Looking Back on IAAPA 2019 With A New Perspective

Looking Back on IAAPA 2019 With A New Perspective

Field notes from Orlando November 2019…

My travels last year included numerous trips to Orlando for client visits and a few days at IAAPA, the annual themed attraction trade show. Little did I know that my travels in 2020 would be eliminated by a global pandemic. Looking back on November 2019, it seemed like a simpler, easier time…

I attended a presentation by George Walker, Creative Director with Universal Creative. George launched into his presentation with a story about his youth and the theme park he built in his backyard in upstate New York. He followed his dreams and has worked on creative projects around the world and back to join the growing and innovative Universal Team based in Orlando. 

George’s message resonated with me before the pandemic, through the shelter at home period, and even more so now as I think about the future for our business and the challenges every company faces…we are living in a dramatically changed landscape. A few of his key points are paraphrased below:


Key Points from George Walker at IAAPA 2019

Achieve Authentic RealityFredricks on iaapa 2019 exhibit

A theme park is a story place. Themed entertainment is built on emotion and emotion comes from experience.

An experience is an event or occurrence that leaves an impression.

“When experience is the commodity, authenticity is the currency.” Authenticity is key.

These simple principles can be applied to any business, product, service delivery, or organization. Now, more than ever, we are all seeking authenticity in our personal and professional relationships. There is now no tolerance for bullshit or shoddy delivery on brand promise. 

We all need to take a reality check on what our client’s problems are and how we will deliver a differentiated and memorable experience on every engagement. It is an opportunity to improve ourselves, our teams, and our products and services.


Tell Your Story From the Heart

Our work with leading entertainment companies has sharpened our storytelling skills. We’ve been really lucky to participate in creative reviews with some of the world’s best talent and we have been inspired to up our game by their work. 

The best stories are delivered with passion from the heart using simple language and high impact, clean images. 

All companies and organizations are now confronted with the reality that budgets are tight and talent will be stretched thin while working in different ways. It seems like a great time for clear thinking and straight talk. We are all uncertain, a little on edge, and curious about what the future will look like as the economy begins to ramp up. 


Deliver an Excellent, Emotional Experience

There is an old saying that “we are only as good as our last project”. Brand promises are kept or broken through every client touchpoint and relationships are built over time. 

Our experience with cross-functional teams has proven that straight talk communication is essential in building trust. Thanks to our clients and diverse project experience, we have developed clear and simple project management tools to track progress on creative technical and commercial issues. Weekly updates are shared with key stakeholders to ensure we are tracking to plan with no surprises along the way. 

In many instances, we act as a designated or de-facto catalyst with the creative studio and engineering team to help keep everyone aligned on the established storyline and moving towards our project deliverables and deadlines. Authenticity and delivery on our promises have been a big factor in our success over the past few decades. 

The overall experience with any firm, product, or service is a sum-total of touchpoints and the end deliverables. 

Back to the simpler and easier time of November 2019…little did I realize that so much of what George Walker shared would be applicable as we step into our new and weird landscape! Relationships, trust, and follow-through on our commitments will be even more important as we fire up the economic engines and get back to work. 

Thank you for sharing George — we look forward to working together when the time is right!

Maury Fredricks

CES 2020 Insights

CES 2020 Insights

​I had time to reflect on my way to CES 2020 last month. My phone continued to work at cruising altitude and I toggled between emails, texts and the constant stream of content coming across different channels. I finally turned the damn thing off and used my time in the air to think about my plan for the show.

My goal was to focus on the vehicle technology exhibits, to meet up with old friends, network with new contacts, and absorb as much as possible about new trends and technologies. You know what they say about well-laid plans…

The North Hall of the Convention Center is located, of course, on the north end of the strip. Travel from point A to point B takes more time every year. Things will get only get more congested with the opening of the new NFL stadium and the 1.5 m square feet expansion of show space at the Convention Center. There’s no such thing as too big in Las Vegas! I digress…

This year, there were multiple companies showing urban helicopters for last-mile transportation. In addition to well-established Bell Helicopters, Hyundai (Hyundai S-A1 electric Urban Air Mobility concept) is moving into this evolving space. Many of the automotive brands and suppliers highlighted autonomous vehicles geared towards comfort, entertainment, and human interaction and communication. These two trends will continue to point out where we are able to leverage new modes of transportation. This new day, in my opinion, awaits us in 2025 and forward. 

