Think Outside the Bag: Shelby Taylor ’16

Think Outside the Bag: Shelby Taylor ’16

One alumna turns the fast-food phenomenon into limited-edition luggage

Shelby Taylor with TB CALPAK

It’s a brand that needs no introduction, paired with another almost equally ubiquitous. Taco Bell. CALPAK.

If the crossover-collaboration seems like a stretch, that’s how it felt to Shelby Taylor ’16, design lead at CALPAK production studio in Los Angeles, California. At least until they—unwrapped—the concept.

“You love Taco Bell so much, but it’s not screaming Taco Bell at you,” said Taylor. “We tried to make sure that from the outside, it still looked like a normal piece of luggage, but with just that tiny bit of messaging or that tiny bit of color.”

Taco Bell had just come off the “Taco Bell Hotel,” a pop-up installation in Palm Springs, Calif., complete with a Baja Blast-themed bar and Taco Bell manicures. That unanticipated success opened doors for another concept centered on travel—they just didn’t know what.

When they approached CALPAK about producing a line of luggage, Taylor designed six unique collections that explored vintage western, “after dark” and even Taco Bell’s iconic wrappers as themes.

But it was Taco Bell’s iconic salsa packets that proved the most identifiable. CALPAK and Taylor worked through a series of product designs, discovering along the way that the intensity of the hot sauce determined its “personality.”

Shelby Taylor '16

“That sounds completely insane, but it made the kind of product comparison really easy,” said Taylor. “The fire packet is the most popular sauce packet, it should be the most popular item. How can we kind of take that fire identity and really apply it to the carry-on? And because the hot sauce is the second most popular, we wanted to make the duffel bag bright orange—really cool and ‘street.'”

CALPAK worked with on the design for a year before the finished product was in the warehouse. Unfortunately, that was the same year that the COVID Pandemic put a halt to global travel. CALPAK rebranded itself from world travel to everyday use.

“We were ready to go, and then it felt like the travel world just came to a stop. But that’s not a bad thing—it gave us an opportunity to really look at what the messaging was going to be. I think we really got a chance to formulate a stronger story with Taco Bell—we got to build out the creative in a different way.”

Taylor took her time looking for the right job after graduating from Auburn with an industrial design. She eventually landing a position as designer at CALPAK in 2017 and has remained there ever since, growing her own abilities alongside that of the company’s.

“I really wanted to work for somebody that I can relate to; that made it very difficult to find a job, but I knew that at least when I got there, I was going to be invested in when I was making. Working for CALPAK really gave me an opportunity to be selfish and make what I wanted to make, but also something I genuinely believed in.”

CALPAK wasn’t even hiring a product designer when Taylor applied for a job. They needed a graphic designer, but Taylor said she could do both, and in 2017 joined the team in a dual role. She called the experience “shocking” at the time, but it gave her a crash course on everything from website building to product photography.

Taco Bell CALPAK

Five years later, she now oversees all of the “creative” aspects of the CALPAK team, managing all of their photoshoots, directing graphic designers, and assisting the production team to make sure the tone is cohesive across the brand.

One of the next projects she’s involved with for CALPAK is an outdoor collection made from recycled water bottles, the company’s first “green” initiative that comes as they target hikers, bikers and campers as their next audience.

“It’s really exciting for us because it’s a new material and it’s a new way of travel that we haven’t really explored before. We tried to incorporate a lot of our core functionality, so not only is it a really durable, rugged product great for the outdoor adventure, but the everyday journey as well.”

The renewable initiative, in particular, is a breakthrough for the luggage industry, because reused materials typically are not as strong and durable as pure, virgin plastic, Taylor said.

And while the Taco Bell chapter of CALPAK might be over, for now, lunch for Taylor and her colleagues will never be the same.

“We had so much Taco Bell to eat in the last three years. And we used to say we were doing product research by eating there for lunch, but it was just an excuse to get Taco Bell. It was really, really great.”

