Project Management insights . . .

Project Management insights . . .


Project Management insights…

We apply phased methodologies with milestone reviews to develop projects from research and ideation phase, into feasibility and through concept development. In many instances, our concepts are handed off to an internal Client team or supplier to further develop production release deliverables. The overall project timeline and costs can be compressed when the concept deliverables are robust, accurate and developed with production constraints in mind.

As many companies and technologies work to develop less siloed approaches to design and development the traditional phased approach still leaves much to be desired. We have focused our time and resources to develop a design team focused on bridging these silos to digest the key information from one phase and get a jump start on applying it in a fashion that is digestible to the next phase or team.

The ongoing pandemic has forced companies to reduce headcount to contain fixed costs. In addition, there has been a widely reported exodus of experienced talent entering early retirement. These two conditions have resulted in a significant talent exodus from core teams at a time when smart and seasoned project management is needed to develop innovative solutions.

To compound the challenges, inflation is eroding the buying power of corporations and increased competition demands reduced costs to develop products and services. We are, indeed, living in interesting times!

During a recent project review, we sparked a discussion about different ways to improve team performance. An initial comment led to an impromptu workshop about our role with Clients and different ways to improve team performance. We work as an extension of the Client design and engineering team, and we are all accountable for our deliverables. We win only when our clients win.

We identified several key features of a successful project that should be applied to all innovation initiatives with creative and technical teams. Here we go…

Take the time to write a well-defined project brief…

Work diligently with your cross-functional team to construct a clearly written design, engineering, or project brief. This key document will guide the team through the twisting journey traveled to take an idea through feasibility and proof of concept and physical property development.

Our experience with leading companies in diverse industries has shown that most teams rush through the design brief to start moving on the project. This is especially true of lean teams working with reduced headcount and erosion of experienced management.

Teams get stressed when unrealistic budgets and deadlines are shared with little planning or rationale for the demands. This leads to attrition and ultimately the challenges of recruiting new talent in a hyper competitive landscape.

We provide a guide on how to develop a well-defined project brief on our website. This can be found here: Fredricks Design Step by Step Guide to Building a Realistic RFP

Plan the work and work the plan…

After all members of the team have provided input to the brief and approved the document, an equal amount of energy and focus should be dedicated to the plan for key phases of the project.

In many cases, the early phases of the project are compressed to reflect a short timeline for ideation, feasibility, and concept development to make room for additional time and capital to complete production engineering and tooling.

It is our belief that if sufficient time is planned for the early phase of any project, the investment will be returned in later phases via reduced iterations, leaner design and an enhanced end-user experience. A lack of well-informed planning in early stages of development begins an uphill battle that leads to increased iterations due to unexpected feedback from production and engineering teams. This effect snowballs throughout the program forcing delays in timing and headaches for all parties involved.



Team growth and flexibility…

CEOs and leadership teams are now beginning to consider options for growth. Do we recruit and hire for our core team, engage with external resources, or pursue a hybrid model blending incremental growth to the internal team while working with flexible resources?

We have found success through turbulent times in the hybrid model. Our core design and engineering team is lean, and we engage with proven, flexible resources to scale up for sold projects.

We have also forged a strong partnership with Prefix Companies to offer turn-key solutions from sketch through manufacturing, assembly test and installation of vehicles, rides, animated props, and furniture. This flexible offering provides our clients with a wide range of services scaled to the unique requirements of each project. We are liberated to identify the best materials, processes, and methodologies for each project.

We welcome your comments on this article. Please visit us at and download any of our content offers. We look forward to working together when the time is right!

Best wishes for future success on all of your projects!

Maury Fredricks

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Innovative Project Planning and Management



siloed marketing, design and engineering teams

Work as a collaborative team to reduce iterations and improve project flow.

Our work with marketing, design and engineering teams over the past several decades has been an interesting and challenging journey. We have been lucky in our work with diverse teams in different industries.

There are common challenges and goals for all teams working on concepts for innovative products and services. Whatever business you are in, there are a few fundamentals for application in the planning and execution of your projects.

The Design Brief is the project roadmap.

Every project begins with a design brief including constraints on time, budget, and performance metrics. These guidelines, of course, are established after an agreement is reached on the design or project brief with key stakeholders. The problem statement, resources, assignments and measurable goals must be included in the brief. A well-written brief will help guide the team from research through production release and market launch.

