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NXTLVL Experience Design

Episode 64: Jean-Paul Morresi

“Inside Autside: A Casual Conversation On a Creative Career,” with Jean-Paul Morresi, Founder & CCO, Autside

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EPISODE SUMMARY

Jean-Paul Morresi is a designer who has had a creative career in retail working and living around the world. Over 3+ decades, Jean-Paul has worked across 5 continents, run offices in Toronto, Stockholm and Dubai, overseen a Shanghai based creative team, and led projects teams across the Americas and Europe. He believes that the small things he creates, that nevertheless touch many people, create positive impact and maybe lasting change. In this discussion, that plays more like a get-to-know-you-fire-side chat, JP Morresi and host David Kepron talk about a career in retail from working the sales floor to leading creative teams in international design firms.

EPISODE NOTES

ABOUT JEAN-PAUL MORRESI:

Jean-Paul’s Profile: linkedin.com/in/autside

Website: thinkautside.com (Company)

Email: jpmorresi@thinkautside.com

BIO:

Jean-Paul Morresi is the founder and Chief Creative Officer of Autside, a retail focused creative agency in Toronto, Canada. Over 3+ decades, Jean-Paul has worked across 5 continents, run offices in Toronto, Stockholm and Dubai, overseen a Shanghai based creative team, and led projects teams across the Americas and Europe.

An Architecture graduate of the University of Toronto, Jean-Paul’s unique background weaves marketing, merchandising, design and construction into an interdisciplinary approach where creative, strategic and executional acumen conspire, delivering customer focused, performance driven retail and brand experiences.

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A regular contributor to industry publications and events, Jean-Paul currently sits on the Advisory Board of retail technology company Virtual Visions, and Curriculum Advisory Committees for Humber College’s Interior Design and the Sheridan College’s Visual Merchandising Programs.

Jean-Paul & the Autside team are currently collaborating on the design of projects spanning the retail spectrum, branded corporate interiors, showroom spaces and a variety of in-store digital marketing and engagement tools.

SHOW INTRO:

Welcome to the NXTLVL Experience Design podcast.

These dynamic dialogues based on our acronym DATA – design, architecture, technology, and the arts crosses over disciplines but maintains a common thread of people who are passionate about the world we live in and human’s influence on it, the ways we craft the built environment to maximize human experience, increasing our understanding of human behavior and searching for the New Possible.

The NXTLVL Experience Design podcast is presented by VMSD magazine.

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VMSD is the publisher of VMSD magazine and brings us, in the brand experience world, the International Retail Design Conference. The IRDC is one of the best retail design conferences that there is bringing together the world of retailers, brands and experience placemakers every year for two days of engaging conversations and pushing the discourse forward on what makes retailing relevant.

You will find the archive of the NXTLVL Experience Design podcast on VMSD.com.

Thanks also goes to Shop Association the only global retail trade association dedicated to elevating the in-store experience.

SHOP Association represents companies and affiliates from 25 countries and brings value to their members through research, networking, education, events and awards. Check then out on SHOPAssociation.org

In this episode I talk with Jean-Paul Morresi the the founder and Chief Creative Officer of Autside, a retail focused creative agency in Toronto, Canada about a creative career in the world of retail and design.

But first a few thoughts.

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It has seemed that during my career some of the really cool stuff, the things that change the path of my life, that took me to places around the world and introduced me to new ideas and people who challenged all the things that I believe to be true about myself and the world, came by way of serendipity.

I started a career as an architect in Montreal and got an invitation to go to Singapore and run an International School back in the mid 90s.

And that opportunity popped up at a lunch with a colleague of mine who said she was asked to do the job but really didn’t want to go all that way.

I of course raised my hand saying yes I’ll do that and two weeks later I was living in Singapore and my life in the world of Retail Design started at that juncture.

I landed in New York a year later and spent four years working in the office of New Vision Studios with Joe Weishar.

