AIGA Student/Pro Mixer

10 Feb

Recently, I had the chance to coordinate an awesome event here in town. AIGA Chattanooga wanted to give local students and professionals a chance to meet, mingle, and network in an open and stress-free environment; a mixer, if you will. A really great idea that would allow students a chance to overcome their fears of talking to people who had established themselves in the field they were trying to get into, and give local professionals a “sneak peek” of the fresh talent coming out of our schools (hello internship opportunities!).

Some of you may know I’ve been the intern at Widgets & Stone since early November. I absolutely love it there, and have learned so much in my time spent at the studio. I could go on and on about everything the studio has done for me, but that’s another post altogether. My point is, Paul Rustand (director at Widgets, president of AIGA Chattanooga, and all around design superstar) appointed my benevolent supervisor DJ Trischler and I to develop, organize and coordinate the event. DJ generously gave me control over the process, giving me an opportunity to take on a project that would become my own. He wrote about the process from his perspective on his blog. Through his direction and logistical aid, I developed a concept for the mixer, designated a location, created promotional materials, and promoted the idea throughout Chattanooga’s professional design community, as well as the art departments at UTC, Covenant and Southern Adventist.

The logistics were the first thing we figured out. We knew almost immediately that Tubatomic would be a perfect place for the event, and met up with the ever hilarious and wonderful George Bairaktaris to talk about hosting the event. He graciously agreed to let us use the gorgeous space and the planning got underway. We arranged for the Blue Plate to cater the event (delicious), and got a torpedo keg, several bottles of wine, soda, tea and water. With all the logistics out of the way, we now had to figure out structure and promotion.

In thinking about how to structure this thing, I considered all the things that made (and sometimes still make) me nervous about talking to professionals as a student. I wanted to avoid the natural, comfortable groupings of students on one side and professionals on the other. If it was going to be a mixer, darn it, people should be mixing! It was a tricky area, determining structure, because if we put too much structure into it, people would get bored. We wanted everyone to feel free to have the conversations they wanted to; the conversations that would happen naturally once the proverbial ice was broken. I was faced with my first challenge: how do we get people to talk to each other? DJ and I began brainstorming. We knew we didn’t want to call upon any hokey, “summer camp” style icebreakers; we needed something that felt original and approachable, and would easily get people engaged. Finally the idea emerged: music! Everyone enjoys music, and we felt that allowing people to gain a common ground that wasn’t based in design work would make it easier for them to get a conversation started. As designers, we talk/think/eat/sleep/breathe design all day. We do it because we love it, but good greif sometimes we just want to talk about something else. Music was going to become that “something else.”

It was decided then, that when people RSVP’d to the mixer, they would do so with the addition of the title and artist of a song. It could be their favorite song, a guilty pleasure song, a song they get stuck in their heads, or just whatever song they happened to be listening to at the moment. This would create the playlist for the party, and everyone’s name tag would feature their name and the song they chose. That way, when the song started playing, a conversation might start:

“Hey, this is my song!”
“Oh, you like this band? I love them!”
“Oh yeah, they’re awesome. By the way, my name’s blah blah blah blah…”

I created a Grooveshark playlist so that it could be updated live at the mixer by anyone who wanted to hear a particular song. It worked out great. It was a really fun and interactive way for everyone to engage with each other and with the mixer itself. Not counting the RSVP’d songs, we had a total of 37 songs added to the playlist live at the mixer!

Working off this idea of a virtual mixtape, I developed the mixer brand around the idea of color mixing in a Venn diagram type shape that would also be reminiscent of the spools of tape within a cassette. I busted out the trusty Color Aid paper from color theory class, and began mixing the color by eye and cutting the pieces out. Photos worked better than the scanner, as color is a tricky beast that changes drastically under any condition. In keeping pace with this handmade quality, DJ led me to the woodblock type we have in the studio. Scanned and arranged in Illustrator, this perfectly accompanied the color graphic I had made. I wanted the poster to have a Hatch Show Print meets Saul Bass with a clean modernism kind of feel. At least, that’s where my inspiration started. Here is the poster (all three versions) and name tags:

I never did get a head count (or any pictures, very sad), but the turnout was amazing. I would say we easily had between 50-60 people there, and a good ratio of professionals and students. I know I had a great time, met some really amazing people, and connected even more with people I already knew. I’ve heard a lot of great stories about people making connections at the mixer and I’m so, so glad it went well for everyone. Thank you so much everyone who came out!

Big thanks to:
AIGA Chattanooga for sponsoring the event.
The Blue Plate for providing the delicious food.
Tubatomic for letting us use your phenomenal space.
And all you glorious pros and students who came out. Without you, there wouldn’t be a mixer! Thanks everyone for making this a success.


2 Responses to “AIGA Student/Pro Mixer”

  1. Brian Parks February 12, 2010 at 4:07 pm #

    I had a great time at this event. I wish I had picked a song, but you know—I got shit to do.

    The posters you made for this were great. I know I gave you a hard time about them but I really, really like them.

    I especially like the type treatment and what you did with that.

    Anyway, great work. Looking forward to the next event.

    • beth joseph February 12, 2010 at 5:55 pm #

      Thanks, Brian! And thanks so much for coming out. It was a crazy amount of fun.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: