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Ep8. The Evolving Role of Experience Design

Event design is no longer defined by the look of a general session, the color scheme of a partner area or the structures used. Great event design creates an engagement that spans all of it—every touchpoint from the beginning to the end of an event.

This week’s EM All Access episode focuses on the role of design—what’s changing and how events are evolving and continuing to combine experiences and design elements.

Video Transcript:

Hey there event marketers, Jessica Heasley here, with another episode of EM All Access. Where we connect you with some of the industry's most innovative events and the marketers behind them.

I spoke with two of GES’ top creatives, Robin Stapley and Heather Camardello, about the changing role of design, the evolving look and feel of events, and design thinking. Let's listen in…

Q: How has the role of design within experience design, evolved and changed?

Heather Camardello: Event design is less about the things, less about the structures, and more about the experiences.

Robin Stapley: And it's a holistic experience I think it's from, the minute you get that first email, from what is your experience when you arrive at the parking lot. I think it's, it is from the food and beverage… I think it needs to be a sort of, as a complete holistic experience.

Jessica Heasley: So it used to be that the venue or the exhibit was the event the destination, but now it's every minute leading up to, it’s every minute post event.

Q: When does design help, when does it hurt?

Robin Stapley: You want to design the entire space but you don't want to feel like it's over designed. You don't want to be aware of the design. Design really does help, but you want to make sure it's not as obtrusive. To me, that's the balance.

Heather Camardello: Right, when an event is well designed, nobody notices. That's the way it is supposed to be— seamless, human-centered and intuitive. If we've done our job, we can move attendees from one engagement to the next while keep theming engaged and collecting valuable data that our clients can then use.

Q: How has technology impacted experience design and event design?

Heather Camardello: We love that question, because it's a huge topic for us. First of all, it's given us a greater tool box within to play and work. Especially with social media, it gives us a new level of advocacy. It provides more opportunities for attendees to circle back. Whether they circle back to a physical or a virtual space, it's a whole new level of advocacy.

Robin Stampley: We’re just doing projects now, where we are actually doing 3,5,5 DXs routers, and then using 3D printing material. I mean it's just incredible just the amount of resources available to you. And you can get stuff done a lot quicker now as well which is terrific. So you can come up with an idea and produce it a lot quicker now.

Jessica Heasley: And in the design process, I would imagine then you can show your clients a more realistic view of what is going to look like, so they can really feel it before it actually happens.

Robin Stapley: And take them on a journey… that's big part of design. Thinking is collaboration. Whether I'm collaborating with a client or within our team to produce these events.

Q: What are the biggest event design trends or that are impacting the event industry? ( Some things that you are either providing for your clients or that your clients are asking for more often.)

Heather Camardello: Another change in the face of events and the design of events, it's taking a two-day brand environment and creating it into a 3D experience. So data visualization is big, and how we create interactive crowdsourcing. Gamification is another really big one.

Robin Stapley: We’re all children at heart and we like to play games and have fun. At the end of the day, you learn so much more when you having fun. Make it into a game rather than just giving dry data.

Jessica Heasley: And I would imagine that with all the technology available, it would be tempting to put that all in at the same time, because it is fun. But some of this experience design and design thinking is being strategic, about how much.

Robin Stapley: It is critical, but you can also lean too much on technology—touch screens everywhere and a lot of electronic interactives. It's finding that blend. I think you can do digital, but then also do some tactile interactives. You can do simple things like… we did an event recently where we had a Whac-A-Mole game, and we actually turned them into some of the CEOs of the different of the different organizations. And that was like one of the most popular things at the event! It's just, thinking that way.

Jessica Heasley: Its that fine line between analog and digital.

Heather Camardello: It’s an enabler... Technology is definitely an enabler.

Q: How is GES rising to the challenge and evolving its design offerings so that it keeps pace with what attendees want? ( While also being a leader, in that regard.)

Heather Camardello: We definitely pride ourselves on reimaging the attendee experience, and it’s less about work and more about the result—how we can create a new memorable experience for our client’s attendees.

Robin Stapley: We are storytellers, and we really want to take people on an emotional journey. How you design that experience is very much how we view events. The experience is… you’ve got to tell a story and you want somebody to go on that journey, walk out there having a clear understanding of that.

Heather Camardello: And content is key. Everybody's time is valuable. They want to know that they are getting of value, and something personal and unique, to them and that's the best thing we can do for our clients and their attendees—when they show up, they’re drawn in, surprised and engaged and it becomes their own story. The best thing we can have them do is go and have them take their own personal story out and, and share it with other people.

The look of events and the feel of experiences are being upgraded in real time as marketers look to build more intimate and engaging live dialogs. Technology is amplifying and extending the conversation, acting as an enabler between analog and digital.

Learn more about GES’ top influencers and problem solvers through our in-depth EM All Access video series on thought leadership.


About the Author

Robin  Stapley

Robin Stapley is Vice President of Design and Creative at GES. With more than 20 years of design experience, including thirteen years with GES, Robin has designed exhibitions and experiences for clients such as Discovery Science Center, Disney/Pixar, Warner Bros., The History Channel, and Taubman Centers. Robin manages a team of designers that produce award-winning environments for a diverse list of clients. As project creative director, Robin directs all creative aspects of the design development, production and installation of exhibits. Some of Robin’s most notable projects include Harry Potter: The Exhibition, World Trade Center Marketing Center, and Taubman’s Ice Palace. When he's not busy jet setting for work, he enjoys exploring the many corners of the over 40 countries and three continents he's visited.

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