The biggest challenge to the real-world application of autonomous vehicles and air transport is the lack of infrastructure and practical safety guidelines. As described in my post from CES 2019, collaboration on a vast scale with government, large corporations, and innovative thinkers and startups will be required to begin to solve the significant challenges of infrastructure. I am encouraged by the risk-taking and scaled investment on display at CES every year. We are on the right path with lots more work to do.

I was very encouraged by the number of EV concepts on display. Henrik Fisker never gives up and he was at the show with his Ocean concept and taking orders for a nominal downstroke of $250. I’m not sure how the path to production will play out for Fisker. The car business is unforgiving, hyper-competitive, and capital intensive. 

Rivian’s RT1 was displayed in the Amazon exhibit along with numerous products designed to work with integrated Alexa, smart home, and communications platforms. There was even a motorcycle helmet with Alexa inside! I just want to get on my motorbike and ride!

Sony, yes that Sony, introduced their own EV concept car. My initial thinking is they invested in the concept to draw attention to the audio and video offering. It worked in spades since the concept was a highlight of the show. I was surprised, maybe shocked, to learn that Sony intends to enter into the EV space fully loaded with technology. The point of Sony’s concept is to show what it can do inside and outside a car, so there are 33 sensors, including radar, lidar, and cameras. The car also integrates Sony’s immersive 360-degree audio technology, 360 Reality Audio, which features speakers in each seat. Sony also built the capability for continual over-the-air updates into the car.

“This prototype embodies our contribution to the future of mobility and contains a variety of Sony’s technologies,” Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida said at the unveiling.

Wow, who would have envisioned this future?

Mid-afternoon through day one at the show, the thought occurred to me that all this technology is being developed to make our lives easier, to save us time, and to improve our quality of life. This is not a new thought, of course, and the key is to be able to turn off our gear, think, talk with another human or just read a book — preferably a bound, printed book. The more gear we bring into our lives, the tougher it is to turn the stuff off and think. It’s a big-time dilemma!

We were fortunate last year to embark on and complete a kitchen renovation in our home. We’ve lived in the same bungalow for the last few decades and the renovation was long overdue. Early in the project design phase, I was asked by the general contractor if we wanted to integrate smart home technologies into the kitchen. I reflected on this big question and my recent visits to CES and responded with a measured “it depends on how we define smart home”. 

As we developed the design, we decided to apply LED lighting with dimmers and a NEST thermostat. We decided to hold off on the Ring doorbell and any other app-based functions. We can always add technology in the future. For now, we are happy with manual light switches and a fridge that simply preserves our food and makes ice with no problems.

Last week, I decided to commit to a digital fast for either two half-day blocks or a full day every week. This simple and rebellious act has already resulted in more time to think, reflect and work on things that really matter. We’ve become so reliant and expectant of the immediate response to every text, call and email that we’ve lost sight of the importance of meeting people face to face. Technology should be leveraged to help us live better lives and engage more fully with each other, as humans.

CES 2019 Review

CES 2019 Review

I kicked off CES 2019 at the CES KeyNote Event hosted by Gary Shapiro, President and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association.

CTA State of the Industry Address and IBM Keynote

Gary presented a few key insights for future application in product, systems and organizational development:

We will solve more problems in the next two decades than we solved in the last two centuries.

We all need to think horizontally and look for different ways to collaborate to solve problems. Vertical industries are a thing of the past.

Let’s all work together to create a world where everyone has access to healthcare, services and a better world for everyone.

This all points to the significant challenge of working on the right problems for the right reasons. Although the keynote event was inspiring, the challenges of the real world awaited on the streets of Las Vegas. The commute from the Venetian to the Convention Center is 2.1 miles and a 10-minute drive in light traffic, as measured by Google Maps.

The actual commute consumed at least an hour using UberX. I know, these are developed world problems in a world where vast numbers of people are struggling to find water, food and medicine for their children. In any case, Las Vegas’ busy streets offer an opportunity to unpack the real world challenges described by Gary Shapiro in his excellent keynote presentation.

Our cities are now more populated and crowded than at any time in our history and the global population is expanding. Many of us, in the developed world, are living longer lives. This simply translates to more people moving around in our cities of the future, leading to more congestion, even longer commute times, and a greater environmental impact as well.

Parking in Las Vegas is already a blood sport and very expensive when you are lucky enough to either find a spot or valet your car. Again, a developed world problem, but let’s continue our exploratory journey into mass transit of the future.

CES 2019 offered a glimpse into the future of shared mobility transportation, autonomous vehicles, EV and alternative energy vehicles.

There was an increased focus this year on shared mobility transportation (compared to CES 2018) and this is a really good development.

