Each month we profile one inspiring individual who is raising the bar in the meetings & events industry. Read on to learn why Katie Otis, Founder & Creative Director at Design in Mind, is our March 2021 #Eventprof of the Month.
Our #Eventprof of the Month series has been in desperate need of a feature from the creative services side of events, and now that time has arrived!
Event graphics like signage and environmental branding are so particular that it’s vital to work with a design team who knows how to design with this specific real-world application in mind. Think temporarily branding pillars, furniture, and windows and even creating 3D custom fabricated pieces.
This is why we love working with Design in Mind – a creative agency providing all kinds of branding and design services, but with a real niche in events. And it’s also why our feature this month is Katie Otis, their Founder & Creative Director (who side note, I was first introduced to Katie by Caryl Lyons from Roar Events, last month’s #Eventprof of the Month when we all worked together when I was the client at Taulia).
Let me back up… There are event agencies who provide event management services AND creative services, including graphic design. Dynamo isn’t one of those agencies. We are focused on the true event management side of things – managing the budget, sourcing and managing venues and vendors, and managing speakers and sponsors.
And a massive part of what we do is manage all the creative requests for all those pieces – signage, booth branding, swag, name badges, printed agendas, PowerPoint templates, event app branding, etc.
So you can imagine how much more smoothly things go when we work with designers who are experienced with events. I can’t tell you how valuable it has been to work with Katie’s team from having them on venue site visits to supporting us on the day. I look forward to the day we can all be having a drink in a hotel lobby after a site visit, whipping up ideas on how to transform the space into our client’s brand.
Read on for insights from Katie on agency life and designing for events around the globe.
Here are 10 questions with our March feature, Katie Otis.
1. What initially drew you into the events industry?
I wish I could say I always dreamed of branding events or that I chose the events industry to dive into because of a burning passion but the truth is it happened by accident. I had gained a little bit of experience in environmental design from when I worked at Yahoo, prior to starting my agency, but the big break didn’t happen until I was a few years into running my design agency.
At the time we specialized in branding, print design, and web (which we still do), but a trusted client of ours took a gamble and asked us to brand their large scale conference in SF. We knew their brand in and out and we had fun exploring ways to expand it in a space and create an experience vs a sea of pop-up banners and vinyl clings. They had the budget to support our ideas and the outcome was a success.
It was then that I fell in love with the process and also realized that event design allows us to exercise all of our service offerings at once. The rest is history.
2. What’s a day in the life of Katie like?
Hahaha…that’s a loaded question. Are we talking pre-Covid or now?
It used to go something like this:
Wake up at 5:20 to make it to a 6am spin class, pick up coffee on my way home and rush to get my son ready for the day, lunch packed, etc. Walk him up the street to school and rush back home. Take my first meeting of the day in my kitchen and then head into the office. From there the day would consist of back to back meetings and activities…some or all of these: a project kick off, team brainstorm, design review, pitch call, client presentation, administrative work, team lunch, proposal writing….. Once my team heads out for the day, I usually stick around and try to catch up on emails and tackle any top priority work that I didn’t get to.
Once home I try to unplug completely for a few hours to be a fully present mommy/wifey. At the end of day I’d either get in another workout, veg out on the couch with my hubby, get back online and do more work, or get in bed and read / browse social / reply to a day’s worth of texts.
Now, no day is alike…not even close. But overall less rushing, more family time, more sleep, less control, more head noise, and more ZOOMS!
And the future…well we’ll see?!
3. How do you feel your role helps advance your company’s overall goals?
My company is really run by my team. They are the talented ones who do the hard work every day to meet our goals. I would just say that I help set the goals, I have the relationships and network that have and continue to advance us, and I have enough years of experience in this industry to make big decisions with confidence.
4. How many events do you work on per year? What’s the mix?
It has really varied over the years. We have mostly worked on large annual events, not a lot of smaller ones because we are not solely an “Event” design company. We need to stay put often to serve our other non-event clients. The last couple years (pre-COVID) were the most intense because we were working on a global event series that had part of our team flying to India, Japan, London, NY…often back to back.
5. How do you measure success for the events you manage?
- Happy/repeat client
- Attendee feedback/reviews
- High end/top quality implementation of our design concepts
- Pulling off an idea that is unusual/unexpected
6. What was your biggest event fail, and how did you overcome it?
Not vetting the print/production vendors carefully and not babysitting the output and installation part of the project. It’s all in the execution! If there are flaws that are large and in your face…not very forgiving. I somewhat overcame it by first being honest with the client and then being creative and resourceful and figuring out how to fix all the problems myself as best as possible…in the wee hours of the night before registration opened.
7. Where do you see the events industry going in the future?
More hybrid events (mixing/blending virtual with physical). What that looks like… not sure!
8. Where do you find inspiration?
Attending other events, traveling, architecture & experience design research, Instagram, and Pinterest.
9. How do you find balance outside of work?
- Spend time with close friends and family
- Take frequent but short getaways
- Work out most days of the week
- Binge on netflix every once in awhile
- Red wine
- Tend to our new puppy
- Spa days
- Take my son to soccer practice and other fun activities
- & Try to always change things up to avoid monotony
10. Any advice for #eventprofs just getting started?
Meet as many people as possible. Understand your market and get to know the hotels and venues. Also, identify the types of events that you want to produce. You don’t have to produce everything under the sun. Do what you love and focus on that.
For more agency life and event design inspiration, follow Katie and her team on Instagram.