 

 

Chaos Interrupted

Chaos Interrupted

Chaos Interrupted
Vince ’99 and Judy Price used the pandemic to set sail on their dreams
5 Favorite Getaways

Jake the boat dog sits at the helm

We were trying to figure out a retirement plan, and then it became what does retirement look like, overall?” said Vince Price ’99 aboard his catamaran, Chaos Interrupted. He, his wife Judy and their dog Jake—the crew of Chaos Interrupted charter cruises—are currently anchored in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. “We want to go diving and we want to travel. We started piecing it together and figured we needed to be closer to the water, because we lived in Atlanta at the time.”

Owning and operating their own charter cruise business in a tropical setting became the plan for retirement—then it became the plan for the immediate future. Vince, a building science graduate, worked for a large construction company. Judy graduated from Emory University and worked for real estate and law firms in client development and marketing roles.

Already adept at planning their own charter trips with friends, they moved to Miami after years of preparation. Vince obtained his captain’s license, they bought a catamaran and both became PADI dive instructors. They made the most of working from home during the pandemic, preparing the boat—and themselves—for their new full-time careers.

Chaos Interrupted set sail in 2021, averaging 15 trips in a season that stretches from mid-November to late June. They can accommodate up to six guests for a minimum of five nights around the Virgin Islands.

From interest-based itineraries to custom menus, Judy likens Chaos Interrupted to a “floating boutique hotel.” Vince serves as captain, engineer and chief cocktail crafter, while Judy, an Ashburton School of Cookery-certified chef, creates dishes inspired by local flavors and manages Chaos Interrupted’s brand and promotional arms. Jake the Boat Dog serves as Chaos Interrupted’s mascot and security detail. He even has his own Instagram page, @jake_the_boat_dog.

“It’s all custom. It’s all inclusive,” said Judy. “We send out preference sheets in advance to learn what [activities] our guests are looking for, then we’ll create the itinerary. I’ll create a custom menu and we’ll have it ready to go. We take our guests to all these different places and then if, for some reason, we end up somewhere they really enjoy, we can stay longer. It’s not a cruise ship where you must follow a set itinerary.”

Vince and Judy Share Their Favorite Getaways

St. Croix, USVI

Perfect for land excursions and scuba diving, with excellent hiking paths, distilleries, breweries and two picture-perfect beaches in Buck Island & Sandy Point. 

St. John

More than two-thirds of St. John is a protected national park full of pristine tropical wilderness, miles of hiking trails and historical tours that date back to Danish rule.

Salt Pond Bay, St. John

A small cove tucked away on the southeast side of St. John, perfect for swimming with turtles, a day of relaxation and viewing sunsets from the Ram Head hiking trail. 

Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands

No stop in the BVI is complete without a visit to Soggy Dollar Bar & Foxy’s Yot Klub.

Channel Islands, British Virgin Islands

Diving the Wreck of the Rhone off Salt Island and snorkeling off “the Indians” rock formation off Norman Island.

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Alabama’s Gold Medal Moment

Alabama’s Gold Medal Moment

This summer, the 2022 World Games are coming to Birmingham. Three alumni explain how “The World’s Largest Sports Party” came together

THE 2022 WORLD GAMES ARE COMING to Birmingham, Ala., and for two weeks in July, the eyes of the world will be watching. Half a million visitors and 3,600 athletes from around the globe are coming to stay, play and soak in the Southern hospitality. It’s no understatement to say that the 2022 World Games could be a watershed moment in Alabama’s history. 

“This is a special moment for our state,” said 2022 World Games CEO Nick Sellers. “The rest of the world—and frankly, the rest of the country outside of the Southeast—thinks about Birmingham and the state of Alabama in black and white, and I’m not talking about race. I’m talking about the old black-and-white images of Birmingham. I cannot think of a better opportunity to help the world reimagine Birmingham as a new medical capital of the South, with a ton of innovation happening, that’s finally embracing its differences in its diversity. We aren’t perfect, but we certainly have come a long way, and people will be amazed at what they’re seeing in the city.” 

