It is exciting to have the opportunity to apply for the SCAD Masters of Art in Design Management.
I consider myself very lucky as I am one of the fortunate people who have discovered their life’s purpose and am able to do what I love.
Design is my second career and the route to this point has been indirect, to say the least.
Previously, I was a freelance photographer for 15 years, specializing in editorial photography. That allowed me to travel around the world, to see and experience things that most people only dream about.
Back in 1994, I became engaged, and realized that my life as a traveling photographer would not be a good way to provide for a wife, and I was becoming tired of the travel and uncertainty of the freelance experience.
At that time, my fiancée was an architecture student at Lawrence Technological University, and I was living vicariously through her.
We were able to attend LTU lectures and field trips and I enjoyed the opportunity to discuss design with her instructors. Soon, it became apparent that I was more interested in what she was doing than my own business. I even taught myself AutoCAD, version 9, by going through her notes and completing, just for practice, the assignments that her instructors had assigned.
One day while we were discussing our future she suggested that I pursue a career in architecture, since I was so involved, and cared so much about her studies.
The first class I took was drafting at Macomb Community College in Warren, MI. I didn’t realize just how much that class would change my life. The instructor, David Hawkins was a licensed architect and formerly the head designer for architect Alden Dow’s studio. Mr. Hawkins had an excellent sense of design, but an even better way of engaging students in the design process. Rather than lecturing, Mr. Hawkins led the student to discover their own solution. There was no right or wrong with him, but he would ask the right questions to allow the student to draw their own conclusion.
At the end of that first semester, Mr. Hawkins offered me a job with his company. I began as a draftsperson, and was charged with converting the office to CAD.
Mr. Hawkins, now retired, has been the biggest professional influence of my career, and not a day goes by that I don’t recall some little bit of wisdom or funny story that he shared with me, and I, in turn, enjoy sharing those stories with my associates.
In the following 16 years, my career direction has been less about architecture and more about interior design. Luckily, my employers recognized my design skills and allowed me the freedom to pursue it. I’ve had the opportunity to work on some very exciting projects with some very talented architects, engineers, graphic designers and craftspeople.
Up until a few years ago, I didn’t have a degree, but my work experience helped me develop as a retail designer and with experience in stores, restaurants, credit unions, specialty markets, and auto show exhibits.
In January 2008, I was laid off of my job and decided that it would be a great opportunity to finish school and obtain my degree, and in March of 2011 I graduated Cum Laude, with a CIDA Accredited BFA in Interior Design from The International Academy of Design and Technology in Troy, MI.
Even though I didn’t have a Master’s degree, I was asked to teach at IADT with the commitment that I would enter SCAD’s Master of Design Management program in January of 2013. Currently, I am teaching drafting to first year interior design students at the school’s Troy, MI campus.
In August of this year, I started my own design company, Opipari Design Group and have had an encouraging few months of business which includes several large space planning projects, a concept for a floral design studio, and designing millwork for a large hotel.
In retail design, it takes more than making a store pretty. I’ve learned that an important part of design is asking the right questions of my clients, helping them to focus on the essential parts of their businesses and presenting a strong vision to their customers. A successful project also takes communication and cooperation of project stakeholders, and it usually falls on the designer to manage all involved.
There is a button I wear on my jacket. It says” Work is a picnic”.
I love my job, and I am a very lucky person, indeed.