I had the chance to be an intern at Disney World in the fall of 2008. For anyone who’s ever spent any time at the “House of Mouse,” you’ve undoubtedly found yourself in awe at the world that has been imagined and created around you. A world that—in that moment—you are a part of.
One of the perks of being a cast member—Disney’s word for “employee”— was the ability to visit the parks whenever I pleased. On my days off, I would spend my days walking around the parks and I always found myself appreciating the work of a truly incredible brand. Watching the fireworks show at Epcot for the first time remains, to this day, one of the many milestones in my life.
And in that sense, I think Disney accomplishes exactly what it exists for: Make every moment magical.
I left my internship feeling that nostalgic childhood tingling I felt back when I’d hold a magic show at home or a haunted house in the middle of July in my garage. I thrived on creating experiences for people. I wanted to scare people or make them feel like they had just truly witnessed a coin appear out of thin air. I wanted to create a moment someone remembered forever.
Working at Achieve as a designer has given me the opportunity to act on this childhood fantasy in a different sort of way. With events such as MCON and Indy Redefined, I get to think about how people experience receiving massive amounts of information in a live (or online) setting. The opportunity to create something memorable enough that people leave feeling like they were just a part of something special has become a fun challenge for me. But I don’t get to do it with fireworks. (Read: Budgets)
Our most recent conference, Indy Redefined, showcased the direction Indianapolis is taking many of its industries in reaction to a changing talent and consumer market. For this event, our team had the interesting challenge of transforming a garage into an energizing space that reflected the innovation of the conference itself.
The trouble of a conference in an industrial garage, not knowing if it would be filled with 50 or 500 bodies, is not wanting people to feel dwarfed by the 30-foot-high concrete walls around them, yet still capitalizing on the unique experience of being in an IndyCar garage.
Our Solution: Building blocks. Lots of them.
Cities are built in pieces: pieces of land, pieces of steel, brick and mortar, pieces of knowledge and pieces of every single person who lives in it. In order to materialize that sentiment, we built an over 400-cubic foot installation of cardboard boxes, arranged to create an interactive cityscape of which the audience was the center. Hand-painted on the boxes were over 30 infographics relating to the city, the thoughts of its residents and city-based facts and figures.
The installation created a playful take on the act of building something from the most basic of pieces. Indianapolis was being featured for redefining the way it is building its industries, much in the way the walls were building a city of their own around the attendees. They created the whimsical sense that if you looked away for just a second, they’d continue to build and grow, as if living on their own.
The reactions from people who attended the event were the true success. People read the boxes, explored them curiously as they poked their heads into the voids between them to read quotes on the walls from city leaders. People interacted with the 5×5 Indy voting wall, taking photos and sharing them with their own friends and followers. With that, we had successfully created an experience people were excited to share with the world outside of our event. They were missing out.
I am excited to see where MCON 2015 takes us and the experience it creates for the people who attend. It’s difficult not to draw such huge inspiration from the city of Chicago, its beautiful architecture and its humbling diversity. It’s difficult not to want to bring the world outside into the four walls of the Museum of Contemporary Art. It’s difficult, but it is the most exciting aspect of what my team and I get to do every single day.The upcoming MCON 2015 in Chicago promises to be a similarly powerful event, showcasing how art, media business and place are powerfully influencing our lives. The challenge of this event will be appealing to a national crowd of several hundred as well as an online crowd of several thousand. Our team will have to figure out how to bring together four incredible concepts, and the power of their influence, to both live and virtual viewers.
I encourage everyone to embrace the experiences they are a part of, both bad and good. And here’s a fun exercise: Next time you are in a unique experience, take a moment to realize every single thing you are feeling, hearing, tasting, thinking. Verbalize it, even. And understand what is making that experience a moment you will remember forever. I’d love to hear what makes you feel alive in a certain moment. I would love to see the building blocks of those moments worthy of creating permanent notches in our minds that stay with us forever.
To experiencing things: Cheers,