Congratulations on 7 years with Fredricks, Conor Fredricks!

Conor Fredricks celebrates 7 years with Fredricks Design, Inc.!

Conor is a gifted designer with the rare ability to work from first sketch through concept development and prototype build. We are lucky to have him on our team. We are now driving deep into our second generation of design and engineering excellence. Conor is a key contributor to our success! Thanks for everything! Maury Fredricks, CEO


How To Write An Effective Design Brief

How To Write An Effective Design Brief

One of the keys to success for any project is the design brief. An effective design brief acts as a roadmap for the project team and helps set up a successful partnership. So, how do you write an effective design brief?

Determine a fit

The first goal in potentially working together is to determine the best fit. We want to work with as many clients across as many industries as possible, but not all design or engineering firms will fit every client or every project. Our firm has experience across many markets and leverages this experience to bring ideas, technologies, and methods to different industries. Typically, the more technical a program gets, the higher the demand for specialized individuals and experiences that may suit one firm better. 

Finding the right firm to deliver on your specific deliverables is key to a successful relationship, and understanding this fit starts in the design brief.

Understand your needs

Gaining a clear understanding of your industry and its challenges is an essential part of developing our relationship. Every client is different not only in the markets they operate in, but each has its own challenges, business conditions, management styles, and internal capabilities.

  • Past challenges and lessons learned for the application of the current project.
  • State of the industry, marketing challenges, and business conditions.
  • What are your business goals for the project investment including timelines, ROI and return on innovation?

Get your ducks in a row

All too often we leave a review of a client’s design brief with more questions than answers. This is a crucial step in alignment with our clients, but a few common areas lead to dwelling periods and wasted time. 

  • Create an internal project team of key stakeholders that will need to give feedback throughout the alignment and development process.
  • Relevant research or lessons learned on a specific challenge or the industry overall.
  • An understanding of budgets and cost targets, if available.
  • Any related CAD to help understand the position of the program currently and the effort needed to get CAD to a level we can kick off development.
  • Ensure your delivery format for internal CAD systems and REV levels.

Establish a clear understanding between the client and design/engineering firms

To cut down on potential future headaches, it is important to understand the intended outcome of a program. This quickly aligns both parties on end deliverables and overall expectations that will come out of the work we do together.

  • Challenges for different user groups that we intend to overcome.
  • How do we plan on measuring the success of the project?
  • Establish a cadence for design reviews. We have found weekly or bi-weekly touch points are required to keep everything moving forward and all parties up to date on progress.
  • Budgetary estimates available to execute on the goals that have been identified. There are many ways our team engages with a client. By understanding a rough idea of project funding, we can better understand how to approach the program to best suit your needs.

Breakdown phases and key milestones

Everyone has some type of internal process they follow to develop a product. These processes tend to vary case by case in how phases are described and what percentage of the overall budget is applied they follow a similar ideology. 

The standard project development process is research, ideation, concept development, engineering, and documentation. Phases also include areas for prototyping, testing, and analysis depending on the details required by the program. Understanding how our client views this process and how it will be reflected in the project gives us a good understanding of the overall project flow and team alignment.

  • Key phases required to deliver on project goals.
  • Project activities per phase to further understand how the client views the project breakdown.
  • Milestone dates and how they relate to our client’s master timeline. These dates are critical for understanding loading and prioritizing activities to run smoothly as an extension of your team.
  • Understanding our role and fit within the current project structure.

Benefits of an Effective Design Brief

Project briefs vary greatly depending on the type of program. The development of a rock-solid project brief is critical not only to a firm using the brief to quote the program but also to our client’s internal teams to gather a deeper understanding of the program. Beginning a project with an undefined brief tends to lead to fluctuating costs from suppliers who don’t have a clear understanding of what is being asked of them. This can lead to commercial issues down the road. By taking some time to work through the finer points of the brief with the key stakeholders involved in the program’s success, everyone gets a clearer understanding of their roles and responsibilities needed to achieve the desired result. 


How Can We Stay Focused and Energetic to Drive Innovation?

How Can We Stay Focused and Energetic to Drive Innovation?

January seems like a perfect month to reflect on the past year and map out plans for the year ahead. This is counterintuitive thinking in business. We are all off to the races with aggressive business goals and personal aspirations to become better humans and drive innovation. I considered several topics for this blog before catching myself to focus on one of the highlights of my business travel from 2022. I am lucky to be able to attend industry events every year. Liberated by our team and supported by our project work with great Clients, I methodically research each show to optimize my time and identify new projects for our team and key suppliers. This is tricky to do since there is an opportunity for advanced concept development in all industries. The emergence of “new mobility” concepts, alternative energy or EV technologies, and autonomous driving are just a few of the emerging and evolving industries we work in to make a positive difference. It’s exhausting and invigorating to research, plan and travel to shows with an eye on new opportunities and working on personal development. I have been blessed with these challenges!

