How do you keep an annual client open house fresh after 30 years? That’s not an easy task. Let us share how we did it for a client.

2015 is a milestone year for Otten Johnson. While turning 30 creates a real awakening for some as they realize they’re not as young as they once were, if you’re a law firm, longevity is a laudable accomplishment. It means you’ve made it. And Otten Johnson certainly has, becoming Denver’s leading real estate and land-use firm.

Each year they host an open house to thank all of their clients. Many of those attending the party had literally built the city of Denver in the past 30 years. During that time, Denver has added a new airport, redeveloped their old one into thriving new part of the city (over 6,000 acres), built new stadiums for football and baseball and a multi-purpose arena for hockey and basketball, and experienced a tremendous urban resurgence as people have moved back to downtown to live and shop. Otten Johnson’s clients were in the trenches making all of that happen.

We wanted to create visual focal point that would spur conversation. Something that would allow guests and attorneys to relive the success created by their relationships and see those changes up close, comparing the end result with the beginning—a nice juxtaposition to create a sense of perspective.

How did we do it?

We got two huge satellite images of Denver—one taken this year and another from more than 30 years ago—and displayed the two images side-by-side, each of them about five feet square with very sharp detail.


But a sheet of really cool wallpaper wasn’t enough. We wanted people to trace their memories and find the spots on the map where they had placed their signature. We invited guests and attorneys from the firm to place a dot on the map showing a project that they worked on, a visual illustration of their contribution in making the city what it is today.


The present day satellite image was easy to find. The historical one was pretty tricky. After we developed the concept, we discovered that there weren’t actually a lot of satellites taking geographical photos back then, especially in high resolution. So don’t tell anyone, but the “before” image was actually a declassified Soviet spy satellite photo taken during the peak of the Cold War.


Was it easy to pull all of this together? Not at all. But it was incredibly fun to dream up and execute, and it was a highlight of the anniversary party because it allowed people who had achieved great things to relive those memories together, and it recognized the important contribution of each of them in building their city.

We were thrilled with the outcome, but it was a great reminder to us that you can’t do great work if you don’t have great clients. The story was theirs. We just had to bring it to life. Thanks, Otten Johnson!

Thanks to Paul Wedlake photography for providing the images.