Showing all posts tagged #case-study:


Story Conference

Posted on August 19th, 2019

Revisiting one of my favorite Production Design memories - Story Conference 2012
This is from my Production Design Training slide deck. I ask questions like these when I’m designing:
  • What is the desired vibe?
  • What resources do I have in storage that I can reuse?
  • What can fit in my minivan to transport from Detroit to Chicago?
  • How can it look like it has more depth than the very shallow stage actually has?
  • Who is the crew? What are their skills and talents and passions? Do they want a challenge?
The journey to get to from concept to actual design (including materials list, rigging notes, lighting plot, setup checklist, and rendering of vision) took a lot of iteration. It required lots of emails including scanned sketches and study of blueprints of venue that I was out of town and not able to do an in-person site-survey. We also utilized video conferencing for "face-to-face collaboration between Executive Producer, Production Manager, and myself, the Production Designer) including screen-sharing and digital sketching. The most interesting development was the week-of donation of an LED screen that let us gain a lot of stage space because of the throw distance not being required; which was great for the final product, but required some last minute adaptability in redesign of all the rigging and the lighting plot. One of the key layers of this design that wasn’t there when I arrived at the venue was four lekos with abstract gobos. I pushed way hard for the day of rehearsal that our PM managed to find a way to procure the morning of the conference was some theatrical gobos to throw textural light at the curtains. Sometimes it's the simple, old-school, theatrical tricks that really create the mood and set the tone for the experience. When the team saw them turn on only minutes before doors opened, they realized why I was pushing so hard for such. Magical!*this post adapted from my post in September 2012. Feel free to look it up for greater detail and explanation of choices.


Ward Planning Process

Posted on August 18th, 2019


As the Creative Director, I’m responsible for leading us in the tactical now, the strategic near, and the vision of what we’re steering toward.

Now - Every weekend we have another event! I’m responsible for everything that is presented in each of our 3 venues.
  • I directly lead the Worship Directors to lead the art and presentation in each of their venues.
  • I lead the Production Department to support and enhance the art and communication with excellence - not only for the live experience, but also the broadcast audience web streaming and listening to radio.
  • I am coaching the hosts and teachers in navigating transitions and delivering their content with authenticity, tone, and clarity.
  • We’re always iterating and we’ll make any audible to the plan necessary to better tell the story and inspire life.
Near - We have Production Meetings every Monday. We break the meeting into three parts:
  • 3-Weeks-Out - PCO (our online production order and scheduling tool) 60% - The production order is mapped out with at least placeholder elements ("Song 3" or "Focus") in place to estimate timing of the day. Casting roles band/vocal positions are slotted.
  • 2-Weeks-Out - 85% - Order is filled in with specific song names and intended feel of moment in Producer column. Casting of band/vocalists is scheduled.
  • Week-Of - 95% - Order is detailed with who is leading each moment and talking points are outlined. Arrangements for every song is uploaded with accurate detail of what will be rehearsed. (If a change is realized during rehearsal; that’s totally fine, but we communicate any alterations by noon on Thursday) Musician backline support requests are fully detailed with what they want from Ward and what they’re brining.
Far - In the winter and spring, we begin mapping out the following year.
  • We try to maintain a road-map that is over a year in advance. I have created a master document for every event (weekends and special event) that happens in our main venues.
  • By 12-weeks-out, I work with the lead teacher for each event to write a paragraph of vision for the narrative of the experience, the angle of the teaching, and the hope for response. I’m also working with our Executive Staff and key Directors to make sure that we know any necessary elements, promotions, or calendar notes that must be factored in to the planning.
  • I have lead us to be 12-weeks-out in that "treatment" that we can plan from. I lead our team in a meeting where we look at each sermon series and we brainstorm ideas we might plan. We fill up the whiteboard with ideas, sketches, stickie notes, and optimism.
  • I followup with our Worship Directors and Lead Teacher and we hone in on what we want to develop. Storyboarding, writing, "braintrusting", re-writing, producing, designing, ordering, shooting, editing, prototyping, etc.


20 Front Street

Posted on October 17th, 2018

Venue Creation and Lighting Design

A few years ago a friend came to me with a dream of creating a space for artists to present their music in an unique, distraction-free, beauty-filled, environment. He took me to a run down old building that literally had dirt floors and birds living in the rafters. It was freezing and dirty. All I could envision was the magic that would be. We began ideating out loud. We walked the space, and in the actual space we paced out where we would put the stage, and have people sit and enter, and where the green room for the artists would be. We used our hands to visualize what our design aesthetic would be.

I napkin sketched some ideation and kept the dream simmering in the back burner of my mind. Months passed before I got a call that the venue was approved and that we would get to take our dreams forward with reality. We put on some temporary concerts in the dirt and construction zone along the way. This was great for us as we got to braintrust our concepts by interviewing people who would be customers and investors. After many months, we finally got to integrate our V1.0 design. We were remarkably frugal with our choices so that we could open up; and at some point, we’ll upgrade to our dreams of 2.0, but it feels so great now, that we may just live with the budget version…

You should really take in a show there. It’s an unique experience found no other venue in the world! We’re really proud of it.


