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Co-op Student Travels Europe and Asia With Illusionist David Copperfield 

Graphic design student David Mackey is just back from a six-month co-op assignment during which he traveled Europe and Asia with illusionist David Copperfield.

Date: 1/29/2007
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Dottie Stover and submitted by Homer Liwag
UC ingot University of Cincinnati graphic design senior David Mackey has just completed his final co-op quarter as a university student, and it was something of a “magical” experience  filled with constant challenge and – literally – new sights and cities nearly every day.

David Mackey
David Mackey

That’s because what began as something of a “normal” design co-op quarter this past summer with illusionist David Copperfield in Las Vegas turned into an offer for David to travel with Copperfield’s troupe during a fall tour of Europe and Asia.

Mackey, 23, of Loveland, and three other stidents from UC's top-ranked College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) students spent the summer on a co-op quarter in Las Vegas where they brainstormed designs for future props and illusions as well as a redesign of Copperfield’s museum and warehouse. They also worked to design logos, a brand identity and themes for a wide variety of Copperfield enterprises.

That co-op quarter was set to end at the close of summer, and the students were then to return to the classroom at UC. However, at the last minute, Mackey grabbed an opportunity to continue his work for Copperfield while the performer went on international tour.

Mackey recalls, “We were winding up our summer work, and it came up that I might be able to stay for another quarter. I literally found out that I could join them in Europe a few days before I was due to leave Vegas.”

David Mackey and David Copperfield
UC's David Mackey with illusionist David Copperfield while on tour in Tokyo.

During the tour, Mackey worked, but he was also able to explore cities like Athens, Milan, Munich, Tokyo, Turin, Vienna and Zurich. At one point, he was even provided a car and driver so he could make the best use of his time to explore.

“We were in a new city every one to two days in Europe,” says Mackey, who also helped out occasionally with tour production requirements as a break from his graphic design duties. For instance, during each show, he would “count the house” in order to gain an estimate of the number of audience goers, a figure that would be compared to the quantity of tickets sold.

It might seem that Mackey’s fall co-op quarter was little more than an extended vacation. Not so, he explains. Although he found time for fun, working while on the road provided a challenge in terms of space considerations, hours and interactions with the boss.

For instance, while on tour, he might work a ten or 14-hour day in terms of design. And there were really no weekends off. Interacting with Copperfield might come over dinner or might come just before or after an evening show. Mackey states, “Sometimes, Copperfield would be in the middle of a show and would get a design idea or see something in the audience that he thought might prove an inspiration. Right then and there, he’d radio the stage manager. It might be something like, ‘Check out the t-shirt design in the front row.’”

David Mackey
While on tour, David Mackey juggles working with several Apples.

Before this co-op experience, Mackey had never really considered a career within the entertainment industry. His previous co-op quarters – while laden with responsibility – had been more traditional in scope. For instance, he’d previously helped develop environmental graphics for use in the Dubai Festival City in the Middle East port city of Dubai.

But now, Mackey wonders about pursuing options within the entertainment field once he graduates in June. After all, his Copperfield co-ops provided him an inside look at the industry, even to the point where he learned some sleight of hand. “Yes,” he states, “I did learn some magic tricks with coins and cards. For me, learning a few tricks like that was all part of adapting to a very fast-paced, fast-moving industry, one where all the business aspects come together very quickly to get things done.”

Knowing that he can adapt to the industry’s needs and knowing that the opportunities for creative work are no illusion, David may get set to travel again after graduation. He says, “I liked the touring life, and it also opened up possibilities for me to consider in terms of living and working abroad. It was very different from my corporate co-ops, but I learned I could hold my own and work even while constantly adapting to different places and to different group dynamics. It was an intense experience. And after having a studio set up in a dressing room of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and being back stage throughout Europe, anything else might seem a little too tame.”

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