Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Day 7: Designing the Guest Experience

After the amazing time I had enjoyed with Planning & Design the previous week, I was greatly looking forward to a second afternoon with them. As I entered the low building, Mr. Decker once again came out immediately to greet me and shake my hand. Today, he said, my time would be spent with his associate I met last week, Mark Schoelwer. Mr. Schoelwer's office is located just down the hall, desks cluttered with papers and blueprints. While a large wall-to-wall drawing of the Castaway Bay waterpark takes up the back wall, along the side current projects are displayed, tacked up one on top of the other.

I started off by looking through old design concept books sitting on Mr. Schoelwer's shelves. Some of them had actually come from the original Paramount Parks, others were theme park concepts that Mr. Schoelwer had brought with him from his former company. There was a very interesting packet for Kings Dominion's Planet Snoopy children's area, with a very interesting breakdown for each ride and each scenery piece in the new area. It's amazing just how much thought must go into each individual piece of an attraction.

As I was looking through these packets, Mr. Schoelwer was busy working on Camp Snoopy renovations for Knott's Berry Farm. A few different times, one of his associates came in with revised blueprints for the area. The entire area is getting revamped to celebrate Camp Snoopy's 30th anniversary, and it was great fun to watch Mr. Schoelwer pore over the plans and sketch in revisions as he went. I've always wondered how long it takes for projects like these to come to fruition. Mr. Schoelwer told me that big projects are usually started a few years ahead of time, but work usually picks up for a project about a year before it will open. A lot of decision-making actually happens even after a ride or attraction is announced to the public, as was clearly the case with Knott's Camp Snoopy.

Mr. Schoelwer and I took a break from the office after that and headed into the back of the building, where the sign shop is located. I had been back here the week before but today it was mostly quiet in the back. Upstairs, there are rooms full of old concept art, designs, and blueprints. There was a very cool Magnum XL-200 poster from 1989, as well as 3D models of Raptor and Shoot the Rapids. There was even some old merchandise - Mr. Schoelwer was kind enough to give me a CoasterMania! 2008 sweatshirt. After that, it was back into the main offices, where I met Barb Wozniak in the art department.

Mrs. Wozniak manages all art concepts and print projects from start to finish, for each of the eleven parks in the Cedar Fair chain. These projects range from logos to merchandise design to park maps to web graphics. Anything artistic you see for any of the parks comes out of Mrs. Wozniak's offices. She works with a team of four designers, who split up the parks between them and then rotate them on a yearly basis. Some parks, as they explained, are easier to work with than others. Each park is responsible for sending the art department ride and park photos; often times, a park will request a graphic with photos of a particular ride, but they've forgotten to send in photos in the first place! Coordinating with each park is often the most difficult part of the job, as well as handling the sheer number of jobs that the department gets. Their favorite projects are when they get to announce a new ride or attraction; in those cases, the art department gets really creative in designing their invitations. As they were telling me this, they began to pull out examples of the invitations and soon they were loading me up with all sorts of creations to take home and display.

And just like that, my time at Cedar Point had come to an end. It was 4:00 and my time was up, but I thanked Mrs. Wozniak and Mr. Schoelwer again before I headed out. I've had an excellent time at the park and I've learned a lot about just how much work goes into a park - it's truly incredible. More than anything, my time at Cedar Point has confirmed that amusement parks are truly my passion. Looking forward with that in mind, I'm more excited than ever for the IAAPA Convention and everything else I'll get to do this week. I'll have more updates soon!



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