Kiosk Product Design

Posted on May 19th, 2018

A number of years back, I was asked to design a stand to support the new system for parents to use to check their kids in. Design requirements:
  • clean & efficient
  • portable (so that the 16 stands could be arrayed by various entrances to best support traffic flow patterns)
  • cost effective - sized for current and possible future (as we had hypothesized, iPads have since been integrated) equipment
  • allow for ease of troubleshooting
  • carry a look maintaining aspirational design aesthetic of lobby and branding

My process began as I considered the pros and cons of a repurposed video conferencing stand that someone had wanted to use because it was all that was imagined up until I was asked. I quickly sketched a couple possible concepts that allowed us the freedom to take some time and research what we wanted to develop. We iterated through a number of options before sending the design to the manufacturer.

They remain in active use over 6 years later!


Diagrams and Branding Documents

Posted on February 19th, 2017



This slide is from my Production Design Training slide deck. It illustrates the importance of a diagram and checklist in ensuring a design being accurately setup with excellence in multiple venues; as well as the benefit of a Branding Document for continuity of design with lighting design and graphics - colors, textures, typography.


Lite Brite and Elf Houses

Posted on January 19th, 2016


There was a lot of prototyping and iteration as well as complexity in leadership of multiple departments to achieve the success in this Production Design.

The process was really fun to nerd out with research into classic toys and some surveying of people who grew up in that era. Along the way, we kept coming back to the movie Elf.

We began with an idea of what classic toys might bring nostalgia. The LiteBrite was a fun idea. I liked it for multiple reasons:
  • The chance to design with layers of texture in with the cups. The real magic for them came when we created a new template for all the video work flow to have to be inside a hexagon based grid rather than the typical square.
  • The build process of hot glue in sheets of PVC that were cut on a CNC machine was tedious, but proved to look great when the projection was focused correctly.
We design the Elf inspired Houses:
  • Minimal wooden frame
  • Cardboard and Paper
  • Visqueen and Lights

A problem became an opportunity when we figured out how to hide the set behind the main traveler and tell a prelude story based in Nepal and using chalk art to tell about partners all over the globe.Fun too, to coach blocking for a the broadcast into during the countdown. My friend snapped this photo of yours truly that he used to coach the crew in duplicating the shot composition.


Leadership Gathering

Posted on September 7th, 2015

Produciton Design and Consulting

The inception for this two-day conference hosting 1000 VIPs event was put in motion less than three months before the event! Even with the crazy timeline (and perhaps because of it) it was an honor and a privilege to be asked to design and lead production for this event.
  • ideation of concept
  • refining concept to fit inside the constraint of $5K
  • iteration of prototype
  • approval of concept
  • partnership in developing story and production management
  • prepping cast and crew
  • Collaboration and intentional choice for continuity of brand in every part of stage, room, handout, and communication
  • Producing uniquely formatted videos and graphic assets
  • ordering of materials
  • leadership of construction/assembly
  • rush-order of mislabeled box of material and adaptability to rework setup plan
  • coordination of rehearsal
  • programming of lighting, video, and special effects cues
  • execution of audio including a last minute live voiceover intro by yours truly

Constraints drive creativity. Moving fast actually helps leverage pushing past doubt and leads to excitement about our concepts during ideation. Leadership, creativity, design - it’s all problem solving! The buzz and excitement about the project was useful in leveraging contribution from numerous collaborators. Delegation to key personalities was key in leadership of execution. It was beautiful to see many people leverage their talents and a number of young team members realize new passions as they learned new skills on the fly!

Feel free to read the full detailed version of this blog post if you’re curious for more of the story.


Adapting a University Rep Plot

Posted on February 19th, 2013

Lighting Design

This slide is from my Lighting Training slide deck. It illustrates the importance of accurate, thought-out documents and the iterative process of designing at a university theatre for a theatrical production that I was brought in to be the Lighting Designer for.
The document on the left shows the rep plot they were using. Thanks to some great pre-production meetings (and the trust built with the university’s Lighting Director) I was shown much favor and adapted the plot to fit the ambitious creative direction that the producer and I wanted to pursue. The photo shows me in the final meeting with the house LD as he prepared to follow my plot and Purpose Sheet.
Good paperwork allowed him to lead a few of his students to hang/circuit/focus all lights in a 6hr shift.
The student who programmed used my cue sheet to program the show and adapt during rehearsals. I was given trust early in the process; and it was a privilege to give trust to her for the end of the process: The first time I saw my design outside of my head was at the premier of the show!



Dinner With A Perfect Stranger

Posted on August 21st, 2012

Scenic & Lighting Design

This was one of my earliest theatrical designs. It was a privilege to be invited to this project and bring the book to life on the stage. The following illustrates the process of creation:
  1. Read the script (still in rough version adapted from the book)
  2. Ideate with the Producer and Director
  3. Research Italian restaurants
  4. Sketch concepts
  5. Development and refinement
  6. Scale drawings
  7. Texture, paint, functionals, decor
  8. Custom table design tilted downstage slightly for audience
  9. Lighting Design
  10. Additions of floor and pillar
  11. Sign off on build process and finishing details like paint, texture, stain, electrical, etc.
  12. Transportation entire set has to transport in trailer, fit through standard doors, and setup/strike quickly for multiple venues
  13. Oversee setup and lighting focus
  14. Program lighting


Eric Wolfe

Visual Artist and Leader. Production Designer and Consultant. Developer of Ideas. Maximizer of Resources. Strategic Thinker. Creative Innovator. Husband. Father. Philosopher. Photographer. Backpacker. Athlete. Cook. Artisan. He shares thoughts here about all of the above. He would love to connect to partner in coaching and revealing beauty to enhance story and experience. Please do reach out!