Read time: 5 minutes
SEGD is a global, multidisciplinary community of professionals who plan, design, and build experiences that connect people to place. Our community includes over 2,000 members from 35 countries, and every person has an SEGD love story. Whether it’s participating in an event that advanced your design perspective, meeting someone who would become a lifelong creative collaborator, or discovering a new project that you were drawn to, SEGD has fostered countless connections over the years.
We’ll highlight a range of SEGDers leading into our 50th anniversary in summer 2023. Each member has a distinct SEGD experience, and all are connected in how SEGD has advanced their passions and pursuits. Follow the “SEGD Love Stories” series to hear from people who love SEGD.
Want to share your story? Please complete this interest form. We may highlight it over the course of the year!
Brian G. Jones
Title: Chief Operating Officer / Creative Director
Firm: Crystal McKenzie, Inc. / https://cminyc.com
What is your past and present connection to design?
A high school peer of mine was a great illustrator and graphic designer. His work was being printed — it was totally cool. Then, when I found out he was going to Carnegie Mellon, I said that’s the school for me. When I collected literature about the program, I connected with what they taught. That experience led me to the notion of what design was. Today, I am motivated to stay in the field when I see work come to fruition. It’s a slightly different impetus now because I do a lot of my work in teams. If you want to get something really cool done, you have to have partners. Seeing work come to fruition and have an impact on other people’s lives, that’s what keeps me going.
How did you find your way to SEGD?
When I was in school, my senior thesis happened to be a traveling exhibit for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. SEGD was based in DC, so I think I first learned about the organization at that point. Meanwhile, I saw a lot of information running by my desk, but there was not a lot about exhibits. People were doing trade shows, booths and 3-D displays, but there wasn’t really a term for exhibitry back then.
Eventually, I attended an SEGD social event. It was very interesting — a multidisciplinary organization at the confluence of all these great kinds of ways to think about design, including dimensional lighting, texture, pattern, type, color, imagery, illustration. Later, I remember we were looking for some EGD people. We went to the SEGD job board because we realized it represents a specialized group. Anybody with SEGD is going to be just up the alley of that kind of unique, quirky combination of skills. The kind of “bowling ball, chicken and ping pong ball” skills that you need for this type of work. That’s what got me really sticking with SEGD.
In what ways has SEGD had a lasting impact for you?
SEGD evokes a very strong family feeling. I’ve been to a lot of conferences. And this one — the flavor and the atmosphere — is particularly unique. I attended the 2021 SEGD Conference in Philadelphia under some particularly life-changing circumstances. My experience was very warm and welcoming, but I didn’t have to jump in and participate in everything. In that circumstance, I could just be myself. I don’t know if that experience changed me, but it’s what has kept me engaged. I feel that it’s an important factor. These intangible attributes have had a real impact.
At the 2022 SEGD Conference in Portland, we each received someone else’s resume. I thought it was very touching. Though I didn’t know this person, I appreciated the opportunity to impact them. I can remember the very specific times in my own life and career where somebody said, “I don’t know you, but I trust you. I’m going take a little step of faith, trust you and see what happens.” Those situations have opened up a complete area of my career that I couldn’t have ever asked for or planned for. I believe if we had more of a giving economy, things would be a lot different than they are today.
I also have a broader perspective professionally because of SEGD. I’m working on something now, in which I am using the SEGD listserv. It’s where people ask questions and share answers, and I can get some insight. Because of SEGD’s familial quality, I am not overly concerned about revealing my cards and sharing, for example, that I am not familiar with a particular piece of information. I have confidence that that will not happen because of my other experiences with SEGD. I think in corporate atmospheres, whether it be corporate or organizational, that leadership ethos percolates down from the top. I tip my hat to the leadership for fostering this atmosphere.
How does design have a positive influence on the world?
Design thinking is the next level in business growth and communication. First, it was industrialization. What is it? It’s something mechanical. Next, we ask, what can it do for you? It’s a car. You can go places. The final step is to consider, does it enable you? How does it enable you? What can you do with it? How can it make you a better person? That deep inquiry is design thinking. Design thinking can take you to the next level and help distinguish you in the marketplace.
If you think about how design has impacted innovation and invention, design literally changes the world. We tend to think first of industrial design, but if you look at the full constellation of the design world, it’s all connected. In 1984, Olivetti produced a graphic that showed all the relationships of design disciplines. From Afro-Centric Cubism to the form follows function of Bauhaus, I think design has become the key differentiator for business growth. If you see any successful outliers in the business sector, look at what they’re doing — many times the difference is design. That, I think, is one of design’s positive influences.
What does the future of EGD look like to you?
It has to include sitting in a hammock, drinking a Caribbean cocktail, and pushing a couple of buttons to change the vehicle wrap on a cruise liner. Just punch a few buttons to change all the cabins on deck one. In the next 50 years, software like that could happen.