The words “young talent,” along with “passionate, up and coming, AV innovators,” elicits a bit of an interpretive dance depending on who is asked.

As we set out to track down nine such impressive individuals this year, we became mired in a rather grueling process, a much more challenging task than we had any idea of at the time. What we came to discover is that not only is there a larger generational gap in the AV industry than we knew of, but it translates to a full-on identity crisis.

 
The Nine (l–r): (top row) Oronde Wright, Victoria Berela, Tanner Upthegrove; (center row) Matt Pollard, The B-Reel Creative Team, Evan Hooton; (bottom row) Emily Webster, Rebecca Sullins, Tim Perez.
Perhaps the shorthand definition of what SCN’s The Nine is has been vague. This is just the second rendition of this unique editorial feature, so it’s natural for there to be a bit of confusion. First off, what The Nine isn’t: your typical “Forty Under 40” list. When SCN’s editors looked to create a truly different way of looking at young talent, we wanted to create the anti-Forty Under 40 list. These aren’t just young-ish people in AV with bright careers already well underway. No, these are truly incomparable personages working across various scopes of audiovisual.

For a young person today—and by young, I mean mostly 20-somethings—audiovisual really encompasses a much broader range of applications than the traditional AV experience defines. While AV still has a very long way to go in terms of its recognition by the youth of today, for a generation surrounded by ubiquitous technology, they see virtual reality, multimedia digital video, interactivity, LEDs, generative data, and beacons. Many of these elements are just beginning to work their way into your AV designs, but they are the future of technology, and inherently, audiovisual.

In terms of best defining what The Nine was created for, it was best put forth last year as “exemplars of talents we’ll need to move this industry forward.” Some of the other keywords in mind while seeking out The Nine included: iconoclast, unique ambition, life passion, and vibrancy. Some of these exist on the periphery of what you do, yet they represent fundamental elements of success and innovation, in the same vein as many of the AV industry’s earliest leaders.

In terms of selecting this year’s class of The Nine, we turned to some of our closest collaborators and reached out to firms we knew doing different and impressive, new wave-type installations. We also turned to social media. We received an outpouring of responses—as if we didn’t already know the type of chord the issue of young people in AV struck. Many of the nominations presented strong skillsets and impressive track records. But also, this is where that identity crisis emerged. The majority of the nominations that rolled in were for prominently established people that we already knew, and they were all over the age of 35. Not to be age-ist, but The Nine is really about identifying tomorrow’s leadership, through talent expressed in different thought channels that are just beginning to emerge today.

Take the exhibit designers’ view of the world. How will people interact with the technology? AV designers are always asked to think about the user and design for interaction, but in doing so, are we also thinking about how people behave, or are we thinking about how we wish they would behave? How do we want them to use our technology, and how do we expect them to use it based on our own viewpoint of its capabilities?
 
We must also look for what we have in common rather than our differences. Some of the bright young minds gracing the following pages don’t fit into a traditional AV firm, yet they influence our work in various capacities—even if that is on an inspirational, insightful level. Young people today are often told that they can make their own job, that their ideal career might not have a name yet, and that’s a concept that applies to all of us at the most basic of levels.

With The Nine, we also look to step outside of the normal bounds of thinking. It may seem a bit unusual to find a team included in this year’s class of The Nine. That’s because, in this scenario, every individual brings their own unique talents to the table, and their contributions are considered on equal merit to those from the rest of the team. There is no “new guy,” versus “the boss.” Technology industries like AV have operated on this principle for years, and it’s the young tech that brings new ideas to the design and installation practice. Each idea is weighted the same, promoting a better collective result. By not attributing any one achievement to an individual, this team promotes the highest level of contribution from all.

So it's by looking at examples such as these, seeing all of The Nine not as different from “regular AV people,” but as new contributors, that we promote the best results for our future as an industry.

Click Here to Meet the Nine