We traveled the world teaching retailers how to merchandise their stores, how to use design principles and apply them to more effective selling spaces.

Those years were critical because I spent time on the sales floor moving fixtures around, stripping down shelving and re-stocking them at the same time as we were teaching various managers, department heads and sales associates the basic principles of visual merchandising.

Those years were foundational in my career because it gave me a different view on how to look at the world of retail design not from simply the point of view of the architect but as from someone who had worked the sales floor.

From the point of view of who had the sales floor experiences of about it was like to put merchandise on a table or shelf or a hanging rack

and how visual presentation and visual merchandising were critical components of the retail storytelling that happens inside stores.

When I think about having been pushing those store fixtures around on the sales floor I often wondered then what my parents, who had invested in my education as an architect, would be thinking that their son who was supposed to go off and build huge projects and save the world from itself through architecture was instead occasionally putting flower displays together and stripping down or merchandising store fixtures with baby booties, bras and panties, canoes, big ass TV’s and rice steamers all on the same day.

My father wasn’t particularly jazzed about the idea that I mostly truly interested in being a painter.

“Get a degree or get a trade that’ll lead to you making a good job he used to tell me”

In the end he was probably right because the idea of being a starving artist was never particularly interesting to me.

I actually did end up in architecture having studied psychology beforehand and I oftner think about how interesting it is that a confluence of educational orientations and experiences all came together to study of architecture school at McGill University in Montreal.

I just about quit in second year, it was a tough , tough program, and almost applied into the Fine Arts department at another university.

But somehow I got myself a tutor who got me through the engineering courses and I ended up continuing my studies in architecture completing 4 year degree going on to getting in license to practice.

I’m proud of the fact that I’m an architect for the past 35 or 40 years of my professional career. It has served me well.

I also liked teaching a lot and was always in front of students whether it was as a ski school technical director teaching other teachers how to teach or being engaged in universities in both Montreal, Singapore, New York, Philadelphia and most recently teaching a course in cognitive science at the Columbus College of Art and design.

Teaching has always been part of what I’ve liked to do.

Teaching is a passion (as well as painting) and no matter where I’ve been at what phase of my career I’ve always included teaching in that process.

When I came back to New York from a year in Singapore, I didn’t land in the big firm that I’d hoped to but in fact I ended up starting in a small firm.

In that basement office of a brownstone on 36th street just off of Park Aveneue, Joe Weishar, another merchandising pro by the name of George Homer, an interior designer and I were a four-person office with a big client list.

It was an amazing experience and I think it fundamentally changed the way I thought about store design.

I spent about 22 years designing stores and as another moment of serendipity crossed my path, or maybe I crossed its path, and I had an opportunity to shift away from retail, still staying in the world of brand experience placemaking, and joined Marriott as a vice president of global design strategies.

This was a pretty significant shift and people asked me how does retail affect the hospitality how are you gonna do that because I had never designed a hotel before in my life.

but I was confident in my design skills and that I had enough experience in understanding brands and people and making spaces for their interactions that hotel would be like painting with a different palette but I would never forget the rules of how to apply paint to the canvas. And so, for a number of years I was in the hospitality space which I have always loved and yet again, I began to forge a new path.

Often when I’ve had to describe my career to people when they’ve asked, as they usually do at a party or some event, what do you do? I sort of get stuck and say well I’m I’m not a one trick pony.

I have taken to describing myself as a hybrid professional which seems to fit because painting teaching podcasting architecting and working across multiple types of business segments has given me an amazing career with a wealth of different experiences.

I suppose you could say that they all fit into the world of design, architecture and placemaking but I’ve been able to exercise those passions in very different areas.

You could say that focusing on one thing and one thing only was not the way I decided to lead my career.

What I’ve really begun to understand that I was spending more time connecting the dots between all of the experiences that I had.

My fascinations gave me a broad mindset of multiple influences. I’ve often seen my job as finding the blank spaces between the notes and deciding how to fill them in.