“Last mile transportation” solutions are being tested in cities and some universities. Initial indicators are encouraging for this mode of moving from point A to point B in a relatively closed landscape. The city of Las Vegas can apply shared solutions from the one end of the strip using existing feeder streets and/or, possibly, a small vehicle lane on the borders of the congested strip. This is an ideal city to prove out advanced applications and technologies.

As Gary Shapiro pointed out in the keynote, we need horizontal and collaborative thinking to solve the world’s biggest problems. This will require open innovation and contributions from municipal, corporate, universities and agile entrepreneurs. The future is indeed exciting and it’s a wonderful time to be in the vehicle development business.

Interested in learning more about Fredricks Design’s CES 2019 findings? Please contact us to schedule a detailed review, or to learn more about our work in vehicle development.

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Business Transformation Requires a Fresh Mindset

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Ms. Smith has recently been promoted to lead her family-owned, West Michigan based company. She grew up in the company before attending an undergrad program and completing her MBA. The leadership team is well established and talented with deep industry experience.

Widget Corp. was founded by her grandfather several decades ago. They manufacture components and sub-assemblies for the automotive industry. The company is financially solid with a backlog of contracts extending over the next two years. Business is good, but there is a lot to worry about for Ms. Smith and her leadership team. (more…)

Fredricks Design, Inc. Mobility Solutions

Fredricks Design, Inc. Mobility Solutions

Welcome to the wild west. As automotive OEM’s continue to push the boundaries of new technology, drive systems and aesthetics in their production vehicles there is a far more exciting paradigm shift in the automotive market place; autonomous vehicles. We are tossing out the playbook on what a car is and what function it really serves. This is an unbelievable time to be a designer in the transportation space. We get to break the mold of automotive interior configurations and decide what will replace them as we drive forward into the future. We’re no longer constrained by the two front seats split with a center console and the 40/20/40 configuration of the back seat we’ve seen in the vehicles of our fathers and their fathers. The canvas is blank and it’s time to pick up the brush once again.

This paradigm shift will begin where all good design projects begin, research. Understanding how users interact and experience a completely new environment is the cornerstone of everything we will develop moving forward. This research will lead us in directions we never could have imagined even a decade ago and with advances in modern technology seemingly moving forward by the day it’s hard to say what the next decade will bring. As “car people” at the forefront of product development we are excited to walk into the unknown and redefine a crucial piece of product that really hasn’t changed much since the late 19th century. The automobile has already done so much in improving the human condition around the globe. It’s time to give back and let the automobile be what it wants to be; a seamless extension of your home, office and self.

Automotive mailer final

For more in-depth insights into our work in the automotive market visit our website to review case studies on recent transportation projects we’ve had the pleasure to be a part of.

Conor Fredricks

Industrial Designer

Fredricks Design, Inc.

Fredricks Design, Inc. is a full-service design and engineering firm based in Grand Haven, Michigan. The firm specializes in working as an extension of the client studio and engineering team to identify the right problems and accelerate development of solutions from early ideation, feasibility, concept development and production of mock-ups, prototypes and show properties. Fredricks works with key Clients in the automotive interiors and seating industries, advanced rides and show action projects for themed attractions, furniture, and consumer products markets.



Fredricks Design, Inc. Rides and Animated Props

Fredricks Design, Inc. Rides and Animated Props

As industrial designers and engineers, we spend our time developing products and telling their stories. The story can be focused on our research, our clients, the product, the end- users or even some outside force to drive successful product design. If we picture product development as a film, the underlying story is the script. Just like films, all the stars in Hollywood and the special effects of post production won’t fix a broken script. You can’t fake a story; it either resonates with the viewer or it doesn’t. It’s make or break. There is no market we work in where telling this story is more apparent to outsiders than rides and animated props. We get to draw inspiration from characters, comics and epic films that our end users are already familiar with. We study repetitive forms and visual brand language associated with our story and incorporate it into our design. With the goal of immersing theme park guest into a world they only thought existed on paper or the silver screen.

Entertainment Roller

Conor Fredricks

Industrial Designer

Fredricks Design, Inc.

Fredricks Design, Inc. is a full-service design and engineering firm based in Grand Haven, Michigan. The firm specializes in working as an extension of the client studio and engineering team to identify the right problems and accelerate development of solutions from early ideation, feasibility, concept development and production of mock-ups, prototypes and show properties. Fredricks works with key Clients in the automotive interiors and seating industries, advanced rides and show action projects for themed attractions, furniture, and consumer products markets.