SEGD Love Stories – Richard Burns: How Far We’ve Come

The 2024 SEGD Love Stories series is presented by Archetype.

At last year’s 50th anniversary conference, John Berry and I gave a short presentation on the origins of SEGD. John, along with Jim Glass and myself, were the attendees at the first meeting in 1973, of what was to become SEGD. Rather than an anecdotal retrospective of what it took to birth the organization, we compiled our thoughts about the past, present and future of environmental and experiential graphic design.

I just attended the SEGD Sports + Entertainment event in Las Vegas. Our overarching observation in our 50th presentation was the ubiquitous influence of technology. From T-squares to computers, technology has shaped what we do, how we work, and the impact of what we create and contribute.

The name change in 2013 to the Society for Experiential Graphic Design was indicative of the evolution of the nature and impact of our member’s roles. To make a definitive point about technology, the final image of our presentation was an ‘experiential’ project, soon to be opened in Las Vegas – SPHERE.  It promised to be a bellwether of our future.

I first discovered Sphere from a plane window over Las Vegas. It appeared as a giant black globe, under construction, just off of the Strip. When I ask what it is, most had no idea.  A few mentioned, “it’s a theater.” As it neared completion, images began to appear showing a grand globe with its surface completely illuminated with LEDs. Once Sphere opened in September, there was no lack of media attention and the chance to learn much more about the U2 performances and “Postcard from Earth,” a movie created especially for the unique venue.

I was delighted to see that the SEGD Sports + Entertainment event would bring SEGD to Las Vegas, which is, without exception, the epicenter of experiential design. Sphere was just one experience as part of an amazing lineup. The conference was an overwhelming success with more than 200 attendees. Most interesting was a question by Cybelle to the audience as to how many had ever attended an SEGD event? Fully half the hands went up. From a society focused on signs and wayfinding, and hoping to garner some credibility among the established design professions, SEGD Sports + Entertainment cast a very wide net, attracting professionals from many allied  disciplines. The event was an overwhelming success.

The Circa venue in downtown Las Vegas was a perfect setting, the planning and execution by SEGD staff was impeccable, the programs were without exception, excellent, and this dive into a formidable area of experiential design affirmed everything we had suggested Sphere represented for redefining experiential design. I was particularly impressed with the quality, capabilities and commitment of the event’s many sponsors. A special shout out to Daktronics, who pointed us to the Circa, where they had been a key provider of the hotel’s amazing technology, and for hosting one of SEGD’s most impressive receptions.

Having been there at the beginning of SEGD, I am humbled and overwhelmed by what the SEGD has become.

Richard Burns, FSEGD, is a Co-Founder of SEGD and served as President from 1979-1986. Rich was also honored as the first SEGD Fellow alongside Jim Glass in 1987 and is a member of the SEGD 50th Foundation.

If you would like to share your SEGD Love Story, click the link below. We’ll highlight a range of SEGD member stories on our website and in our weekly newsletter throughout the year. The 2024 SEGD Love Stories series is presented by Archetype.

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