The interesting thing about career path changes are that they’re the ones that seem to present the most interesting opportunities for growth. For challenging the way you think about things and for giving you a different point of view. It’s also allowed me to think about the idea of collaboration and how to do it well.

When working across multiple disciplines you end up having to put a number of different hats on each day. I suppose that is also true of designing multiple stores for different brands.  I was never particularly interested in focusing on one type of retail design versus another.

For example, I never really thought that my world would be designing shopping malls or big box retailers or specialty jewelry stores.

I’ve always tried to find myself in an office where my curiosity and creative interests would allow for multiple expressions. I simply found that much more interesting than being singularly focused on one idea.

And this it brings me to a fundamental understanding about doing retail design that emerged out of my early years working in New York and that is:

…that ultimately, in the end, it’s not about me as the designer it’s about the product and about the brand and if I can get a little bit of me in there then I feel good about that.

I don’t have to change the world like I thought at the onset of my career path but that it is often good enough to change a small thing that impacts many people in a small way and perhaps the compounding of those smaller individual experiences ends up creating something great.

But if it doesn’t, that’s OK too.

If it changes a single individual and gives them a better experience or allows them to see something a new way and learn , then I’m good with that.

Now in the world of advanced technology my passions for living a life in the time of Star Trek are coming to fruition.

AI, as well as all of the generative design tools and immersive digital technologies that we are now able to employ in the service of creating great experiences, are beginning to make real some of the things that a number of years ago I was always fantasizing about.

This brave new world we are entering into makes a career in brand experience placemaking super exciting.

Now, when I take a moment to think about each of these individual areas serendipity forging a path in retail – working the sales floor, thinking about art school versus architecture, teaching my whole life, working in the small firm and having opportunities to shift career paths to major corporations, developing an understanding about what makes good leadership built in trust, authenticity communication yada yada…

I end up bumping into an industry colleague at the SHOP Marketplace event a number of months ago. I had known Jean Paul Morresi from the industry though I have to admit we have never had time to sit down and talk. I recognized him at industry events. We would often say hello and we had industry friends and colleagues with whom we collaborated and against whom we often competed.

So, when I offered Jean Paul an opportunity to do an interview for the NXTLVL Experiences Design podcast, he eagerly accepted and we sat down to what became more like a fireside chat with a good Scotch in our hands sharing stories about how our careers evolved. And lo and behold, we discovered that in many ways our career paths had aligned with many, I mean many, of the same experiences, values and principles that led us from then to now.

Jean-Paul Morresi is the founder and Chief Creative Officer of Autside, a retail focused creative agency in Toronto, Canada.

Over 3+ decades, Jean-Paul has worked across 5 continents, run offices in Toronto, Stockholm and Dubai, overseen a Shanghai based creative team, and led projects teams across the Americas and Europe.

An Architecture graduate of the University of Toronto, Jean-Paul’s unique background weaves marketing, merchandising, design and construction into an interdisciplinary approach where creative, strategic and executional acumen conspire, delivering customer focused, performance driven retail and brand experiences.

A regular contributor to industry publications and events, Jean-Paul currently sits on the Retail Touchpoints/design:retail Editorial Advisory Board, the Advisory Board of the retail technology company Virtual Visions, and Curriculum Advisory Committees for Humber College’s Interior Design and the Sheridan Colleges’s Visual Merchandising Programs.

Jean-Paul & the Autside team are currently collaborating on the design of projects spanning the retail spectrum, branded corporate interiors, showroom spaces and a variety of in-store digital marketing and engagement tools.

This conversation with John Paul Morresi is a little bit different than the ones I’ve done in the past. Having met at the SHOP Marketplace tradeshow and decided to put a mic in front of each of us and have a conversation and record it, this talk didn’t have a strong thematic orientation like in many of my other discussions.

