26 August 2015 // News

A View from Both Sides of the Fence, Part 2

Welcome back to our two-part look at how theme park design and operations collaborate, and sometimes collide. Last week, JRA Chief Operating Officer, Dan Schultz, reflected on his hybrid operations/design career and some of the issues he’s faced along the way. He also shared two tips on successful operator/designer collaboration – assemble the right team, and craft a joint vision for the project. Today, we’ll learn how to execute that vision successfully, and how to evaluate it once visitors are in the park.

Note: The original text for this blog series appeared in InPark Magazine.

So you’ve assembled and brainstormed, and now it’s time to get into the nitty gritty of design. Which brings us to my tip #3:

  • 3. Work in Progress

Operators: When you receive a progress set of drawings provided by the designer for a review, take the time to look at them carefully. The designer wants your input, both good and bad, as soon as possible. Providing good and thorough feedback in a timely manner will help avoid the potential for change orders later in the process.

Designers: Hit your deadlines. Provide your drawings when promised. If the operator is upset due to delays, the willingness to think objectively or ‘outside the box’ is immediately compromised. Your dream client is one that will consider your ideas with an open mind; bad performance on your part will destroy these opportunities.

What happens when designers and operators collide. Or, just a fun photo of me and JRA Co-founder Amy Merrell during our Paramount’s Kings Island days.

  • 4. Money Matters

Operators: Give the designer as much project budget information as possible. Reputable designers can work within budget parameters without stifling their creativity. If you elect not to provide budget guidelines, then you can’t be upset when you get designs you cannot afford to build or maintain.

Designers: Design responsibly. If you are given a project budget, then design toward that goal. In today’s economy, convincing an operator to find more money so that they can build your more elaborate, expensive concept is usually impossible. Focus your creativity on providing innovative ideas that fit the project budget. If you can do this successfully, you probably have developed a long-term relationship with the operator.

  • 5. Post Mortem

Operators: Immediately after grand opening, review the project development process and outcome. Did you get the project you desired? Were the goals of the project realized? Was the creative process efficient? Share your thoughts with the designer. This can lay the groundwork for your future relationship, or it can help you better understand your design (and designer) needs on your next project.

Designers: Immediately after grand opening, review the project development process and outcome. Does the final project work, both visually and operationally? Is there anything in the process that you would do differently? Did you maintain a positive working relationship with the operator? Ask the operator for an evaluation of the process and the final product. For designers, a completed project should be more than a paycheck and another line on a resume. It should also provide a valuable learning experience and, hopefully, a favorable reference from the operator for your next potential project.

In the end, what we’re really talking about is communication and respect for one another’s jobs, two things that can make any working relationship successful. In the real world, design and operation must go hand-in-hand. The most successful projects are the ones where everyone recognizes this and carries that philosophy through from the first meeting to the grand opening and beyond.

One of our latest theme park projects – Ferrari World Abu Dhabi.