As a long-time creative leader in the exhibit design industry, Group Delphi’s Chief Creative Officer Tony Erpelding, has been the source of the vision behind some truly memorable moments in experiential design. Recently, however, he got a chance to sit on the client side of the table, while creative concepts were pitched to him by the next generation of exhibit designers in the Experiential Designers & Producers Association’s (EDPA) exhibit design competition.
“Group Delphi has been in business for 30 years, and I personally have 40 years of design experience in the exhibit industry. It’s so important to give back to the industry and share our knowledge with the next generation of designers and producers,” says Tony.
Over the past nine years, Tony has volunteered as a design mentor for the EDPA design competition. Students in the undergraduate program at Minnesota’s Bemidji State University and the graduate program at New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) compete to create the best design for EDPA’s own booth for EuroShop 2020, the world’s largest retail trade show, held in Dusseldorf, Germany. At the end of the competition, one student from each school who developed the most creative solution to the design of the EDPA booth wins a trip to see the EuroShop show live.
“We act as the clients,” Tony explains. “The students have to respond to an RFP, just like we do in the industry, and meet the design demands for EDPA’s EuroShop booth.”
Tony works with students on their projects by guiding them through the process of developing creative briefs, and later being one of the judges for the competition. This year, Tony was joined by another Group Delphi colleague, event producer David Welle, who also lent his expertise to students.
“We give them feedback, make sure they’re considering design solutions that meet the client’s expectations and needs,” says Tony. “It’s also an opportunity to educate the students on the differences between American and European exhibitions.”
Tony’s connection to FIT goes beyond the EDPA competition. He also contributes to the annual FIT capstone thesis project process, where outside experts from across the domains of design are invited in as reviewers.
In the Spring 2020 quarter, Tony is teaching a course at FIT and bringing along a Group Delphi client with a real exhibit design need. Students will get the unique opportunity to work through the professional design process, starting with client discovery, creating a project brief, and developing design options.
“It’s a two-way street,” adds Tony. “I learn a tremendous amount from the students about technology and trends in the events that they’re experiencing. Plus, they come in with an energy and new ways of thinking, so it’s a true symbiosis.”