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PAVE(ing) the way for future FIT university students

We sit down with Professor Reginald Rogers and three of his students Samaoira Kennedy, Ediley Diaz, and Elizabeth Watkins to find out how the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and the PAVE competition is paving the way for visual merchandising, retail and display education.

PAVE(ing) the way for future FIT university students

Reginald Rogers(left), Ediley Diaz (middle), Elizabeth Watkins (right)

First up Reginald! He graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a major in Display & Exhibit Design and a minor in Interior Design. His career has guided him to consulting and design for retail and wholesale brands, including showrooms, trade shows, retail stores, experiential design, and visitor engagement. 

 Could you give us a little background on your teaching principles?

 As a professor in the Communication Design Pathways Department, I have developed a wide range of techniques and course practices that have been applied to the diverse disciplines within the Visual Presentation & Exhibition Design department (VPED), such as Visual Presentation in In-Store Design, Merchandising Lab for In-Store Design, and Advanced Store Design. Whether it’s a new search engine, a mobile device or a social media app, I’m always on the lookout for new and relevant design languages (SketchUp) to keep students engaged and inspired.

For example; a recent project asked students to develop a concept pop up shop or experiential event. The project required an Instagram component because utilizing relatable technology and design creates a more active, inquisitive student. It’s important to foster critical thinking and problem-solving strategies by providing challenges that deliver a sense of accomplishment when achieved. I am always asking, “How can I leverage their everyday activities as teaching aids”?

What do you see are the biggest challenges for graduating students in the retail and exhibition design industry?

Students are traditionally apprehensive about their future endeavors. At all skill levels, students are concerned with their ability to adapt to the real-world job market. The new student is driven by job placement and wants to know, will they be marketable? The department does an amazing job with industry partnerships, internships, global design challenges and delivering relevant and up-to-date industry content. We focus on building confidence, helping students to embrace the principles and to trust the design process they’ve developed throughout their semesters at FIT.

Speaking of industry partnerships and global design challenges, we hear your class is participating in the PAVE competition. What is PAVE and why is it important for your students to participate?

PAVE is a non-profit organization for the advancement of the education of students to the retail and design industry. They connect students, educators, and professionals in the retail industry. They provide students with financial support and industry exposure. PAVE connects educators and industry professionals-enriching curricula and encouraging industry dialogue. They sponsor multiple global design challenges for university students, which influences the student’s global point of view.

So how does this all impact the students? We learn first-hand how FIT students, Samaoira Kennedy, Ediley Diaz, and Elizabeth Watkins use SketchUp and how it made their PAVE submissions and other semester projects come to life!

Introducing, Samaoira Kennedy, BFA visual presentation exhibition design:

Why did you decide to take retail and exhibition design classes at FIT? 

I am extremely passionate when it comes to designing 3D environments via SketchUp. After graduation, I plan on moving to Boston and working at an interior design firm or getting my master’s in interior architecture.

Could you give us an overview of your PAVE submissions?

For my spring PAVE submission, I partnered with Elizabeth Watkins (highlighted below) and we created a trade show booth for the tattoo ink company, Intenze. We designed with a limited color palette of black and Intenze pink to show off their brand. The booth is divided into two sections: the left side is for featured tattoo artists to perform demonstrations and the right side is for people to learn about the company. We also incorporated a mixture of physical and virtual elements to educate and show products to visitors.

Utilizing bold colors for the Intenze booth designed by Kennedy and Watkins

Utilizing bold colors for the Intenze booth designed by Kennedy and Watkins.

The design that I submitted for the fall PAVE is a furniture showroom inspired by Armani Casa and Restoration Hardware. The showroom had to be 10,000 square feet with vignettes of home spaces. I chose to do this project because it was a project that I was really passionate about and could really connect with. I was able to apply my own design and aesthetic and was really satisfied with the overall renderings.

Why do you use SketchUp? And does it help solve any of your design challenges?

I typically work in SketchUp for at least three hours a day. Because of that, I have gotten pretty comfortable using the program.

SketchUp solves 95% of my design challenges.

With my SketchUp designs, I use a lot of extensions and the 3D warehouse. I also use KubityPro to help with AR/VR visualization. I use the extension to view my design through VR, see the overall scale of it, and create a video or animation of my final project.

Kennedy designs
Different angles of design
Kennedy different design angles
FIT university student
Designs from FIT

Showcasing all of the angles with a semester project done by Kennedy.

What was your SketchUp workflow for your submission, and how did you start?

When starting a new project, I always use the Architectural template, change the style to shaded with textures, and always have the large toolset accessible. I start with basic shapes and work my way from there. For my showroom project, I started with designing the floor plan, on paper. Once I was satisfied with the plan I built it into SketchUp. Then I started playing around with the 3D warehouse and adding my own flare to it. I love to play around with textures because they can really make or break the design. 

Finally, I used Kubity, by exporting the design onto my phone through the Kubity extension. This helped me take my visualizations to another level: VR. 

How do 3D modeling and AR/VR help tell your design story?

Walking a client through a 3D render of a space makes the design concept 100% easier to explain. It allows them to visualize the space, see how furniture pieces might work, and essentially “walk” through the design.