One of the planet’s largest sporting events, the World Games are part of the Olympic Movement under the International Olympic Committee. First held in Santa Clara, Calif. in 1981, the games encompass nontraditional and emerging sports from around the globe. 

Sellers was with Alabama Power for nearly 20 years, most recently as vice president of its Mobile, Ala. division, and also chaired the Alabama Sports Council. His time as CEO of the World Games was supposed to be just 18 months before the COVID pandemic added quarantine challenges, supply chain shortages and more.

“It’s truly been the ride of a lifetime for me,” said Sellers. 

The World Games, unlike the Olympics, uses existing arenas and infrastructure to host events, dovetailing with Birmingham’s ongoing urban revitalization. 

Protective Stadium, completed in 2021, will host the World Games’ opening and closing ceremonies, while the new City Walk—a series of beer and wine gardens, dog parks, skate parks and “activation areas”—will connect competition venues with public recreation areas across different neighborhoods, a goal for county officials for decades. 

A reason Birmingham’s bid was so appealing to the International World Games Association (IWGA) was because it was their first event in the U.S. since 1981, and the Magic City is happy to oblige.   

“Just like any great athlete who’s struggled, it’s the ones who keep going that have their chance to compete for a gold medal,” said Sellers. “And that’s really the story of Alabama. Alabama’s certainly had its struggles and failures and setbacks along the way, but this is our ‘medal moment,’ and the more we can create that sense and feeling, the more it becomes reality.”

INVITATIONAL SPORTING EVENTS

Though the International World Games Association selects the World Games’ 60 disciplines, the Organizing Committee is allowed to choose up to five additional sports that appeal to regional audiences or have national ties. These events are unique to the 2022 Birmingham World Games.

Men's Lacrosse

Women’s lacrosse has been an official program sport since 2017, but men’s lacrosse was added this year as well. A major storyline at the 2022 World Games is the Iroquois Nation’s first entrance to competition in lacrosse, a sport they are credited with inventing more than 500 years ago.

Wheelchair Rugby

Unlike the Olympics and the Pan American Games, there is no World Games iteration for athletes with disabilities. Birmingham wanted an international event that was geared specifically for adapted athletes, and is hosting wheelchair rugby in partnership with the Lakeshore Foundation, a world-class rehabilitation hospital and an official U.S. Olympic and Paralympic training site.

Duathlon

Though events in the Olympics aren’t included in the World Games, duathlon (run-bike-run) was added because Birmingham is a big running community. It replaces the more common triathlon (swim-bike-run).

Wushu

For the fifth invitational event, the Organizing Committee continued the tradition of setting up the transition to the next host city. Chengdu, China will host the 2025 World Games, and one of Asia’s fastest-growing sports, the mixed martial arts discipline wushu, was added to help introduce western audiences and build excitement for the future. 

THE ROAD TO BIRMINGHAM began at the 2013 World Games in Cali, Colombia, where a contingent was invited to attend and later submit hosting bids for what was, at the time, the 2021 World Games. 

Primarily data related, the proposal covered Birmingham’s history, its summer climate and the contingent’s overarching vision for the games. It totaled 360 pages. When the Birmingham contingent needed someone to coordinate the various stages and elements of the process, they turned to Steve Mistrot ’97. 

Born and raised in Birmingham, Mistrot worked in television after graduating from Auburn, eventually making his way to sports operation for major events like the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. After returning to Birmingham with his family, he assumed his days of international sports events were behind him—until the World Games came along. 

In January 2015 at Lausanne, Switzerland—home of the International Olympic Committee—Birmingham was selected over Lima, Peru, and Ufa, Russia. That’s when the real work began. 

As vice president of sport for the World Games Organizing Committee, Mistrot’s first task was getting to know each of the 37 unique sports federations who oversee various “disciplines,” or sporting events. Each federation applies to the IWGA, which evaluates disciplines for audience response, athlete variety and novelty or excitement. 

