Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Breaking In - A Career In Theme Park Design

As an architect and owner's representative who specializes in theme park design and renovation, I am often approached by individuals who are interested in making a career of designing for the themed destination entertainment industry. Since each individual's path is different, I can not presume to give specific directions, but what I can do is offer up some mindset changing insights which can start the person on the path to self empowerment and empathy for others.  Traits which will serve them well in their quest for a meaningful career.

What follows is an excerpt from a letter I wrote to an individual seeking a career as an Architect in themed design.

A Letter on Philosophy...

...You asked about what resources to look at in regards to architecture.  I will turn that a bit around.  The function of an architect in themed design has a heavy focus on integrating very disparate goals, disciplines, personalities, and mindsets.  My greatest assets in this work have been the breath of my understanding and my willingness to see multiple viewpoints and priorities.

As I have broadened my empathy for other individuals' ideas, passions, bigotries, and deep personal histories which drive their daily moods, thoughts, and attitudes, I have become more and more effective at the roles of coordinator, and translator for communications in complex and brilliant teams of individuals.

I have found that empathy for others begins with empathy for your self.  I highly encourage you to delve deep into as many of your passions and emotions you possibly can.  Challenge your assumptions, and really make an effort to see the world not just from other people’s eyes, but from within their deep seated history.

Themed environment projects, by their nature, bring together rich and diverse groups of people in order to deliver the final experience.  Anything you can do to put yourself at the team's mental center, deeply connected to the most numbers of those personalities, will increase not only your measurable success, but your personal pride, humility, fulfillment and of course happiness.

In abstract terms, I recommend that you read up on psychology, logic, and philosophy.  In more practical terms, work on practicing honesty, connection, curiosity, and empathy in your own life every hour of every day.  Start by asking yourself how you feel about a given situation right in the moment as you are feeling uneasy or passionate.

Try not to jump to conclusions or easy answers about feelings.  What we feel are the hot springs bubbling up from our deep seated responses to long strings of related experiences in our subconscious.  To start to empathize with the sources of our own feelings is the break-through which allows us to start to truly empathize with others.

Another example of a direct next step is to explore your passions directly and without shame.  If you are interested in themed design, go do themed design, whether someone will pay you for it or not.

Here is an example of following a passion without shame...  I felt the passion for emotion based design while in architecture school.  The idea of design based on a fictional story built just for amusement was not taken seriously at my school.  The prevailing conclusion was that architecture was serious business.  Well, I was feeling unfulfilled by all the seriousness.

Park Street Place: A Personal Expression
In my third year of college, exasperated and with no thoughts of landing a job, I built a themed facade for my dorm room.  I did it just to relive my own tension and fulfill my own curiosity.  I designed it, built it, installed it, marketed it, and even had an opening ceremony with ribbon cutting.  It felt completely off the wall at the time, but in parallel felt like the most natural thing in the world.

In the end, that construction was a turning point in my respect for my self.  I had followed a powerful thought through to its conclusion and in turn, others noticed.  While what I did was definitely unconventional, it put me on the map in others' minds as someone to keep an eye on.  Someone who committed all they way when they truly believed in something.  In this simple act, I became an inspiration and a leader for my peers while launching my successful and exciting career in theme park design. 

Reaching Out 

I hope you found some interest in the thoughts I was attempting to communicate above.  My greatest pleasure in life is in exploring the complexities of being human with curious companions.  If you are curious, I would love to hear from you; we have a lot to talk about! :)

Obvious Disclaimer

My thoughts are simply my own.  They do not represent the thoughts or opinions of other individuals at Walt Disney Imagineering or The Walt Disney Company, nor should they be construed as official statements from those companies. If you are curious about thoughts or statements from those people or groups, you should really just ask them.

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