Introducing Ediley Collante, BFA visual presentation exhibition design and associate’s in interior design:

Why did you decide to take retail and exhibition design classes at FIT? What do you plan to do when you graduate?

Not only does the program provide a broad knowledge in retail and exhibition design, but it also prepares us for our future careers. FIT doesn’t stop helping us when we graduate they provide job search help, career counseling, and networking opportunities. I plan to work at a commercial and retail design company after I graduate.

Could you give us an overview of your PAVE submission?

This year, I had two PAVE submissions: one for spring and one for fall.

For my spring PAVE submission, I worked with two other students: Johanna and Megan. We created a trade show booth for Intenze, a tattoo ink company. The goal of the design was to create a booth that educates the consumer on Intenze merchandise and their philosophy. This design is inspired by the angular forms and colors of the logo.

PAVE submission of the Intenze booth
PAVE submission of the Intenze booth

Ediley, Johanna, and Megan’s spring PAVE submission of the Intenze booth.

My fall PAVE submission was a Bank of America pop up store design. A key feature of my design that I think will help me in the PAVE competition is the abstract incorporation of the logo on the building structure. Another key feature is a living wall that promotes the design’s eco-friendly philosophy. 

One of the main challenges for me was to create the design’s angular structures. With Sketchup it was painless.

SketchUp helped me create a successful design solution and tackle all of my design challenges with ease.

PAVE submission of a Bank of America pop up store

PAVE submission of a Bank of America pop up store

PAVE submission of a Bank of America pop up store

Ediley’s fall PAVE submission of a Bank of America pop up store.

What was your SketchUp workflow?

First, I created the floorplan in AutoCAD and imported the file to SketchUp. I went over the plan with the Line and Rectangle tools and pulled the walls up. Then, I created the outside structure in a separate Layer. I added any type of aesthetic design to the interior. The last step was to add furnishings. Some of these I built, and others I found in the 3D Warehouse or the Podium Browser. For some textures, I used SketchUp Textures and the Podium browser.

FIT university students Ediley
Spring semester Ediley
University student project
Ediley University project
SketchUp at the University
Using SketchUp at FIT
SketchUp and a spring semester
Ediley uses SketchUp

A high-level glimpse into one of Ediley’s spring semester showroom projects using SketchUp.

Did you use any other programs (like AR/VR) to bring your design to life?

I used Kubity to get a quick rendered version of my design as I was creating it. For the final renderings, I used Twinmotion to reinforce textures and materials and to add lighting and Reflections. With both AR/VR and 3D modeling I was able to make my computerized designs look realistic, which helps me “sell” my designs visually, not just verbally.


Introducing Elizabeth Watkins, senior BFA visual presentation exhibition design: 

Why did you decide to take retail and exhibition design classes at FIT? 

I wanted to study something similar to interior design, but more focused on retail and museums. When I toured FIT and heard about the VPED major, it felt like the perfect major for me. 

Although I enjoy retail and exhibition design, I have developed a passion for architecture through my time with 3D modeling and designing floor plans. In the future, I hope to attend graduate school for architecture with a focus on sustainability and adaptive reuse.

Could you give us an overview of your PAVE submission? 

I did two PAVE submissions this year. For our spring PAVE submission, I partnered with Samaoira Kennedy (highlighted above). Like Samaoira mentioned, we designed a global trade show booth for Intenze, a tattoo ink company created by tattoo artist Mario Barth. For the design, we focused on the boldness of the Intenze brand and chose to design with a limited color palette of black and Intenze pink. We designed the minimal black wall with the 3D logo to act as a picture wall for social media. Even though the footprint is small, it is open and inviting with the different design elements.

The Intenze booth designed by Watkins and Kennedy

The Intenze booth designed by Watkins and Kennedy.

I also recently submitted my fall PAVE project: a Bank of America pop-up for a college campus. For that one, I chose to submit this project because I am proud of the design and the focus on sustainability.

Did SketchUp help solve any of your design challenges? If so, how?

SketchUp helps me solve almost all of my design challenges. For me, my design is not completely clear until I start modeling it in SketchUp. It allows me to visualize my designs. Through that visualization, I solve missing pieces of the puzzle, discovering and resolving problems that I didn’t know existed.

What was your SketchUp workflow?

I usually start by making a floor plan and then I make the overall structure three dimensional, creating a building shell. From there, I start building other rooms, walls, and structures. While building those, I start to apply materials and furnishings to make the design more realistic. I use Podium to apply material properties, add lighting, and render. I also use Kubity to walk through the space virtually as it allows me to see the space in more of a real-life scale, instead of just on my laptop screen.

Using SketchUp and rendering software
Using SketchUp and rendering software

Using SketchUp and rendering software to bring her design to life.

3D modeling makes my designs feel real and gives them life. It elevates them to a whole new level that could not be accomplished otherwise. AR and VR brings that 3D model into the physical world by allowing me to experience my design as much as possible without physically building it.

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About the Author

When Cara's not writing copy or learning about customer workflows, you can find her on top of a 14,000 ft mountain, hitting up those Colorado ski slopes, or binging Netflix shows on her couch.

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