Mabel Etchison Headshot

“What I value most out of all the different events that I’ve worked on, is how you get different input from different perspectives. It seems like it’s a recipe for conflict, but it’s really a recipe for greater success.”

Sumo wrestling, for example, is one discipline within the Martial Arts Federation, but contains multiple weight classes in both men’s and women’s divisions. Roller sports and gymnastics each have six or seven disciplines alone. From 34 selected federations come 60 individual competitions spread out across 25 venues. From the types of venues to the specialized equipment, it’s taken years of planning. 

With each approaching day, the granular details of every event are magnified. All the planning to this point has been organizing the functional areas from the top down—identifying venues and understanding each sport. Now that details are being finalized, event and venue prep are coming together as one. 

“Any event is an organism with many parts,” said Mistrot. “What I value most out of all the different events that I’ve worked on, is how you get different input from different perspectives. It seems like it’s a recipe for conflict, but it’s really a recipe for greater success. You take the best of everybody’s ideas and combine it into a solution. It’s a challenge, and it forces you to establish really strong relationships. You come out of these events with people that you stay in touch with for life, so it’s very rewarding.” 

MEET VULCAN AND VESTA

When visitors arrive this summer, the first thing many will see are the mascots “Vulcan” and “Vesta,” wearing outfits designed by Auburn alumna Mariah Gullatte ’19.

Vesta was created specifically for the 2022 World Games, holding the Olympic Torch and wearing a dress that reimagines the World Games logo along the hemline.

Vulcan, the symbol of Birmingham and the largest iron sculpture in the world, was an obvious mascot. He’s also known for “mooning” the city’s east side. “That was a discussion topic—‘to cover’ or ‘not to cover,’” said Gullate.

The College of Human Sciences graduate spent almost two years developing their outfits with the organizing committee. When Vulcan and Vesta were finally introduced wearing her clothes in July 2021, it was both nerve wracking and exciting.

After earning her master’s in hospitality management in August 2021, Gullate opened her online boutique, Princess Closet Designs, where she will continue creating custom garments and new outfit collections. Though she lives in Huntsville, she already plans to attend the World Games and looks forward to seeing Vulcan and Vesta mingle with the thousands of visitors.

“That’s the part I’m looking forward to the most, getting to see other people meet them and people interact with them and their outfits. It’s super rewarding to see something you worked so hard on come to life.”

IN THE 10 DAYS OF THE 2022 WORLD GAMES an estimated half-million or more people will arrive in Birmingham. To run everything smoothly, 3,300 volunteers—including 250 international volunteers—have been training for months. Matt Gaines ’86, head of volunteer training, oversees them all. 

A former engineer with Alabama Power, Gaines designed high-voltage electrical switchgear for nuclear power plants.
When he got tired of that, he went to Southwestern Baptist Seminary, got a master’s in music and worked in churches, schools and nonprofits around the world.

“It’s like we’re building an airplane in midflight—that’s what it feels like,” said Gaines. “I will always be grateful for my mechanical engineering degree from Auburn, because it taught me how to think and solve problems. In engineering, you learn to put a control volume around the situation to study everything coming in and out to know how to solve the problem. I use that in every part of my life.”

From preparing arenas and equipment to directing guests around town, volunteers will play an incredibly important role at the World Games. 

Training began months ago, covering everything from communications exercises, to the history of Birmingham and the World Games, to etiquette training for various cultural differences volunteers may encounter. They also took disability and inclusion training from the Lakeshore Foundation to help prepare in advance for the wheelchair rugby event. Volunteers were even given training on how to notice and report human trafficking, a major issue at large events, said Gaines. 

Mabel Etchison Headshot

“I will always be grateful for my mechanical engineering degree from Auburn, because it taught me how to think and solve problems.”

Another major hurdle is communicating with fans and athletes from more than 100 countries who speak upwards
of 26 different languages.

Designated “live speaker” volunteers for five primary languages—French, German, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese—will provide basic fluency, while the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is providing software that instantly connects to 100 different native speakers around the world in a virtual, face-to-face format.

