The Formation of an Exhibit Designer: MATT McLAUGHLIN

EDPA University Affiliations Committee and BSU, a success story

How the EDPA Mentoring Program and Elevation Exhibits & Events gave quick study, Matt McLaughlin the wings to fly.

For some of us, career choice is inherent. It sits in its fully formed package, waiting until we open it.  Sometimes it’s about being at the right place at the right time.  In Matt McLaughlin’s case – like his first serendipitous photo, Eagle Taking Flight – it was both.

After graduating from high school, with a good education on the concepts of design and the creative process, McLaughlin knew what he wanted to do… create.  Something. Somehow.

That summer, McLaughlin met a friend and his father boating and taking photos. On a whim, his friend’s dad handed McLaughlin the camera and said, “Try it out.”  Unexpectedly, an eagle landed in his peripheral vision and perched on a tree branch.  They rowed closer. McLaughlin held up the camera at the same time the eagle took flight and held his finger on the button. From that moment, McLaughlin was hooked.

After completing two years at his local community college, McLaughlin enrolled in Bemidji State University (BSU) in Minnesota. He worked as a freelance photographer while attending school. Early in his college years, Dr. Bonnie Higgins, professor at BSU introduced McLaughlin to exhibit design. The course emphasized creating environments that included an amalgamation of graphic, architecture and interior design disciplines. McLaughlin soon enrolled in EDPA’s Mentorship Program.

Participating in, and eventually heading BSU’s Design Guild, McLaughlin planned trips to trade shows at some of the most popular event destinations – Chicago and Las Vegas. While there, he and his classmates took advantage of every amenity EDPA had to offer by immersing themselves in the education sessions and networking with future employers.  He later won the EDPA 2015 Exhibitor Magazine Student Achievement Award.

Through the EDPA Mentorship program, McLaughlin met Dana Esposito, Creative Director at Elevation Exhibits and Events and Vice President of EDPA’s Northeast chapter.  That meeting led to McLaughlin being offered a position as Exhibit Designer at Elevation in 2015, making Matt one of the few students hired before graduating. “Elevation is committed to finding the right mix that will help our clients stand out among their competitors,” said Esposito. “A critical part of that equation is fostering a steady stream of young talent with new ideas. The EDPA is a true partner in that endeavor.”

Since starting his career at Elevation Exhibit & Events, McLaughlin has contributed successful exhibit designs for several of its clients. “I really enjoy exhibit design,” said McLaughlin. “I don’t think I would have truly understood it to be a career path without the EDPA. And Elevation is the type of innovative company that nurtures creativity.  I am right where I belong.”