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

Fredricks Design Updates: Themed Attraction Trends

Fredricks Design Updates: Themed Attraction Trends

Themed attractions are consistently trending towards immersive, captivating experiences that take park guests out of the everyday and transport them to another world. From The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to new, immersive Jurassic Park attractions, guests are looking to be entertained and thrilled all at once. As the industry embraces and invests in emerging technologies, we’re able to create better, more immersive attractions that entertain and delight. Here’s a look at some of today’s themed attraction trends making rides and experiences more immersive and entertaining:

Dark Rides

Dark rides have been around since the late 1900s, when they were called “old mill” rides and passengers would sit in a small boat as they were transported through wooden canal systems. In 1928, the first single-rail dark ride (The Pretzel, by Leon Cassidy) was patented, and since then new technological advances in video quality, sound, and capabilities of the attraction properties themselves have taken these rides to the next level.

Dark rides have a unique ability to remove guests entirely from the natural world and take them somewhere completely new with immersive features like lighting, video, and even actors and live performers moving throughout the experience.

This new dark ride by California’s Legacy Entertainment will be the world’s first dark ride to integrate both live performers and stunt shows. Produced for the Trans Studio Bali theme park in Indonesia, this ride will feature all the aspects of dark rides guests love — attractive, immersive video and an exceptional original music score by Benoit Jutras — plus additional features like motion base vehicles, and most notably, live stunt performers and actors that will make the ride, called Road Rage, one of a kind.

This new trend of dark rides offering both a ride and a show is one furthering the immersive entertainment aspects of themed attractions, and we’re excited to see where it goes.

Multisensory Experiences

Audio and visual technologies have been used for years to transport guests to another world. New trends in themed attraction development are now incorporating all of the senses, taking themed attractions to the next level. Incorporating touch, smell, and sound with dark ride technology, new sensory experience attractions are gaining much popularity.

Right now, Disney’s Avatar: Flight of Passage ride may be the most notable multisensory attraction in a park, though BBC and Sega’s collaboration, Orbi, an experimental natural history theme park in Japan, offers another impressive multisensory experience. Orbi invites visitors to step into 12 different natural zones that look, smell, feel, and sound like the real thing, from Yellowstone to the polar ice caps.

Multisensory experiences are just finding a foothold in themed attraction, but when they deliver an exceptional, realistic experience like these examples, they’re sure to keep growing, resulting in longer guest stays at the park and repeat visitors.

Personalized Experiences

In an increasingly impersonal world, personalized experiences in themed attractions are gaining popularity. While this technology is still developing, the idea of personalizing a guest’s experience in a themed attraction or at a park has certainly taken hold.

At the National Comedy Center, for example, guests are offered an RFID bracelet to scan. With the bracelet, they are able to tell a kiosk what types of things make them laugh. From that point on, their entire visitor experience is personalized for their sense of humor.

This type of personalized experience is what today’s consumers are looking for, and we won’t be surprised to see themed attractions take on the concept of personalization to offer guests a unique, one-of-a-kind experience, every time.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality has been in development for quite some time, but it only continues to improve themed attraction experiences for guests. VR has the unique ability to totally transform a guest’s experience, and it offers the immersive ride qualities that today’s consumers are looking for.

The versatility of VR ensures that themed attraction parks can recreate old experiences, or reprogram an attraction space for a new experience, with a significantly smaller investment. As VR technology improves, the themed attraction experience also improves.

Though VR still presents some tricky development aspects — motion and images must be timed perfectly to ensure guest comfort — it’s a themed attraction trend we know will be sticking around for quite some time.

There’s a lot happening in the world of themed attraction, and we’re always excited to learn about design and technology trends making rides and attractions more entertaining and immersive.

Fredricks Design is a leader in themed ride and animated prop development, and we’d love to help you develop concepts and properties that complete and enhance the immersive qualities of your ride’s experience. For more information about our work and past themed attraction projects, give us a call.

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Keeping Themed Attraction Development Going Through the Holidays

Keeping Themed Attraction Development Going Through the Holidays

The holidays are a busy time for everyone, but the hustle and bustle of the season tends to have increased impact on the themed attraction industry, when most final deadlines don’t arrive until spring and summer. When people leave for holiday vacation, and major deadlines seem far away, it can be difficult to keep your themed attraction production on schedule.

