All ‘signs’ point to success for Penn College industrial design grad | Education
Walking amid the collage of colors highlighting the attractions and the buzz of anticipation emanating from thousands of patrons, Cory D. Karges looks like a typical tourist. In his untucked brown polo shirt, jeans and white sneakers, he deliberately blends into the sunny crowd at the Universal Orlando Resort.
Its presence may be subtle, but its connection to the famous destination and other world-famous parks stands out.
The Pennsylvania College of Technology graduate is the company’s design executive responsible for much of the creative signage – from bold marquees to tiny spiers – that complement and enhance the inviting themes of the various thrill rides, restaurants and hotels from Universal.
“When you walk into the park and you’re standing next to something you’ve done, and a family comes in and takes a picture, you’re like, ‘Oh that’s cool!’ The thing that I’ve done that nobody thinks about is probably in hundreds, thousands of photos on Facebook and Instagram,” Karges said. “It’s way better for me than making widgets, it’s sure.”
With tens of millions flocking to Disney World and Universal each year, Karges doesn’t have to worry about crowds at his nearby “playground,” a nondescript 25,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Orlando. . In a quiet office, he sits in front of two computer screens and uses computer-aided design software to create his employer’s latest creation, the aptly named Sign Producers Inc.
For Karges, work is a thrill race.
“I realized that Sign Producers was the best place for what I wanted to do. I guess you could say I knew I wanted to be here, so I found a way to be here,” said Karges, who graduated in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial design.
Family-owned, Sign Producers is a custom designer, builder and installer of signs for Universal, Disney and other entertainment venues around the world. Sign Producers make brand building items, whether it’s a two-day job or a complex challenge requiring a few years of work.
Two of his latest projects include signage for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, a 14-acre showcase at Disney World and Disneyland inspired by the “Star Wars” movies, and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, an immersive roller coaster experience added to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal.
The job is a perfect fit for Karges, who realized he wanted to “do some really cool stuff” after flirting with a career in information technology at a community college near his home in Whitney Point, New York.
“I was good at computers, but it wasn’t fun for me,” he explained. “The best advice I ever got was: Find the thing you’re really good at and really love doing. Then find a way to make money doing it, and you won’t work a day in your life.
After months of research and self-examination, Karges found the perfect match for his inventive spirit: industrial design, the practice of turning ideas into designs for marketable projects and systems. A visit to Penn College and an interaction with Thomas E. Ask, the professor leading the new industrial design major, convinced Karges to use the program as the cornerstone of his career.
“We called Tom our ‘Champion of Industrial Design’. He had as much passion as I did for it,” Karges said.
The program started with Karges and four other students. Today, 43 students specialize in industrial design.
“I never felt like I had homework because when you’re there, you do what you want to do,” Karges said. “So you were always inventing something, creating something, doing some kind of study. You learned by going out and doing it, which is to say every day.
The Dean’s List student excelled, even completing a project for the General Electric Co. He worked with a few other students to expand GE’s design of a miniature ultrasound system.
“Cory wanted to do more than just finish homework,” Ask recalled. “He wanted to do a great job in whatever he was working on. While at Penn College, he combined hard work and passion in a powerful way.
After graduating and a stint in the natural gas industry as a field engineer, Karges emigrated to Florida where he got a job as a design engineer for a manufacturer of architectural specialties, including signage. . In March 2018, he found his place at Sign Producers.
“It’s a team-oriented place. We all work on everything together. We are all going to make sure that each of us succeeds here, which is much better than feeling like the only one responsible for something,” Karges said.
“It has always been about family and quality. It’s because we set ourselves such high standards that we employ the best talent in the sign industry,” said Daniel Scimé, Director of Sign Producers. “Cory is part of that and helps us achieve the highest level of creativity and quality that we believe our customers deserve. He is instrumental in what we do at Sign Producers.
Design decisions should consider more than aesthetics. Signaling hardware and quality of engineering are also key considerations.
For example, attractions at Universal like Skull Island: Reign of Kong and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure require wooden signage. However, wood is prohibited in the park due to the risk of fire. Instead, Sign Producers substitutes polygem epoxy, an artistic concrete, to mimic the look of wood.
Whether polygem epoxy, aluminum or steel, the signage is designed to “five times what it would actually take to fail,” according to Karges. The panels must be able to withstand tropical storms and hurricanes in Florida and earthquakes in California.
Karges is aware of the engineering and manufacturing process since Sign Producers’ manufacturing wing – consisting of a machine shop, welding stations, CNC routers and paint booths – is located just after his office space.
“If I have a problem or need to know something, I walk through a door and ask the right people, and it’s resolved almost immediately, which is cool,” Karges said. “And it’s always a chance to learn something.”
His most recent project at Universal was the marquee for The Bourne Stuntacular, a live-action stunt show debuting this spring based on the “Jason Bourne” film franchise. The design — featuring the attraction’s title in three shades of blue and varying amounts of raised lettering — was fun and thought-provoking, according to Karges. So kept the job secret. Theme parks don’t want the public to know about upcoming attractions until an official announcement is made.
“You work on panels for things you can’t talk about, which is sometimes the hardest part of the job,” Karges said with a smile. “The new Harry Potter ride was quiet for two years while we were working on it.”
To prove his point, Karges happily anticipated any talk of future projects with Universal and Disney.
“We have a lot of exciting things to come. That’s all I can say.”
Once again, Cory Karges didn’t want to stand out – but his work will for generations to come.
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