2022 Q2 CEO Update: Countdown to 50…!

Read Time: 5 minutes

On July 3, 1973, John Berry, head of graphics and signage at Smith, Hinchman & Grylls (now SmithGroup), called on fellow designers to form a national organization of architectural sign designers. Five attended the first Annual Meeting: John Berry, Richard Burns, Jim Glass, Chuck Byrne, and Phil Meathe. Now, 49 years later, we have brought together many thousands — having  just concluded our 41st SEGD Conference and our 35th year of celebrating excellence in design with our SEGD Global Design Awards.

In many ways, the formation of this group nearly 50 years ago mirrored the profession itself. Both were in their infancy. SEGD was a grassroots organization, surviving on volunteers and a desire to establish common standards, codes, guidelines, and education. As a membership organization, we now welcome people from diverse multi-disciplinary areas of practice under the umbrella of “experiential” design that connects people to place. 

Today, we’re doing what most people looking towards their 50th birthday do: reflect and look ahead. We are considering the circuitous path that got us here, the trials and tribulations, the good times and bad. We are questioning our past impact and, moving forward, the roads less traveled to take. What have we left for the future generations and where will they go from here?

I believe 50 is the new 30. While we are no longer in our infancy, we are still young as a profession and organization. We are continuously energized by the contributions of emerging experience designers. During the 2022 SEGD Conference in Portland, we welcomed many students and first time SEGDers. Also, we are not set in our ways. The Conference brought together people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Conversations covered urgent topics facing our field: non-binary signage, houselessness, neurodiversity, social and political biases, environmental responsibility, the impact of war, violence and inequity on global communities, mentorship, and peer forums for professional growth.

The talks and events drew tears, standing ovations, and somber pauses. People shared laughter, reverence for the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, hugs, new friendships, tremendous reunions, and an admiration for those that contributed knowledge, sincerity, and generosity. Strung together, these priceless moments make SEGD unique. SEGD fosters true human connection that is worthy of overcoming travel woes during an ongoing pandemic or taking off work when your company is understaffed. We provide the respite needed to refuel, the realization that you are not alone, and the epiphany that design and creativity can lead to a more just, conscientious, and caring solution to a problem.

We’re spending this year refining and focusing. We are taking stock in what we do excellently. We are also considering where we need to redesign ourselves to meet the future needs of our experience community. It’s imperative to stay at the forefront of relevancy, always understanding how we show up to the world. Through public-facing projects such as our strategic planning effort and website audit, we aim to be as accessible as possible so people beyond our bubble know the impact and importance of the work we do and create. 

We have been and will remain committed to continuing to share our progress. We’ve involved our membership and community in our strategic planning effort via surveys, in-person and virtual workshops, and an interactive exhibit at the Conference. The effort is ongoing and we will continue to seek feedback and increase opportunities for volunteerism, input, and outreach.

We don’t turn 50 often, and we’re celebrating the milestone with exciting initiatives and launches. Expect a roll out of our new SEGD Strategic Plan with an updated mission and vision, in addition to renewed values and strategic initiatives. It will direct not only what we do as an organization but, more importantly, why we do it and what impact it will have. The Strategic Plan will guide the planning for our SEGD 50th Anniversary in 2023. We are developing a 50th brand identity, the next phase of the updated website and membership platform, and educational outreach — all in time to celebrate SEGD during our 2023 Annual Conference in Washington, DC between August 24-26, 2023. Add it to your calendar! 

That’s not all. We have more in-person and virtual programs planned for 2022. Here’s the flurry of activity awaiting us in the second half of the year: 

  • The 2022 SEGD Wayfinding + Placemaking Symposium is just around the corner. The virtual event on August 3 and 4 will consider wayfinding and placemaking innovations that shape environments. 
  • Later this fall, 2022 SEGD Branded Environments and Xlab will be in-person in New York City in tandem with NYC Digital Signage Week. During Branded Environments on October 13, we’ll focus on brand experiences that transform engagement. The focus shifts the next day during Xlab, when we consider bespoke digital and physical experiences. 
  • We’ll be at Digital Signage Experience in Las Vegas between November 17–19. Bryan Meszaros (CEO & Founder, OpenEye Global and Past SEGD President) will lead a session, as will Mary Franck (Creative Director, formerly at ESI Design | an NBBJ Studio), Alexandre Simionescu (Principal, Float4) and Abigail Honor (Principal, Lorem Ipsum). 
  • This November, we’re thrilled to be hosting a Pacific Rim event. This international event is in partnership with a few of our chapters in Australia. 

I know many of you are as excited as we are to get involved in these initiatives. Please complete this Google Form to let us know how you want to join in! We welcome all sorts of input and, in particular, we will be looking for participants to join new subcommittees based on the strategic initiatives in the fall. 

As we consider what 50 years of SEGD means to us, we look forward to hearing what it means to you. Please stay connected for more updates and get involved with one or many of our upcoming initiatives. Together, we will celebrate the past and future of experiential design.

Cybelle Jones