by Maury Fredricks | Nov 1, 2022 | Company Insights, Events, Themed Entertainment Design, Uncategorized
Over the past several decades, the team at Fredricks Design has worked with demanding design and engineering teams in diverse industries. While industry standards vary depending on the project, product, and intended use, the team has developed the capability to come up to speed and adapt to new projects quickly. Whether it be working with unique project teams or different cultures, we never fail to deliver excellent work under tight timelines and budgets. As our capabilities grew, Fredricks Design identified a fit in the themed attraction industry – specifically in rides, animated props, and special effects. Our deep experience in vehicle development, cockpits, interior systems, and seating for cars, trucks, and heavy equipment fit this industry’s needs well.
Entry Into The Themed Attraction Industry
Low volume production of custom build projects is a key requirement of success on entertainment projects. Rides and props are produced in quantities of less than ten units. The projects perform for decades under rigorous conditions. The team at Fredricks Design wanted to learn more about this industry, so we set about the hard work of presenting the firm and pursuing the first few projects.
Since that initial entrance into the entertainment industry, Fredricks Design has worked with prime vendors for entertainment brands. Our skills in design and studio engineering fit perfectly with concept development projects. Many Clients requested manufacturing capabilities for the outsourcing of turn-key “prime vendor” projects. After exploring several manufacturing suppliers, we had the good fortune to connect with Prefix Corporation based in Rochester Hills, Michigan.
Like Fredricks, Prefix is a second-generation, family-run, and Michigan-based company. We began working on projects together, and by October 2018, we had framed and finalized a strategic partnership. This partnership allowed us to pursue and develop projects from concept development through fabrication, assembly testing, and installation of rides and animated props. Our partnership continues to thrive, and we are excited about the future for our Clients and diversified growth for our partnership and team.
We have learned many things over the past decade working in the Themed Attraction Industry. Our team has worked on multi-axis motion rides, animated props, advanced concepts, and full-scale mockups. Our portfolio of projects includes work with the largest and best-known entertainment brands in the world. We have also worked with innovative startups on projects from research, sketch, and concept development through production engineering deliverables. It’s been a wild ride and a wonderful adventure with fantastic friends! A big thanks to our Clients, partners, suppliers, and design and engineering team!
These are a few reasons we are driven to continue working in this unique and demanding industry:
- We grew up watching cartoons and animated movies. We feel humbled and thankful to help bring stories to life from sketch through the installation of the guest experience.
- Families and friends build lasting memories in the theme parks we help create.
- We work with some of the world’s most demanding creative and technical teams.
- We are challenged with performance and technical requirements to ensure the safety of park guests and protect the long-term investment of every project.
- Our engineering team adheres to rigorous technical and performance standards to ensure the function and long-term durability of the systems.
- We are challenged with tight budgets and timelines.
- Working as an extension of the Client’s creative and technical team, they task us with delivering complex rides and props. These will run for 18-hour days over years and decades with scheduled preventive maintenance.
Attendance At IAAPA
We are now preparing for the annual Themed Attraction industry event in Orlando. The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions is an opportunity to connect with friends, make new contacts, attend educational events, and tour the show floor to experience emerging technologies for future application.
Emerging and evolving themes for the industry will include the blend of VR and physical experiences. It will also host motion control technologies, character-based attractions, scaled rides for small footprints, and the application of advanced materials and assembly methodologies. Stay tuned for a recap of our insights from IAAPA in a future post.
Before attending the show, I will play in the golf event on Sunday, November 13, 2022. This special event will benefit the Give Kids The World Organization. Hosted right before IAAPA, the event speaks to the spirit of community and giving that thrives throughout the industry. It is an opportunity to relax, play golf, and reflect on why we love this industry!
Please reach out if you would like to connect at the show or set up a review of findings and insights. We are ready to help with your future projects, big, small, or medium in scale. Thanks for our past and future projects!
by Maury Fredricks | Oct 9, 2022 | Automotive Design, Events
Returning for the first time in three years, the Detroit Auto Show was held this past month in downtown Detroit. Also known as the North American International Auto Show, this longstanding event had not been hosted for the last few years due to shifting trends in the mobility space along with the pandemic. While this event used to be a showcase for OEM car companies and their Tier One suppliers as well as a time to reconnect with industry friends and stay up to date on emerging trends, it seems that even after a three-year hiatus, things have not quite returned to normal.
Much has been written about the demise of the Detroit Auto Show. The downward spiral for this annual event started long before the pandemic. This event used to be held each year in early January. As many are well aware, winter in Detroit is not an ideal environment with sub-zero temperatures and winds. In addition, the show fast followed the holidays every year. Although the venue at Cobo Hall was wonderful, the timing for the event always seemed difficult.
Things had to change, and the pandemic accelerated a shift in the automotive industry. Everything was turned upside down and inside out as we all navigated through our new landscape of uncertainty and reduced budgets. The team at Fredrick’s Design worked from home from March through June 2020. Like our clients, we were trying to find our way through a new landscape. We were running a lean organization going into the pandemic.
In many ways, our experience as a design and engineering firm is analogous to the industry as a whole. The auto show is trying to build a new foundation in the epicenter of the automotive world. There is a deep and rich legacy to draw from while the City of Detroit is transformed over the next several years. Given this legacy and the recent environment, everyone was expecting so much more from the show this year. Unfortunately, the event did not meet those expectations.
