A couple of current Florida Southern College students recently got to work on a project that could shape the future of downtown Lakeland thanks to an opportunity provided by a recent FSC graduate.
Maggie Briggs ’14 joined The Apiary Studios in Lakeland two years ago. While she graduated from Florida Southern with a degree in mass communications, it was her minor in graphic design that has led to her success.
Since joining the company, Briggs has helped build a team of 11 employees and has been at the forefront of planning some of Lakeland’s biggest projects.
Part of the Team
When Interactive and Game Design majors Raven Whitehurst ‘23 and Isaac Garay ‘23 were looking to capitalize on Florida Southern’s promise of a guaranteed internship in their field of study, Briggs was more than happy to bring the pair into the fold.
Both Whitehurst and Garay started internships in early 2022, and both will finish interning when they graduate this May.
Briggs touted both students as key parts to helping with Catalyst 2.0, which was used to visually conceptualize the future of downtown Lakeland.
“Both Isaac and Raven were an integral part of the Catalyst team,” Briggs said. “Both bring skillsets and knowledge to our team that help us learn just as much from them as they are learning from us.”
Garay, who is double majoring in Computer Science and Interactive Game Design, worked on the functionality of the Catalyst project, while also having a hand in the user interface integration. Garay also created special tours that were curated to walk users through specific areas and projects based on interest.
Whitehurst was involved more on the graphics side of the project.
“It was an amazing experience to be an intern that created the digital twins for some of the more well-known buildings in Lakeland,” Whitehurst said. “I think it is an amazing feeling to be part of Lakeland's future and be part of the team that helped create that. Not including everything I learned in my time there, it has been a wonderful experience overall, and I can't wait to see all the upcoming projects come into reality in the next couple of years.”
Garay echoed those sentiments.
“It is super exciting to know that a program that we were there to develop and launch in around a year will have an impact on the future of Lakeland’s downtown area,” he said.
The FSC Connection
With Briggs, Whitehurst and Garay all having Florida Southern ties, it is a credit to the experiential education provided by the College’s faculty and administration that they are enjoying their successes.
Briggs did not have the opportunity to work in the newly completed Carole and Marcus Weinstein Center for Computer Science, but that did not stop her from pursuing a career in graphic design.
“What I would say prepared me best was the extracurriculars and internships I was able to participate in,” said Briggs, who was editor in chief of The Southern and staff designer for the College’s yearbook. “Those required me to get outside of the college occasionally and showed me some of Lakeland’s many assets. My internships provided me with great work experience and exposure to many different aspects of the industry.
“I always say a communications degree is one of the most valuable degrees a college grad can have. It provides opportunities to explore a variety of industries, forces collaboration, and is really limitless in terms of application.”
Whitehurst’s internship helped Florida Southern add a course to its curriculum that will help future students.
“FSC game design courses helped prepare me with the use of Unreal Engine, and created a confident sense of design,” she said. “My internship and self-taught skills played an important role in helping me get the internship. This internship has led to a 3D modeling class being created in the department.”
Garay also said his work with Unreal Engine at Florida Southern was a big boost to him getting the internship.
“Florida Southern got me to work more with Unreal and have more overall practice with coding that I could apply to my work at Apiary Studios,” he said.
According to Briggs, Apiary Studios has done work on motion graphics for marketing and music videos, conceptual designs for theme parks, sports facilities, and is now currently focused on virtual environments for videos, sound stages, live entertainment venues, and location-based entertainment clients.
It is the work her team has been able to do with the city of Lakeland that has made her most proud.
Briggs’ squad helped complete the modeling for the recently opened Bonnet Springs Park during its conceptual phase. Briggs’ team hand-modeled more than 200 species-specific flora and fauna into the 168-acre park.
“In a matter of weeks we were able to deliver more than five minutes of animated walkthroughs of the property,” Briggs said. “Ultimately the video helped the park close the remainder of its fundraising goals.”
Apiary Studios’ work on Catalyst 2.0 was a main reason why it has been well received.
Fresh off the success of Catalyst 1.0, which saw more than $150 million in development around Lakeland’s Lake Mirror, city commissioners were eager to implement changes for all of downtown Lakeland.
This idea was the impetus behind Catalyst 2.0, and that’s where Briggs’ Apiary Studios team comes into play.
The Lakeland Economic Development Council hired Apiary Studios to design a presentation that would allow users to see what had been developed in the downtown core over the past three years, see what is currently under construction, and look at what has been designed, permitted, and is anticipated to be developed.
“That is why we have partnered with The Apiary, a Lakeland-based animation studio, and their team to create a platform that provides the community with access to development information like never before,” Lakeland Economic Development Council President Steve Scruggs said during a 2022 planning retreat. “It also helps to identify needed infrastructure and connectivity to support future development. It gives developers more certainty and helps elected officials make more informed decisions about the future of downtown Lakeland.”
Catalyst 2.0 has also created a virtual design studio for users to imagine what could be in downtown Lakeland by creating 3D architectural conceptualizations and visualizations of potential redevelopment areas.
“This project is very special to me,” said Briggs, who interned with the LEDC for two years before graduating. “I fell in love with the city and economic development (during those years.) Being able to work with them in this capacity brought it full circle for me. Lakeland is so rich with opportunity for young, ambitious, outgoing professionals. I’m amazed by how much it has grown in the past 12 years since I moved here – and it’s only getting better. Catalyst is just one tool that helps communicate this message outward by informing not only stakeholders about future and ongoing development, but allows community members to engage in the conversation, too. This project is the first of its kind that is available to anyone with internet access – there are other digital twins, but nothing with this level of accessibility. The best part is we’re doing it with people who live, work, and play in Lakeland.”
See the Apiary's Catalyst 2.0 project here.