I have been asked several times: “What is it like to win the CorelDRAW International Design Contest ?” My answer is that this whole experience is like a gift that keeps on giving. Early October, the fine folks at Corel surprised me yet again by asking if I would attend the SGIA Expo in New Orleans with them. Who could turn down a trip to “The Big Easy”? So of course I said yes. A chance to meet Team Corel and many other CorelDRAW users from around the country was more than just the cherry on top.
After my plane touched down and I dropped my stuff off at my hotel room, I wandered down to the Expo which was only a few blocks away from where I was staying. Everyone was busy at work setting up their booths and displays. I was blown away by the size of this Expo. I have been to letterhead meets, Walldog events, and a few other trade shows, but this was my first time to the SGIA Expo. Our design firm and sign shop is a relatively small Ma and Pa style business, so imagine the look on my face when I was up close and personal with some equipment that could easily fill our entire office. Several vendors had two story tall booths with second levels. It was truly impressive. I was like a kid in a candy store.
The moment I met up with the crew at Corel they welcomed me into their group with open arms and treated me as if I was one of their own. They introduced me to the guys from Wilcom and we finished setting up before heading out to grab a bite to eat. Being my first time in New Orleans, it was a must that I experienced some of the Cajun cuisine and night life that New Orleans is famous for. I’m thankful that I was able to share that experience with my new found friends from Corel and Wilcom. (Those folks from Canada know how to have a good time.)
That first night we ate at a steakhouse. The food was fantastic. My steak had a nice Cajun kick to it and went well with the local brew, Abita. I especially enjoyed this meal because it was my first time to really get to know some of the guys at Corel that I had just met a few hours earlier. I quickly found that I had a lot in common with fellow designer Adrian Garcia and Areez Gangii. We geeked out a bit and started talking about comic book movies and other common interests.
The next night we did a bit more exploring and wandered the streets of the French Quarter. At one point we wandered into a park or plaza of sorts where a huge crowd of people were dancing and having a great time while watching an awesome band play some authentic New Orleans style Jazz. This amazed me because it was still a weekday, and where I live everyone would be at home watching TV, not in the streets having a party. We found a great seafood restaurant that was so packed that we unfortunately had to split up into smaller groups, but I had a great conversation with John Falsetto and Maureen Miller. After that we had to walk down the famous Bourbon Street, where we checked out a few bars. Almost every single bar had a live band. One place was playing country, one had blues, one was rocking out to some classic rock, and of course it wouldn’t be New Orleans without some jazz and zydeco.
The next morning it was back to work. I made it my personal mission to help Corel spread the word about their fantastic collection of software. As the day got going people began pouring into the Expo. I love chatting with fellow CorelDRAW users, so I was in my element. We talked about our favorite features. We traded tips and tricks. But it was the folks that were on the fence about whether or not they should purchase CorelDRAW that I enjoyed talking to the most. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big believer in CorelDRAW, and if I accomplished anything, I hope I was able to persuade a few people who have never tried CorelDRAW to include it into their workflow.
The grand prize for winning the CorelDRAW International Design Contest was a brand new Roland VersaCamm Printer. We have pretty much always had Roland Printers and Plotters around the shop, so I had to check out the Roland booth. It was surreal to see several Roland Printers at the Roland booth printing out my Steampunk Stella’s design. The folks at Roland and Roger Wambolt from Corel gave me a tour of a few of Rolands Printers that have the ability to print metallic looking inks. Roger showed me how to use Roland’s metallic color profiles in Corel on my designs, and I was pleased with how simple the process really was.
My education didn’t end just there. I have always been rather proud of my knowledge of CorelDRAW and its tools, but the tricks I learned from both Roger and Adrian Garcia would have been reason enough to make the trip. I also learned so much about the business side of Corel from my new friends Areez Gangii, John and Maureen. The only bad part of the entire trip was having to say good bye. I want to thank Corel for the opportunity and good company, and everyone who stopped by the booth to say hi. If you are in the sign or specialty graphics industry, be sure to make it next year’s EXPO, and make it a point to stop by the Corel’s booth to see their products in action.