The number of companies with exhibits was disappointing. Many of the leading foreign brands either did not show up or, worse yet, put forward a half-hearted effort to provide a few cars in bare-bones exhibits. The domestic brands expanded their footprint to vast spaces. This was an obvious attempt to fill the exhibit hall at discounted rates. There were even exhibits from a retail car company and a small exhibit for a furniture retailer.
While many of the displays were a disappointment, it was refreshing to see an EVTOL company with a full-scale urban transport aircraft on display. This, at least, provided a glimpse of the future plans for the show. Urban mobility has been a prevailing theme at CES over the past several years.
The number of concept cars was dramatically reduced from previous years. There are so many more cost-effective ways for concept reveals. It was disappointing that the OEM brands held back to play it conservatively in Detroit this year. The industry is starving for signals that things will return to some level of healthy activity.
To close, the transportation or automotive industry is now being referred to as “new mobility”. Leading brands are in the midst of reorganizing to find a footing in a sea of turbulent change. Total unit sales are down and there is no end in sight for the big problems for large companies. In a world of change, agility and decisiveness are key elements to the execution of innovation. In many ways, this landscape is a template from the shift in the furniture industry that began years ago.
by Maury Fredricks | May 4, 2022 | Automotive Design, Company Insights, Events, Fredricks Design Review
CES 2023 is just 7 months away…
The show in Las Vegas is only seven months away! Now is not the time to relax on projects for CES 2023!
We are ready to help solve your problems!
Our team is ready to help on your projects, of any scale and complexity.
We offer flexible and scalable design, engineering and build solutions for advanced vehicles, cockpits, seating and interior systems.
We have deep and diverse experience.
Demonstrators, vehicle development, interior systems, seating, cargo systems, lighting and mirrors
Exhibit consulting, kiosks, displays and tech review support solutions
Please visit us at fredricks.com or call Maury Fredricks at 616-402.2300 to get the ball rolling…Thanks for our past and future work with your team! Best wishes for a successful year and fantastic show!
All images provided by Adient Studio with permission for our use. Fredricks Design, Inc.
#CES2023 #design #engineering #manufacturing #innovation #solutions
by Maury Fredricks | Dec 6, 2021 | Company Insights, Events, Product Design
Northwestern University Design Thinking Communication Fall Term 2021
I traveled to Northwestern University in Evanston on Saturday, December 4, 2021 to attend the final team presentations for a sponsored project. The skies were clear with minimal traffic as I made my way “around the horn” of Lake Michigan and northbound through Chicago on Lake Shore Drive. The conditions were ideal for my homecoming to campus following almost two years of hybrid and/or remote collaboration resultant from the pandemic.
We embarked on the sponsored project in August 2021 with a ten-week timeline for the three teams to develop solutions to this problem statement…
K-6 Study at Home Solutions
Young students are challenged with study at home and organization of homework, electronics, and artwork supplies. Quick packing, unpacking and organization of a wide range of materials and electronics is repetitive and wastes time and energy. Research, sketch, mockup and develop a concept including a working prototype for a compact, flexible, modular storage solution that provides organization, power charging and ease of use.
We developed Freddy Furniture USA – Kids Study from Home Desks as a flexible desking solution engineered to ergonomic standards for K-6 students.
Conor Fredricks, our lead industrial designer and I presented an overview of the problem statement and a deck illustrating our process and methodologies to help guide end-user interviews, research and ideation over the first few weeks of the class. Our interaction with the teams and professors Ignatius Aloysuis and Tirdad Kiamanesh was via Zoom and a simple camera setup in the classroom at Northwestern. Although it was not an ideal setup, we made it work and the teams launched into the front-end exploratory work to develop divergent ideas.
Our second design review was hosted during week 6 of the term. We were blown away with the diversity of ideas presented by the three teams and the body of work developed. The teams were made up of freshman engineering students and most of the team members had never worked together on projects. We provided feedback to the teams and answered a few questions. From there, the teams went back to work to complete the deliverables for final presentations on December 4, 2021.
I was absolutely blown away by the presentations and deliverables developed by our teams. The deliverables included prototypes,
posters, a written final report and, most importantly, stand up presentations. The skills and team cooperation will go forward with all of our students for future application in educational, professional and personal endeavors.
As I drove south towards Chicago and home, I reflected on my two wonderful years at the Ford Building, my classmates, Green Team members and our excellent professors. I was lucky to attend Northwestern and now, humbled and honored to teach at McCormick.
There has been a lot written lately about the “great resignation” underway across most industries. My brief visit to Northwestern University left me feeling positive about the future of innovation and higher education in America. We are a country of innovators and “can do” entrepreneurs. Innovation is a team- based activity and creativity is alive and doing well in Evanston, Illinois! Go Northwestern and Go USA!
Investment in our students and their education
Fredricks Design will continue our mission to help guide young design and engineering talent both in and out of the classroom. These sponsored or “live” projects bring a level of real-world experience that offers insights on how products are developed in the real world. This experience is extremely valuable in molding students into successful designer and engineers in the next phase of their careers and Fredricks is more than happy to do our part.
Please contact us for additional information and case studies. We would love a chance to collaborate with your team!
by Maury Fredricks | Jul 1, 2020 | Company Insights, Events, Themed Entertainment Design
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 Reality
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!
by Maury Fredricks | Jan 15, 2019 | Company Insights, Events
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.
Read about our previous visits to CES: