The Rapidian

Riolo Creative Engineering thrives on innovation

Marco Riolo shares his experience working in the creative field and what it takes to be successful in a competitive business where innovative thinking is a necessity.
Marco Riolo

Marco Riolo /Eric Tank

Riolo and artist friend Georgia Taylor meeting at Lyon Street Cafe

Riolo and artist friend Georgia Taylor meeting at Lyon Street Cafe /Courtesy of Riolo Creative Engineering

Riolo during ArtPrize at his Gumball Monster booth

Riolo during ArtPrize at his Gumball Monster booth /Courtesy of Riolo Creative Engineering

Marco Riolo helps people to realize their vision and then breathes life into that vision. Under his business name Riolo Creative Engineering, he spends his days finding solutions to people's problems. He believes he has a talent and believes that talent should be shared with the world. At the end of the day he says, it's not about him. It's all about the love. 

As a child, Riolo was fairly creative, drawing all the time. Into his adult years he never abandoned that creativeness. 

"I always wanted to use my creative talent. I always wanted to apply it in some way," says Riolo.

A graduate of Michigan Tech in Houghton, Michigan, Riolo majored in ecology and environmental science. His enthusiasm went much further than drawing. While at Tech, he and a team of builders created massive and intricate snow castles. He says that the study of ecosystems in nature became the basis for how to navigate the urban ecosystem. So he took what he learned and reapplied it to city life when he moved back to Grand Rapids in 2007. 

It was then that he began his foray into design and production, when his rugby team needed some work done. Steadily friends would request work whether it was screen printings or embroidery. He worked as a front end web designer while picking up tricks of the trade from the various new industries he was being exposed to. Eventually a friend suggested that he start an LLC. Riolo says in the past few years the brand has really come into its own. 

"Innovation," says Riolo, "doesn't come from a computer. It doesn't come from the latest greatest technology. Those things are tools. Even pencils, pens, markers, the best of everything, the most super computer- not even that has the ability to be creative or innovative. It's just a tool."

Riolo brands himself as a creative engineer. He meets clients where they're at and helps to brainstorm concepts and then gives those concepts a visual reality. The engineering part is the production: design becomes something tangible, like printed posters or clothing.

Riolo surrounds himself with strategic alliances whose individual talents are specialized and various. Much of what he does is in collaboration with many people in whom he believes the creative spirit is truly alive.

"I love people. I love working with people," says Riolo. "Everyone has their own creative way to do something. My way of giving is being involved in people's lives."

The creative spirit is no mere metaphor for Riolo, who isn't shy to talk about his spiritual life and belief in God. He starts his days off with prayer, often geared towards how he can best utilize his talents for the benefit of others. His days are regimented, working out after prayer, eating six eggs for breakfast and reading books that inspire him. This all takes place before 8 a.m. He then spends his day in two hour chunks with short breaks between. Most of his time is spent illustrating. Walking a friend's dog, meeting with what he calls an accountability partner to maintain creative integrity, or meeting at a coffee shop twice a month with a fellow artist are all packaged neatly in there as well. 

His days are part of a larger plan that has him focusing on how to meet more people, challenging himself to become better at his craft and seeking ways to grow the business. Riolo has done work state-wide, in Wisconsin and California, but sets his aims globally. 

On the local level, however, Riolo stays fairly involved in the community. His presence is noticed at street fairs and city celebrations, art galleries and music venues. Just a couple of his extracurricular hobbies include being a member of Bangarang Circus and a choir member at the Basilica of St. Adalbert.

"If you're not involved in the community, you're not involved in anything," says Riolo. "You're simply being." 

One of his goals is to illustrate a children's book, something of positive enrichment and encouragement. Another is to showcase his work in a gallery setting. 

Riolo has had to set aside distractions and focus on his goals. He says he chooses the right projects to put his energy into and doesn't accept every project. He chooses unique, design heavy and fun projects he believes in. His passion to create and vision to be a positive light in others' lives is what keeps him doing what he loves to do: to use his creative talents to help people. Riolo says he knows this is what he is meant to do and despite the inevitable pitfalls, the uncertainty and self doubt that is normal, he persists with vigor. 

"You have to keep treading through that mud," he says, "before you know what it is that you want to stand on." 

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