Alumnus Uses Philosophy Degree to Help Build Amusement Parks
Alumnus Jeremy Thompson is using his Philosophy degree to assist in the creation of world-renowned theme parks and roller coasters.
Thompson, who has always been an avid fan of amusement parks, graduated from Michigan State University with a double major in Philosophy and Business Management. He now works as a Creative Writer at Thinkwell Group, a global design and production agency that assists companies and brands in creating custom, content-driven experiences for physical spaces. Some of Thinkwell’s clients include Walt Disney, Paramount, Warner Bros., Lego, and Universal Studios.
As a Creative Writer, Thompson turns ideas and competing viewpoints into probable solutions be it for amusement parks, museum exhibits, or cultural attractions.
Don’t try to be overly strategic about how you’re going to find the perfect opportunity for someone else to let you do that thing later, just start doing it in one capacity or another on your own right now.
“Usually this involves writing project mission statements, participating in creative ideation, writing a guest experience narrative, fielding reference images, and putting it together in a package that our client can show to investors or stakeholders,” Thompson said. “This is then used to inform the next stage of design if they’re ready to move forward with the project. Other times, I might be writing things such as descriptive text panels for an exhibit.”
Thompson is involved anywhere from the initial concept development to concept refinement, schematic design, detailed design, and production and installation.
“Even though it’s a ‘creative’ job, the reality is that it’s about 95% problem solving and critical thinking,” Thompson said. “Projects virtually never come to us as a blank page; there’s usually a long list of practical requirements, desired subject matter, and stakeholders with various interests. We have to find a way to happily balance all these competing interests into a single idea that feels cohesive, compact, and complete, which is really what you’re taught to do in philosophy.”
One of the many projects Thompson has worked on is Warner Bros. World, a billion-dollar theme park in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, which just opened this past summer.
Thompson did copywriting for various signs and props located throughout the park as well as script revisions for major attractions.
“It’s pretty cool to see iconic characters like the Joker or Scooby-Doo voice lines you helped write in a major theme park attraction,” he said.
Thompson also oversaw the creative integration of the park’s three roller coaster style attractions: Fast & Furry-ous, Tom & Jerry: Swiss Cheese Spin, and The Riddler Revolution, where he provided creative direction for the lighting, audio, and media effects; double-checked the placement of props; and ensured that everything met the creative vision.
The thing about philosophy is that it teaches you how to be a flexible thinker no matter what situation you’re in.
Thompson says he uses the knowledge he gained from his Philosophy degree every day in the creation of theme parks.
“The thing about philosophy is that it teaches you how to be a flexible thinker no matter what situation you’re in,” he said. “Furthermore, studying philosophy inspired me to write endlessly, to leave a testimony about all the things I saw in this medium that were either flaws or worthy of appreciation.”
Thompson’s study abroad experience also has helped him in his career. While attending MSU, he completed three different study abroad programs to Rome, Hong Kong, and London.
“Given that I now work in what’s commonly referred to as ‘location-based entertainment,’ it was very useful to have experience living and interacting in locations that are outside the American perspective,” Thompson said. “Most of the projects I now work on are outside the United States.”
Also as an MSU student, Thompson created the website, Roller Coaster Philosophy, which he still updates today.
Roller Coaster Philosophy is where Thompson not only reviews many of the parks that he’s been to and the coasters he’s been on — which includes 713 different roller coasters at 189 different parks in 18 different countries — it is also where he discusses his travels and occasionally reviews movies.
“I used what I was learning in my philosophy classes and applied that to build an aesthetic theory for roller coasters and theme parks that took the form of a series of in-depth online reviews and analyses,” Thompson said.
This website helped land him a job as a creative intern at Thinkwell a year after he graduated from MSU in 2012. One of Thinkwell’s lead creative directors who knew who Thompson was because of the Roller Coaster Philosophy website.
“If you have something you’re passionate about that you really want to do,” Thompson said, “don’t try to be overly strategic about how you’re going to find the perfect opportunity for someone else to let you do that thing later, just start doing it in one capacity or another on your own right now.”