An inspiring event organized by Southwest Michigan First showcased the products, processes, and talents of Newell Design Center employees.

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October 2019

“We’ve been part of the Kalamazoo community for six years,” said Wyatt Cline, Vice President of Industrial Design. “We were grounded in the community but never really put our flag in the ground to say we’re here.” The opportunity arose from a partnership with Southwest Michigan First, an economic development organization that serves the seven-county area.

“We knew Southwest Michigan First has a focus on events for creative professionals,” said Jacob Ballard, senior industrial designer. “We were linked at the hip with Petey Stephanak, who runs events for them. For us, the beauty of it was that we had this newly renovated facility we could open up to the southwest Michigan creative design community.”

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The MIX event was designed for variety: opportunities to network, learn, and kick back and relax. First on the agenda was a “speed dating” workshop, when select guests could spend 10 minutes with representatives of a project before moving on to the next. “Each display was staffed by people who could talk about each role within the project: craftsmanship, CMF, industrial design for Mr. Coffee, for example,” Jacob explained. “We could share the whole design process, a peek behind the proverbial curtain.”

When the doors opened to all attendees, Petey and Wyatt welcomed them with introductions to both Southwest Michigan First and Newell Brands. In his presentation, Wyatt described the history, mission, and work of the Design Center, and introduced team members for mini-case-studies on recent projects. From there, guests could choose their focus: more case studies (including a full Coleman campsite), a kraft-paper-covered table for collaborative doodling, facility tours, hobby booths, or just listening to music from the DJ who kept the energy level high all evening.

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“The hobby booths were arguably the most fun part,” Jacob said. “We wanted to give some insight as to who we are as people, our varied personalities. About 10 people raised their hands and had booths to display their passions. One person displayed her watercolors, paints, and brushes; another his remote control drones; another his instruments and programs for creating music.” They were just a few of the many at the Design Center who wanted to be a part of the event, setting up exhibits, making presentations, giving tours, and cleaning up.

We wanted to give some insight as to who we are as people, our personalities. About ten people had booths to display their passions.
- Jacob Ballard, Senior Industrial Designer

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The event was successful in making connections between Newell Brands and the community, and between individuals. “There’s the Newell lens and what we did for the community,” said Wyatt, “and there’s the aspect of what the community does for us. Having 300 people come to the door gave especially our younger designers the sense that they’re not alone; there are many design talents and businesses in the area.”

“The fact that we had that much community made me aware of our impact as designers,” Jacob concurred, “which was really powerful. We had an event that sold out, lasting past the posted closing time. We had loyalty, pride, excitement, linking arm in arm.”

After the event, Nate Young, Senior Vice President of Design for Newell Brands, was invited to join the Southwest Michigan First board, a good sign that the connections with the community will continue to deepen.

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