One of the best ways to minimize the holiday struggle is to hire an experienced design and engineering firm to take on some of the work your team can’t quite finish. If you’re not sure that’s the best move for your company quite yet through, here are a few tips to help your team maintain focus on a big project over the holidays:

Finish or Suspend Big Projects in Advance

The best way to avoid the holiday lag is to plan for it. Move deadlines up before the holidays set in, or find a reasonable stopping point and press pause until everyone comes back from their holiday time-off. While this doesn’t necessarily boost your production, it does minimize the discouragement everyone feels when they come back in the New Year to deadlines already passed.

Identify Key Priorities

If, like many themed attraction developers, you don’t have the luxury of suspending big projects, make it easier for teams to focus on key priorities. Make expectations very clear, and move the focus from those final deadlines in the spring and summer to more tangible midpoint deadlines that are closer. Encourage everyone involved to make a list of what they need to accomplish before they leave, and work with them to ensure they complete as much as possible.

Foster Collaboration

During the holidays, most of your themed attraction production teams are working in skeleton crews. Instead of letting everyone struggle along shorthanded, encourage inter-team collaboration. This can incite innovation, and it takes some of the pressure off of employees who aren’t able to take much holiday vacation.

Offer Flex Time

A little flex time can go a long way, especially during the holiday season. If you offer a few hours off for employees to get some of their holiday shopping done, you’ll find people are more focused on the hours that they are in the office. Consider offering everyone a choice afternoon off for more focus at work.

How Hiring a Creative Product Solutions Firm Can Help

There are a lot of ways to encourage more productivity from your existing teams, but when most of your themed attraction production groups are already working short handed, it can be asking a lot just to get through the normal day-to-day. That doesn’t leave much room for additional innovation or new ideas through the holiday season, which can hurt your attractions in the long run.

If you know your team just won’t be able to get everything done over the holidays, consider hiring a creative design and engineering firm for additional support on a project or two. Fresh, rested eyes and a new perspective can spark innovation, and help keep themed attraction production going. Here are a few other benefits of hiring an industrial design firm to start or finish a new project over the holidays:

Increased Productivity

If you’re running a little short handed through the holiday season, the right design and engineering firm can help give your productivity a boost. It takes some of the burden off of your teams’ shoulders, and affords them the time they need to complete the rest of their tasks efficiently.

Hiring an industrial design firm also helps speed your production along a bit. A firm you hire to develop a product has the team they need to meet your deadline on hand. Their team will be dedicated to your product, and only that project, whereas your own team probably has quite a few tasks on their plate.

Minimize Overload

When a number of employees leave for the holidays, it leaves everyone who remains with an inordinate amount of work, which can cause a lot of stress that hinders productivity. By hiring a qualified outside firm to handle your project, you lessen the overload on your pared down teams, ensuring they can come into work every day refreshed and ready to get their work done.

Boost Innovation

When we are all struggling to meet deadlines, especially over the holidays, it can be difficult to allow adequate space for innovation. When employees focus on nothing but “getting it done” so they can move onto the next task, they’re unlikely to infuse the same innovation and creativity they might have if they were working with more time and less pressure.

The added benefit of a creative product solution firm is that they’re approaching your product with fresh eyes and a new perspective, which means they’ll bring new concepts and ideas to the table. This boosts innovation, and helps put your themed attraction project ahead of the competition.

Specialized Expertise

With key people out over the holidays, you don’t always have the experienced team members on hand that you usually do. When you choose to hand a project off to an industrial design firm, you’re essentially hiring on specialized expertise with a laser focus on your project. There’s no worry of training or experience level, because you’re hiring a team full of experts who know exactly what they need to do to create the product that will take your themed attraction to the next level.

In the end, hiring an industrial design and engineering studio gives you a highly qualified support team with the experience and innovation you need to keep themed attraction development going through the holidays.

If you’re looking for a bit of extra help this holiday season, Fredricks Design can help. From new product development to project management, we’ve got the experience, creative talent and the engineering know-how you need to continue project development, even through the holidays. Let us know what we can innovate for you.

Happy Holidays and best wishes for a fantastic 2019!

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