3 ways to design immersive experiences: start with a flight suit
October 18, 2016
October 18, 2016
To design a space that draws people into an experience, sometimes you have to take a walk in your client’s shoes…or skydive in their flight chamber
In my career as a designer, I've had to wear a lot of hats, and sometimes even flight suits. On my current project, I often find myself floating in a pristine glass cylinder wearing a skydiving suit, goggles, and a helmet as a column of air from jet-engine turbines lifts my body. I feel like I have just jumped out of a plane, but I'm actually in one of the facilities we've designed for iFly, a company whose mission is to "deliver the dream of flight to everyone" with more than 60 indoor skydiving tunnel gyms located around the world. Indoor skydiving (or body flying) has been an important part of my job because in order to design spaces that truly immerse people in an experience, I need to know first-hand what that experience feels like.
I’m part of a buildings team that focuses on designing commercial spaces that encourage people to engage with their surroundings and enjoy human interactions. In a time of online retail where people can order almost anything from their living room, our goal is to use interior, graphic, and environmental design to create spaces that inspire people to get out, gather, and feel connected to one another and their community. When people feel invigorated by their surroundings, we find that economic success for our clients follows: we always like to say “social success equals economic success.”
So how do you create a space where people feel emotionally connected to their environment? It’s simple. I put myself in the shoes of the people who will be using the space (hence the flight suit). I think of design as a never-ending research project, or a 007-style mission where I must dive in (sometimes literally) and get ready for discoveries along the way.
Here are three ways that you can design an experience by simply understanding what makes people tick:
The design industry is moving into an era where clients want to integrate design thinking into their company structure. More and more, our role as designers is to become trusted advisors and our business relations are shifting toward long-lasting relationships. The leadership at iFLY trusts us to make every design decision related to what people can see and touch for all their worldwide facilities. If they can't find a tile in Brazil or a certain wood floor in not available in Australia, we get a call. But in order to be trusted advisors, we need to know what their customers want and need from an experience, which means stepping outside our comfort zones … and inside their flight chamber.
Our next assignment is going to be helping a rugby team shape the vision of their future home. This time, I think I'll choose to walk in the shoes of the referee!