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Experiential Design that Creates Meaning

Based in the US, Christian has held the role of Executive Creative Director of the Americas at FITCH since 2010. He is a previous D&AD jury member and has also acted as Jury Foreman on the Spatial and Experiential Design Jury. 

In the article below he outlines his vision for how experiential design can bring us closer together, in a world where technology often separates us. He'll also reveal some experiential spatial design tips and examples as well as why the 2015 Jury gave no Yellow Pencils out at all.

Christian Davies FITCH D&AD Spatial & Experiential Design

The world of experiential design has never faced more of a challenge than it does today, while simultaneously never finding itself presented with a greater opportunity. 

By way of providing context, I read a fascinating article recently in the New York Times. It examined how in this web-fueled world we are losing our ability to focus, and are becoming – or, more likely, have already become – addicted to distraction. The net result of this reality is that today spaces are filled with people spending so much of their time in the digital world that they are having a hard time immersing themselves in the physical one. 

Against this backdrop, it’s my hope that on this year’s D&AD Spatial & Experiential Jury we get to see spaces that are swimming against this tide, drawing people in and wrapping us in experiences that create meaning and which move us. Moments and memories we can’t wait to share with friends in person and, yes, on our social feeds...but which will resonate and stay with us long after we have walked away.

These places may well be fuelled by digital moments, content and stories. But they absolutely should not be defined by this content. They have to be something more. I want a return to the poetry of places. To the type of experiences that raise your heartbeat. Take your breath away. Literally stop you in your tracks. 

There were no Yellow Pencils in this category last year. As someone who was on the Jury panel it was clear why. Submission after submission which simply took a digital campaign, placed it in a space (often with no connection to that space) and called that 'place making'. It is not. 

But as you can see from the following image and videos, there are still those spaces which rise above. 

High Line Diller Scofidio + Renfro D&AD Environmental and Spatial Design

High Line

MUMA’s Work for the V&A

Susanne Traeger’s Black Pencil Winning 2009 Work for BMW

It is these kind of experiences that I want to see. That don’t just raise the eyes from the little screens we hold in our palms. But which make us forget about them and relegate them to our pockets until we are ready to share what we just saw with the world. 

I want spaces which make me smile. Which make me cry. Which make me want to come back for more. Again, and again, and again. 

To whit. The challenge we face as designers is simple. We must find a way to return to a design age of meaning. To infuse our work with something more than the facile. Something more than the gloss of a digital veneer. Something with layers and layers of meaning, that excites us and maybe even, on it’s very best day, enlightens those that take the time to visit it. 

The opportunity, if we take up this mantle, should speak for itself, but just in case it doesn’t imagine a day spent filled with moments and memories like those I have described. 

And I would tell you that was a day when design did its job. 

If you think you have a campaign that deserves a Pencil, enter your work into the D&AD Professional Awards and see if our judges agree. When it comes to awards, nothing matters more.

For more creative inspiration and the opportunity to get up close and personal with the world’s best design and advertising, join us at D&AD Festival.
 

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