IAAPA Insights

In November of every year, I travel to Orlando to attend IAAPA for a few days. The pandemic, of course, impacted the themed attraction industry in extreme and challenging ways. Ticket sales went immediately to zero and guests were not in the mood or position to buy tee shirts or princess dresses. It was a uniquely different period in our history. As a nation, world and individuals, we all found ourselves in a time of challenge. The lucky businesses survived or, in some cases, thrived depending on the industry, product or service offered. These dark times are behind us and there are now significant opportunities for business growth and personal development. I attended the kickoff event of IAAPA and the Orange County Convention Center. The lineup seemed intriguing and I am always amazed by the production values on display and the keynote speakers. The speaker this year was Abigail Posner from Creative Effectiveness Teams at Google. Ms. Posner offered up a premise that “creativity and innovation drive business growth.” This is an easily embraced concept. Execution towards this goal is challenging for most leaders and many teams. Groupthink settles into most organizations and a fresh look at ourselves, cultures and teams helps us pivot and find new ways of working. The 30-minute presentation resonated on many levels. The five key takeaways offered for our consideration and application in our work and life were as follows;

1. Tap into your unique gifts

I continue to wrestle with the reality that my gifts are limited to a few key attributes. “Let the birds fly and the fish swim” sums it up neatly. Hire great people, give them the tools required to succeed, and stay out of the way. 

2. Just say yes.

So often in life, we look for a way out of opportunities that are a stretch for our talents. Look for ways to embrace opportunity and jump into the deep end. 

3. Look for the links

Cultivate your network and identify connections and contacts to build on collaboration. 

4. Teamwork it

Innovation is a team sport. Look for opportunities to work with cross-functional teams in all areas of life. Remember you are very rarely, if ever, the smartest person in the room. 

5. Share with others

Give back to others in all areas of your life and pay it forward.

Share for the act of sharing with no expectations for a return.  The timing for this message was perfect. I left the event with renewed energy and focus to drive innovation. This learning moment has very little to do with meeting new contacts or exploring emerging technologies. It was one of those experiences that come along when we put ourselves out in the world, navigate airports, and simply show up when we have the opportunity.  My plans for this year include attendance at a minimum of four industry events, team development and growth, working on my lifelong learning goals, reading one book a month, working with charitable organizations, and teaching at Northwestern University.  Please share your thoughts and plans for increased effectiveness and innovation for the new year.

Best wishes for future success! 


Featured image illustration by Sol Cotti

Insights From IAAPA 2022

Insights From IAAPA 2022

Last month, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, also known as IAAPA, held its annual Expo in Orlando, Florida. IAAPA hosts this expo to “spread successful ideas and practices. We also provide valuable tools and resources that make all of our businesses smarter, safer, and more profitable while delivering guest experiences that surprise and delight.”


On the first day of the expo, November 13th, I had the opportunity to play in the 19th annual “Give Kids the World” golf event at Shingle Creek Golf Course. This event has been a highlight of my time in Orlando for the past several years. The weather cooperated for most of the outing, with scattered rain and cloud cover into the afternoon. We were called back into the clubhouse twice as a caution for thunder strikes, and then we finished the round and enjoyed a brief lunch to celebrate another sold-out event.


My first day at IAAPA began with a guided tour of the Universal Studios Velocicoaster ride. Along with the golf event, this tour also sold out quickly, and for a good reason. As it turned out, it was another highlight of my trip to Orlando. While waiting to board the bus from the Orange County Convention Center to the park, I met Doug Akers, VP of Operations, with Universal Studios. Doug recently returned stateside from assignments in Asia. I greatly appreciated our time together during the tour.


Overall, the Velocicoaster ride was such a wonderful experience! If you have not yet experienced the coaster, take a calculated risk and queue up for a quick burst of adrenaline. I will spare you any spoilers other than to say it is worth the wait. I look forward to my next trip to Universal soon to enjoy this experience again.


We wrapped up the tour with a lunch presentation by Universal Creative, Technical, and Operations. It was an intriguing story about character and IP-based ride development delivered by passionate professionals. The team did an incredible job facilitating this excellent experience and learning event!


As karma or luck would have it, I met Jakob Stahl, incoming CEO of IAAPA, in the elevator at our hotel after lunch. I offered him congratulations on his promotion. From there, I continued the brisk stroll to the show, and Hal McAvoy and I met on the way to the convention center. Hal led our organization as CEO through the last year and the challenges presented by the pandemic. It was a bit of serendipity to meet the outgoing and incoming leaders for IAAPA over a 15-minute walk! Right place at the right time, as they say!


The IAAPA event kicked off with an update on the state of the industry and a motivating presentation by Abigail Posner with Google. She delivered a passionate presentation and story about following our unique gifts and building networks with different talents. I’m not sure how IAAPA found Abigail, but she had set the tone for the wrap-up of the kickoff event! From there, we launched onto the show floor for day one of the exhibit space.


On the exhibit floor, I reconnected with many old friends and even made a few. Thanks to Sean Reish with TAIT for taking time out of your busy show to provide insights and guidance about design and engineering opportunities. I also visited WhiteWater and met Matt Regan during a standup conversation with Claudio Barrera and Jesse Crawford. I briefly toured the Brunswick Bowling exhibit. We have worked with Brunswick on numerous projects, and it’s always great to gather insights about our work through interaction with consumers.


Attendance at the show totaled 37,000 attendees. This data point is encouraging and points to the accelerated return to profitable performance for the parks, museums, and other attractions. We look forward to the next expo in this dynamic industry, as well as a return to Universal to enjoy all of the entertainment and attractions that the theme park has to offer.