The architecture of experience ...

The experience of a space begins with  considering the architecture as a portal … not a destination.  When the user becomes part of the space and not simply bound by it, the space becomes organic and more personal.  Injecting and leveraging physical stimulation of all the senses transcends the traditional form and function approach.  A good experiential space naturally becomes perceived reality, not just a themed presentation.  All of the elements used to create the experience should be invisible and work seamlessly together with out calling attention to any one tool used to create that experience.  Always remember that the guest is the star of the show, not the design.

In today's climate, the term "experience" is being used a lot.  What does "an experience" mean?  There are several levels and types depending on many factors including the objective, the budget, the audience, or even the subject matter.  However, creating "an experience" has some characteristics that should be considered.

1. Create A Space That Is Alive Not Static

Easier said than done, right?  A static space is more of a presentation and offers very little in the way of experience.  However, depending on the subject matter, objectives , budget, and audience, there are many ways to accomplish this.  It is important that the experience be multilayered and always support the story.

2.  Create Opportunity For The Guest To Create "Their Story"

The experience should be as personal as possible, yet also familiar to a certain degree.  This requires knowing your audience and understanding what the connection is.  In this way, the familiarity of the space and experience becomes communal, while allowing each guest to simultaneously create their own story.

3.  Create A Space That Allows The Guest To Suspend Disbelief

A successful experience based design allows the guest to suspend disbelief in a safe environment.  The challenge is found in creating a space that naturally allows the guest to set aside the outside world for a time, while balancing life safety design issues that disappear as much as possible, so as not to distract from the illusion of the experience.

4.  Create Anticipation And Expectation

Like a good story (which is what we are really talking about), the space should offer sensory driven queues that relate to the experience and draw a guest through the space in such a way that they want to immerse themselves deeper.  It is critical to ensure that the anticipation and expectation is met (or better yet, surprisingly exceeded) upon delivery.  Otherwise the experience becomes a disappointment.

5.  Create An Experience That Communicates The Story

It's a great time to be alive in the world of experiential design.  It seems that each new trade show is full of new products, and the many innovative vendors producing those products and technology is growing exponentially.  It's very easy to get enamored with the design of the space and the technology that drives it.  However, it is equally important to keep in mind that the guest is the focus and their experience of the space is key.  The technology that drives the experience should not be apparent or recognizable.  Otherwise, instead of it helping to tell the story, it distracts from it.

6.  Think In Terms of The Guest As The Camera In A Movie

The primary difference between a themed environment and an immersive experience is guest participation.  It is similar to watching a movie at a theater (the themed environment experience) versus getting to act in live theater (the immersive experience).  As such, the guest should be considered a 360 degree camera that operates with all senses, not just a lens.  Like it or not, the guest is processing all things all the time; this means that the experience is subject to a high level of judgment.

7.  Create Opportunity To Engage and Connect

While it is true that the guest is a highly complex camera in a space, and that this can set the bar high for maintaining a believable guest experience; it also provides a wide and diverse set of opportunities to create engagement and connection.  An important factor here, and uncontrollable to a certain degree, is the dynamic of social media and networking among guests.  In today's world, social media is helping to shape an experience even before someone experiences it first hand.  A guest may enter an experience with predetermined expectations or biases simply based on what they have seen online.  While this may be hard to control, it also allows opportunity to create connection.  Learning to leverage the "social spoiler" alert is part of the new digital dynamic.

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