Medical volunteers at UAB are also staffing the events to attend to any potential medical emergencies, whether on the field or off.

The only job duty not handled by volunteers will be security. Homeland Security designated the World Games as a Special Event Assessment Rating (SEAR) of 1 for “significant events with national and/or international importance that require extensive federal interagency support,” the same designation as presidential inaugurations. In addition to Birmingham police, the FBI, Army Rangers and others will provide security during the games.

But it’s not just the organizing committee rising to the moment—schools are using education models to teach students about the sports as well.

In a world rife with war, disease, misinformation and hostility, this could be just the thing to bring it together again.

“Things like this connect us in a world that desperately needs connection,” said Gaines. “I believe this event will help change the world for the better.”

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Erica Augello ’04: Empowering mom and lawyer

Erica Augello ’04: Empowering mom and lawyer

Family and children are a part of her life—and her practice

Erica Augello Photo - Mom and Lawyer

While Erica Augello ‘04 received her undergraduate degree in Science and Business Administration, she wasn’t satisfied with her career and went on to find her professional calling as a lawyer. “At different points in my life I was presented with law school, but I never felt I was mature enough or prepared enough to attend,” she said. “After having real-world experience, I decided in was time.”

Graduating from Stetson University College of Law and now specializes in municipal civil litigation defense and municipal representation.

Augello seeks out cases implicating “civil rights and issues involving both the United States and Florida Constitutions,” such as “excessive force, false arrest, deliberate indifference, equal protection and right to privacy.”

As a lawyer, her work heavily relies on case research and in-depth knowledge of the law. “On any given day I can have a city commission meeting, prosecute a code enforcement violation, depose a witness, argue a motion at a hearing, or prepare for trial,” she said.

Raised in a military family, Augello constantly moved throughout her childhood and had trouble establishing roots. Once at Auburn, though, she said that she was given a family that moved with her no matter where she went.

“I have travelled overseas and heard ‘War Eagle’ while walking down the street,” said Augello. “The lessons I learned at Auburn, both inside and outside the classroom, have allowed me to take chances and know that no matter where I end up, I will undoubtedly be surrounded by the Auburn family.”

Although Augello’s life is now fast-paced and moving, she enjoyed Auburn’s quaint and welcoming nature. “It was a small town without being small minded. No matter how much the campus changes, it always feels like coming home,” she said.

She has since started her own family with her husband and young daughter. While it is difficult to balance personal and professional life, she makes it a priority and admires other women in her career who do the same. Her daughter, who “is just starting life and has the potential to change the world” inspires Augello. As she moves forward, she aspires to be her firm’s first female partner since they were first established 40 years ago.

“I have to work harder and prove myself to others in my field, whereas my male colleagues do not. However, that hard work speaks volumes, regardless of gender. While it’s in the back of my mind, I find that is doesn’t impede my goals or ability to achieve future success.”

Setting the Unexpected

Setting the Unexpected

Theme park designer Brian Morrow ‘97 unleashed his creativity to win HGTV’s “Table Wars”

If you need a dream brought to life, Brian Morrow is your guy. A theme park designer with more than 25 years of experience and owner/creative principal of B Morrow Productions, his job is making awe-inspiring fantasies a reality.

But he was challenged like never before as a contestant on HGTV’s “Table Wars,” where competitors designed immersive ensembles for upscale dinner parties. The show required him to draw on every facet of his career, constantly upping the ante while wowing celebrity judges Martha Stewart and Chris Hessney.

But when the timers stopped and the last fork was laid, Morrow was declared the first-ever “Table Wars” champion. While the title (and the $50,000 prize) are great, it was the experience itself he enjoyed most.

“I went on ‘Table Wars’ to reignite my level of passion for design,” said Morrow from his office in Orlando, Fla. “I’ve had my own business for many years. I’ve been in corporate America and theme parks for many, many years, [but] it’s been a long time since I’ve been challenged in that way. I said in one of the episodes it’s like I reconnected with my 27-year-old self.”

