planning that goes into creating an event. Speaking with the students, I was able to understand how a design is developed and executed. Through these conversations I began to understand how much crossover there is between what they do and what we, as communications professionals, do.
We all are communicators, and good communicators use their creativity to inspire their audience.
Every space was the result of the creator’s vision, a vision that meticulously made its way from dream to reality. Every detail that you find on the tabletop is a direct reflection of the vision they have created. Each piece works together to tell the story of that vision. The music and the lighting was also a reflection of the event design, it told the story of the event. Every component of an event works together to send a message to the attendees.
Each Event and Exhibit Design student carries with them a portfolio, which shows where they pulled their design inspiration from, and how each component works to represent that idea. As I watched and listened to the students explain how their designs represented their vision, I began to realize that what they do with design, is what communications professionals do with words.
Mya Scott: 1st Place
While every participant in the Inspired Spaces Tabletop Challenge created incredible designs, it was easy to understand why Mya Scott took home the challenge’s Gold award. She enthusiastically brought out her portfolio, giving me a visual road map, in hopes of truly connecting me with her design. Mya’s passion for her project was obvious as she shared her process with excitement and an air of confidence.
Mya had a very clear, well thought out vision for her event. Designed to launch the Gucci pre-fall collection for 2018, Mya’s event is an exclusive client fashion event that consists of three components: a fashion show, a luncheon and an interactive cocktail hour. “The inspiration behind my table itself was completely the line,” Mya explains, “it’s a very eclectic, vintage almost, old Italian inspired line.”
Passion cannot be taught, and Miss Scott clearly possesses it ten-fold, but she does recognize Seneca for all the rest. “They have been preparing us since day one of this program,” Mya says of her instructors, “You are getting it as they are living it, which is very rare while you are in school.”
Vivian Leung: 2nd Place
Vivian Leung’s Silver award winning tabletop was inspired by her love of K-Pop, a musical genre that originated in South Korea, which draws on a large audiovisual component. As a self proclaimed “avid K-pop fan,” Vivian was determined to do something different. With aspirations to become an event and floral designer, Vivian is focused on standing out from the pack. “Everyone was doing product launches,” muses Vivian, “so let’s try something new.”
Refined over a timeline of about a month and a half, Vivian’s design was created to compliment an event called Suzy’s Loft, a lunch and fan meeting between Suzy, a K-pop superstar, and her fans. The design, which Vivian calls “simple and elegant,” is understated featuring soft pinks and greens. The tabletop reflected the intimate experience fans would receive with their K-pop idol.
Vivian largely attributes her success in this competition to the hands on experience she got through the Event and Exhibit Design program at Seneca. “We had a lot of practical, hands-on [experiences] with different weddings and dinners,” says Vivian, “[we] were seeing what our teachers had to change, and what colours they had to change on-site. It really helped with the rearranging process.”
For students considering Seneca’s Event and Exhibit design programs, Vivian reveals that unlike other programs that are more lecture and textbook based, Seneca’s allowed her to get hands-on experience from the very beginning of the semester. “We actually got to help set up within the first two to three weeks,” says Vivian “I know there are other programs that aren’t like that.”
Alia Sallam: 3rd Place
When walking up to Alia Sallam’s Bronze award winning tabletop, it is immediately evident what the inspiration for her space was — Harry Potter. The event — called Bringing Magic to Life — is a Hogwart’s anniversary party. When referring to the inspiration for her table, Alia says, “in my future I want to have Harry Potter events, so I thought I would go all out for that one.” And “all out” she went. Sparing no detail, on her table was everything from potion bottles, to the daily prophet, to a golden snitch at each place setting. Alia’s table is a Harry Potter geek’s dream come true.
Alia thanks her Event and Exhibit Design professors for being with her every step of the way. They prepared her for this process by continuously helping her to develop the event and tabletop. “The whole thing isn’t just due at the end,” Alia reveals, mentioning that it was the consistent work toward small milestones that led her to the big picture. As a project she began working on in December, Alia notes that it did not happen overnight. “It kind-of took some time,” says Alia, “but it all came together in the end.”
Alia is confident in the education she is receiving at Seneca: she says “it is very practical, you make a lot of connections. [The program] has a lot of networking, a lot of opportunities to work and to do internships.” She acknowledges that the skills students learn will help them in all aspects of the event industry. Recognizing that “[the program] is design-based, we do both the planning and the design.”
Alia is just as specific with her future career plans as she was with her tabletop vision, stating that she “want[s] to be an event manager and photographer in Europe.” Perhaps the magic of Hogwarts is leading her to explore other castles.
The Event Management – Event and Exhibit Design program provides students with a specialization in design for the event and exhibit industry (galas, festivals, parades and trade shows). As part of the Faculty of Communication, Art and Design led by Dean Michael Maynard, the program is designed to give students knowledge in analysis, planning, budgeting, sourcing and creation of décor, props and visuals for events and exhibits. Students benefit by having industry professionals with many years of experience, whom have designed the curriculum from a practical perspective, teach them relevant skills.
I left the Inspired Spaces event feeling inspired myself. Inspired by the sunny demeanour of one professor who taught me a life lesson in less than 30 seconds, inspired in the realization that even within the professional world kindness costs you nothing and inspired to carry that attitude with me throughout my professional career.