Here at Root, I have the opportunity to work with many organizations – spanning practically every industry you can think of. One of our clients is in the telecommunications space, and we partner with them on various alignment and engagement projects across segments and at nearly every level of their organization. I’ve been part of many of those projects, and this led to what became the best experience I’ve had in my role as a Concept Artist.
A few years ago, this telecom client called us to create an interactive space with them for their two-day presence at a leading international engineering conference for women. A crack squad of cross-functional talent at Root assembled to brainstorm with them. We created a series of stations related to the talent, culture, career opportunities, inspiration, and fun. We worked with their installation vendor to bring the space alive and designed passports for participants to get a stamp at each station. It was a great way to give them incentive to explore everything this client brought to the conference.
When Inspiration Comes to Life
The station I helped run was a new idea from Root artists – an experiment with interactivity, showmanship, and aspiration. We called it the Inspiration Wall. We had a high-top table set up in front of us, and participants were given an index card with one, simple question:
What inspires you about the future of your industry or your career?
Behind us was a long wall of floor-to-ceiling windows (we applied a frosted film to the back of the of the glass to provide some opacity). This was our canvas. Once an attendee filled out their card, my colleague Lauren sorted them into categories and fellow artist Sam and I drew their answers on the wall. By the end of the conference, we had a stack of more than 450 cards — 450 attendees who visited our station and wrote about what inspires them.
We used the sections of the glass wall to separate the responses into themes. For example, we received more than 60 cards where attendee said they wanted to change the world. We were able to group them into one idea with the understanding that “Changing the World” had to stand out among the scenes. The two days were fast-paced and exciting as Lauren fielded the responses and Sam and I bumped and swerved to draw around each other to fill the wall.
An unexpected benefit of the station was that attendees often returned to our area hours later or even the next day. They were curious to see how the wall was progressing and to ask whether their scene had been drawn. Earning repeat visitors was a huge success because convention-goers rarely return to a booth or area twice. It gave the space a memorable and emotional resonance.
One of my favorite moments was when a woman returned to see if her story was on the wall. She’d filled out a card the day before and spoke with me about her life. She had grown up with no support network. Everyone in her life had told her she couldn’t become an engineer. So, she dropped out of high school and didn’t go to college. Later in life, she earned her master’s degree, started her own business in engineering, and has enjoyed great success. I was excited to see her back at the space on the second day and escorted her to the scene we drew for her: a woman wearing a graduation cap at a podium with a quote bubble saying, “I was told I couldn’t do it.” She teared up and covered her face as she took in the moment we’d captured. We all teared up.
Drawing Inspiration from Others
Much of the work we do at Root helps large, successful companies be even more successful. We help senior leadership teams gain alignment. We help empower managers to be the bridge between leaders and the front line. And we help the front line understand their part in the big picture. While all that has kept me coming to work with a smile every day for 21 years, the Inspiration Wall and the look on that woman’s face when she saw her story played back to her was a highlight of my career. It delivered on the client’s goal to make real connections with people who visited their space. On a personal level, the opportunity to listen to and draw the stories of these amazing women will inspire me for a long, long time.