Event design veteran and florist David C. McKnight mixes elegance with fun.
M+E: You started Emerald City Designs back in 1993. Tell us what initially interested you in floral design and why you named the company Emerald City.
DCM: I was climbing the corporate ladder and found myself assisting a couple of colleagues with a wedding and a 50th birthday celebration. I found it so gratifying, especially the execution of the details, that I found myself thinking, “How can I start this as a career?” As for the name, high school was a pivotal time in my life, and we did Wizard of Oz-themed floats for two homecoming years. As you walk to Emerald City, you have hopes and dreams—hence, Emerald City Designs.
M+E: How would you describe Emerald City’s esthetic, particularly when it comes to designing for corporate events?
DCM: We enjoy coming up with unique ways to tastefully tie in the company’s branding. Whether it’s with their logo or company colors, we want their character infused within the event without being too ostentatious. We love to brand with graphics on candles, dance floor emblems, and the classic gobo-light effect. Then, we get a bit more playful using management names for signature cocktails and mocktails at the bar.
M+E: As we move into a post-pandemic world, do you see event design changing in any way? Less showy? Less serious? More playful? Or more over the top?
DCM: We’re seeing equal parts of all of these in current events. The pandemic has affected everyone differently. Some are returning to larger celebrations while keeping it intimate in feel—planning a strolling dinner with extra time built in to really socialize and connect, for example. Others are still enjoying an intimate setting with a smaller guest list.
M+E: You’re a colorful, recognizable figure in Detroit. Is there another side of David C. McKnight that might surprise people?
DCM: Over the past few years, I have volunteered to arrive at special occasions and parties as a “painted special guest.” DCM, the Colorful Character, is a new brand I’ve created, and I’m enjoying these intimate, interactive experiences. Some of my most recent characters have been Madhatter, Curious George, and the Grinch.