Instead, I sort of let it unfold and what I discovered was a like-minded creative professional with whom I shared many life experiences on a parallel path.

It was kind of like getting to know an old friend all over again…

 

ABOUT DAVID KEPRON:

LinkedIn Profile: linkedin.com/in/david-kepron-9a1582b

Websites: 

https://www.davidkepron.com    (personal website)

vmsd.com/taxonomy/term/8645  (Blog)

Email: david.kepron@NXTLVLexperiencedesign.com

Twitter: DavidKepron

Personal Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/davidkepron/

NXTLVL Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nxtlvl_experience_design/

Bio:

David Kepron is a multifaceted creative professional with a deep curiosity to understand ‘why’, ‘what’s now’ and ‘what’s next’. He brings together his background as an architect, artist, educator, author, podcast host and builder to the making of meaningful and empathically-focused, community-centric customer connections at brand experience places around the globe.

David is a former VP – Global Design Strategies at Marriott International. While at Marriott, his focus was on the creation of compelling customer experiences within Marriott’s “Premium Distinctive” segment which included: Westin, Renaissance, Le Meridien, Autograph Collection, Tribute Portfolio, Design Hotels and Gaylord hotels.

In 2020 Kepron founded NXTLVL Experience Design, a strategy and design consultancy, where he combines his multidisciplinary approach to the creation of relevant brand engagements with his passion for social and cultural anthropology, neuroscience and emerging digital technologies.

As a frequently requested international speaker at corporate events and international conferences focusing on CX, digital transformation, retail, hospitality, emerging technology, David shares his expertise on subjects ranging from consumer behaviors and trends, brain science and buying behavior, store design and visual merchandising, hotel design and strategy as well as creativity and innovation. In his talks, David shares visionary ideas on how brand strategy, brain science and emerging technologies are changing guest expectations about relationships they want to have with brands and how companies can remain relevant in a digitally enabled marketplace.

David currently shares his experience and insight on various industry boards including: VMSD magazine’s Editorial Advisory Board, the Interactive Customer Experience Association, Sign Research Foundation’s Program Committee as well as the Center For Retail Transformation at George Mason University.

He has held teaching positions at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.), the Department of Architecture & Interior Design of Drexel University in Philadelphia, the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising (L.I.M.) in New York, the International Academy of Merchandising and Design in Montreal and he served as the Director of the Visual Merchandising Department at LaSalle International Fashion School (L.I.F.S.) in Singapore.

In 2014 Kepron published his first book titled: “Retail (r)Evolution: Why Creating Right-Brain Stores Will Shape the Future of Shopping in a Digitally Driven World” and he is currently working on his second book to be published soon. David also writes a popular blog called “Brain Food” which is published monthly on vmsd.com.

 

The next level experience design podcast is presented by VMSD magazine and Smartwork Media. It is hosted and executive produced by David Kepron. Our original music and audio production by Kano Sound. 

The content of this podcast is copyright to David Kepron and NXTLVL Experience Design. Any publication or rebroadcast of the content is prohibited without the expressed written consent of David Kepron and NXTLVL Experience Design.

Make sure to tune in for more NXTLVL “Dialogues on DATA: Design Architecture Technology and the Arts” wherever you find your favorite podcasts and make sure to visit vmsd.com and look for the tab for the NXTLVL Experience Design podcast there too.

The next level experience design podcast is presented by VMSD magazine and SmartWork Media. It is hosted and executive produced by David Kepron. Our original music and audio production by Kano Sound. 

The content of this podcast is copyright to David Kepron and NXTLVL Experience Design. Any publication or rebroadcast of the content is prohibited without the expressed written consent of David Kepron and NXTLVL Experience Design.

Make sure to tune in for more NXTLVL “Dialogues on DATA: Design Architecture Technology and the Arts” wherever you find your favorite podcasts and make sure to visit vmsd.com and look for the tab for the NXTLVL Experience Design podcast there too.

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