True I.D. Stories
Editor: Last time Anonymous Designer ran down the first five hassles with organizing a group design show: Getting funding, organizing your unruly band of designers, wrangling the troublemakers, fighting over the design of the space, and finally producing your own work. Here he lists the remaining five obstacles.
6. Transportation Logistics, Part 1: Group to Home Base
You know what makes you wish you'd gone into graphic design, rather than industrial design? Physically transporting your pieces. First off, in a group show you've got to get every designer's pieces from their separate workshops and production houses to the central loading dock that you will ship out from. And in this city a lot of people don't have cars, so they have to figure out a ZipCar, but they got the wrong size and their piece doesn't fit, or they try to borrow a friend's car, but the friend is late or doesn't show up, and now you're going to miss the truck to City B...
7. Transportation Logistics, Part 2: Home Base to Venue
How do you actually get the entire group's stuff from City A to City B? Do you rent a U-Haul and flip coins to see which two team members are going to make the 16-hour drive? Do you trust the guy who couldn't find your shop from his shop just four blocks away to make it several states away to City B within the prescribed time window?
Last year we ended up hiring a private trucker. He drove the 16 hours to City B, unloaded, then drove to a site we found outside the city where he could dump the truck for five days. Then we put him in a taxi to the airport and flew him back to City A. Five days later we flew him back out to City B, sent someone to pick him up at the airport to bring him to the truck, then he drove the truck to the venue, loaded up, and drove back to City A. Imagine how long it took to plan and coordinate that, and then double your estimate.
8. Dealing with the Venue.
The exhibition venues give you very finite loading dock instructions, for example you'll have exactly 30 minutes of loading dock time starting at 7:30 AM—and that's it. If your truck isn't there at the right time you are just shit out of luck.
If you've successfully navigated that hurdle, now the real fun begins! Some venues are worse than others, but it's usually just a laundry list of constraints and stipulations: Your load-in, load-out docking schedule, problems with infrastructure, you can't hang that light here, you can't attach anything to this wall, you can't get power over there, you've gotta wait for the union guy to install this thing, that signage can't go there, we didn't get your VIP list, and on and on. It's like you need a whole 'nother committee just to deal with these issues. And there's this magic thing that happens where an e-mail from the venue comes in to your phone at the exact moment you've just finished doing something—and the e-mail explains that oh, by the way, you absolutely cannot do whatever it is you've just done.
9. The Inevitable Designer Meltdown.
As I've seen in many a group show, there's always a point where things go wrong, shit hits the fan and folks get upset. It would be one thing if we were a group of mathematicians, but you'll find designers can be... a bit more temperamental. Feelings get buried and later triggered by something seemingly small. Someone doesn't like the position of a piece within the space, voices start getting raised, and eventually there's a huge blowout. You know it's all going to work out in the end and everyone's going to be fine, but it's still no goddamn fun when you're in the middle of it.
10. Big Talkers.
Once you're actually at the show and everything's worked out, now you've got to deal with... the Big Talkers. I don't know why, but there's a particular city I won't name that seems to have more of these people. The Big Talkers are the people who are Really Interested, who Really Want to Do Some Business, the people who really want to license this piece, or order that piece, and fill their shops with your stuff. But more often than not, you'll find it's all just talk. So over the years I've learned to not get too excited before the checks are signed.