There are many good baseball players out there, but few truly great players. (Yes, this is going to be another weak baseball analogy weakly tied to something like interpretation or interpretive design that you actually care about.) My all-time favorite New York Yankee player (I don’t have to say great since it is a preconceived notion that no other Major League Baseball teams have great players, there is also a discussion that every player to ever wear the pinstripes is great but that’s an analogy for another blog post.) is Derek Jeter.

Those who have been paying attention to the Yankees over the last few weeks (even if just for the ability to chastise me on Facebook) may have noticed that overall the team is getting older and don’t have the spunk of 2009 (when they beat the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series). At some point even the greatest players get old and despite the ability jump, turn and throw in mid-air, it all comes down to what you have contributed lately. Jeter has been primarily contributing ground balls to the short stop.

I feel bad for Jeter. He his resume speaks for itself. He has been a machine for years, has 5 World Championship rings, as well as many other titles but in an attempt to retain you as a reader (yes, we honestly try; well, I guess it could be debated that Paul’s grammar posts are counterproductive) here’s the part that I’m really struggling with, Jeter turns 37 next month and so do I.

Over the last few months I have been feeling old myself. As a player, he is past is prime and as a professional baseball player, rating his contribution to the team is easily measurable, or is it? How do I know if I’m still a player and contributing in my field of play? (Which is much like Yankee Stadium minus the applause and 50,287 spectators, but still plenty of hot dogs.)

Some time ago I wrote about staying relevant (Relevance for the Irrelevant) and this could be considered an extension of that post or part two (of Shea getting old). As interpretive designers we are often working as a team. Someone may be contributing artwork, text, concepts, funds, or ideas while others may be responsible for design, layout, technological support, or supervision. In some cases you could be carrying all of those responsibilities. I find myself on many design/project/problem-solving teams in my course of work. I just want to make sure that I’m contributing so that I don’t get moved from short stop to right field, to the designated hitter slot, or even worse shipped off to the National League.

Here are some ways that I’m working to stay relevant in a team environment.

If I’m in a leadership role I try to provide clear expectations of the group and outline responsibilities without taking over the creative process. Teetering between manager and player is a delicate balance of providing direction, creating goals and objectives, while allowing the strengths of each member shine. Knowing strengths and weaknesses of players will guide your decisions about specific roles. Groups are often looking for a leader. If you are in that role, lead.

If I’m not in a leadership role I view my primary responsibility as being supportive. I have to set aside any personal agendas and let the process take place. The best part of doing this is that it takes an amazing amount of pressure off of me of know what the end product will be and allows me to focus on my role (supporting others) and my responsibilities. Working in this way is rewarding and productive.

Don’t forget about the intangibles that you can bring to a collaborative effort. Respect, attention to detail, positive attitude and being prepared can go a long way in reaching goals.

I don’t think it is time for Derek Jeter to lay down and call it quits. He may have to adapt his  role as a leader and a player in order to lead the Yankees to their next title.

The World of Coca-Cola (An Opening Day Post Not About Baseball)

Today is opening day of the Major League Baseball season. Wait, wait, don’t click away just yet. Despite a desire to spend the next 500 to 750 words going on and on about how great the New York Yankees are going to be this year (with one starting pitcher), how the National League should be contracted (forcing the starting pitchers of the Philadelphia Phillies to be absorbed by the Yankees), and how delicious hot dogs are, it is the predictable and unpredictable natures of the game that I really love and why I can’t wait to watch the games.

Instead of writing about baseball, I have decided to show you pictures from my family’s recent spring break vacation trip to Atlanta, Georgia. Wait, wait, don’t click away just yet. Okay, maybe you should.

Nothing goes better with at a hot dog at a baseball stadium than an ice cold Coca-Cola. (I’m seriously not writing about baseball.) When visiting Atlanta, one of the must-see sights is the World of Coca-Cola. While visiting the museum, or interpretive site, or commercial, or I’m not sure really what it is, I found myself reminded of the feeling when visiting a new Major League stadium. I was also reminded of the power of interpretation. Needless to say, the facility itself was amazing, well designed, organized, beautiful, and worth seeing. Though in some ways it left me wanting more (much like a trip last summer to Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.). I did fill that empty feeling with large amounts of Coca-Cola products at the end of the visit, which helped.

I think it is safe to say that architects, designers, planners, and the Coca-Cola Corporation applied Disney-type techniques into the concept. Staging areas were interesting and gave you something to do while you were waiting, which kept you from feeling like you were waiting.

Open areas in the main concourse gave you plenty of room to play a game of baseball (if so desired). In our case, there was room for my children to run and hide while I was taking pictures of exhibits. In Disney fashion, the Coca-Cola Polar Bear mascot was there for photo opportunities. (You will have to go to the IBD Facebook page to see those images.)

I did find that in many areas of the museum that Coca-Cola was working harder than the Phillies trying to find a closing pitcher to build a meaningful connection between visitors and the product. I found this exhibit well designed and produced, but reaching for meaning. The scale and quality was amazing. When it comes down to it, Coke is really a just a soda that we all love. I can relate to that. My daughter still wants to know why the turtle wouldn’t talk to her.

Here are some other highlights:

Reminder of the “green” features of the gold LEED-certified building were found in several places. (I hope this is the last urinal picture to be put on this blog.) The importance of water in the making of Coke is a secondary theme found through the museum.

I love planned photo opportunities that help set the stage for the experience. This one with Mr. Pemberton (the creator of Coca-Cola; no Paul it wasn’t Dr. Pepper) and my son is positioned well for posing with the museum in the background.

The most successful areas were interpretive in nature. The story behind the creation of the soda were fascinating. As you can imagine red was the color of choice.

I found this exhibit really interesting on how the famous Coca-Cola script became the logo over a century ago and is still used today.  The touch screen allow visitors the opportunity to try their hand at mimicking the script. My fingers only draw Helvetica, for some reason.

For some reason, I had a hard time connecting with this exhibit as well.

I have more to share with you from Atlanta and the Coca-Cola Experience, which I will get to next week.

When it comes down to it, you love Coke or you don’t. You love baseball or you don’t. Me forcing it into a post isn’t going to make you love it. The World of Coca-Cola is a tremendous place to visit and is at its best in the areas that just celebrate the power of something that people love and are passionate about, like baseball. Take a 7th inning stretch, I’ll have more next week.

Our Final Message from Chicago

It’s late on Friday night, there’s packing to be done, and a week of eating traditional Chicago delicacies has left our fingers too fat to effectively operate our computer keyboards, so we decided to end the week with a video blog. Then we realized we were tired, so we left it to our youngest children, Shea’s son William and Paul’s daughter Maya, to convey our final message from Chicago.