Brian Morrow overseeing construction of Wave Breaker at SeaWorld San Antonio, North America’s only jet-ski style coaster.  

Entrance to Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, designed by B Morrow Productions for SeaWorld Orlando.  

Morrow and a B Morrow Productions team member beside Submarine Quest at SeaWorld San Diego.

Storytelling comes naturally to Morrow. As a kid building model trains in his Tennessee basement, he spent more time designing the surrounding landscape than the trains themselves. Though he now uses industry terms like “environmental design” to describe his methods, back then he already understood how to create an immersive atmosphere. When he eventually coupled that with his engineering background, it became a potent combination.

A mechanical engineering major at Auburn, Morrow wanted to work in the theme park industry despite hearing there were no internships available. He cold-called companies and took alternating school quarters off to get hands-on experience. Days after earning his degree—in civil engineering—he was in Orlando, Fla. looking for work and holding a resume to back it up.

Over the next two decades he would do all manner of theme park engineering, including revamping the legendary “Big Bad Wolf” roller coaster at Busch Gardens Virginia with the first vertical drop in North America—an innovation that required a hair-raising test ride in a German shipyard.

“They didn’t have seatbelts, so they strapped us in with rope tied around our waist,” Morrow laughed. “It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. I was like this thing could all go wrong in a minute, but you know it was really incredible. And, because our ride was inside and in the dark, we blindfolded ourselves and rode it again.”

“I learned that I can really trust my gut on what I’m capable of doing.”

Since 2018, B Morrow Productions has overseen projects for location-based entertainment around the country, including décor and productions for luxury hotels, master planning for theme parks and all types of detailed experiential design.

But when he auditioned for “Table Wars,” Morrow sought a new challenge. Across six episodes, contestants were pushed to create larger, more intricate creations, each with their own unique challenges. They also had to master precise table settings down to the centimeter, a challenge none of them were prepared for.

But while the engineer was up against interior designers, master florists and wedding planners, Morrow was fearless in envisioning—and ultimately executing—concepts that wowed judges and guests.

Morrow explains the details of his ‘80s-themed table setting—a mall’s food court— to host Tamera Mowry Housley (left) and judges Chris Hessney and Martha Stewart.

The setting that won HGTV’s “Table Wars,” a fairytale castle complete with ruins, a CGI dragon and “dragon-egg terrariums” as take-home gifts.

Morrow with the final two contestants of “Table Wars, Jenevieve Penk (center) and Carlton Lee Jr.

“I was one of the leaders of the pack building bigger things, more complicated things, and I’m comfortable doing that because when I was in Auburn, we learned how to hand-draft. I could very quickly create loose construction drawings that the carpenters could then use.”

An undeniable factor in Morrow’s success was his attention to detail. Other contestants struggled to explain their designs, but he focused on ideas that could be understood immediately. Once he figured out where the cameras and judges would view his installation, he learned how to build for maximum visual effect.

For the final challenge, contestants had to create a fantasy-themed dinner for 16 that had to include an interactive feature and take-home gifts for guests. Morrow built massive castle ruins around the dinner table that were painted to look stunningly authentic. A smoke-breathing CGI dragon fluttered outside a gothic-style window and “dragon eggs” inside Mason jar terrariums propelled him to victory.

When he emerged from the show “bubble,” Morrow had a new appreciation—not only for the scope of his chosen profession, but for the talent and experience he grew along the way.

“I think I learned that I can really trust my gut on what I’m capable of doing—I still have those chops to do big, bold things that people might not be expecting me to do,” said Morrow. “It reinvigorated that fire of invention and creativity in me.”

Design your own dinner party

Use what you have at home

“Don’t go buy a bunch of things and put it all together, lay out the stuff you could potentially use and then figure out your visual story.”

Don't get hung up on flatware

“My big trick I do to make life easy is put all the cutlery in the mason jar and let and people take what they want.”

look at what others are doing

“Watch and learn tricks and just copy people, and then get inspiration and do your own thing.”

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