Celebrating experience developers and designers

Here at ALCHEMY studio, if you receive our weekly inspiration, you know what we like to share projects, technologies and experiences that have recently caught our attention. We share these because, for us, they are illustrative of important experience development and design points or emerging trends that we feel are relevant for our field. Additionally, we feel we expose more people to some of the great work going on all around us.

This week, we thought we would share a little animation/video that celebrates the creative ideas and energy of everyone who works in experience development and design. Also, after dealing with a foot of snow and artic temperatures, a little fun was needed here in the studio. So, for all of our brothers and sisters in museum and science center experience design, please enjoy:  This is the work of Elias Freiberger




Let us know if you enjoyed this, and please share other celebrations of creative people and processes.

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Mobile Interactivity

Museum and science centers continue to explore and experiment with how to incorporate mobile devices into their experiences. One motivation is the incredible capacity of today’s modern smart phones – devices more powerful than the first computers put on a museum floor.

However, the field’s experimentation has focused primarily on the device as separate from the experiences in the exhibition environment. The devise is an add-on to the experience itself.

What if the only way to interact with an exhibit was with a mobile device?

Here at the studio we are fascinated with several experiences that were on display at the “ALSO” exhibition. “ALSO” was an exhibition created by first year students of the School of VISUAL ARTS’ MFA Products of Design program.

The first experience that caught our eye was the one named LIFT





































Here, you put your phone system in a hoist that lifts it high above the exhibit floor and then back down – capturing video the whole time. The visitor thus gets their own “bird’s eye” view of the exhibition, with this experience offering a different perspective and creating personal memories for each visitor.


The second intriguing experience was TINY.





















Here, a portable video magnifier was attached to an iPad, thus allowing visitors to explore the micro-world around them. Imagine offering a magnifier that visitors can attach to their tablet and use to explore an entire museum!

The third was WARP





















Here, visitors could use their mobile device’s camera to record an image from a two-sided kaleidoscope. This exhibit points to the idea of embedding video or image opportunities directly into an experience.

Each of these shows a different creative approach to incorporating mobile devices into museum environments.

Rather than depend on an app, look to make the phone an integral part of the exhibit “structure,” an integral part of the main experience.

The importance of structure and the message it portrays was also evident in another exhibit included, called BOOM.



















Here, using a boom microphone, you dramatically get the stories of objects. This experience harkens back to the sound bottles we discussed in an earlier post and the idea of physical metaphor.

We salute the great ideas these students presented. We look forward to seeing more!



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3D Space

Often science centers and other museums look to engage people about how to understand different aspects of phenomena in three dimensional space on two dimensional displays (screens, graphics etc.).

What we often do not do is represent the three dimensional space in actual 3D space, allowing us to present the phenomena’s behavior in more powerful ways.

But since we are three dimensional creatures possibly this is the best way to understand or appreciate 3d space and what occurs there – seen or unseen.

Here are two examples that certainly one can riff on that made us think about this. The first is FLUIDIC by WHITEvoid.


Using 12,000 suspended spheres, a camera that senses the viewer and eight high speed lasers it creates an almost magical experience. We believe that being illuminated by laser light adds something special. Certainly a concept programmed to both enchant but to do so mimicking certain scientific phenomena could be impactful. By the way want to see this in person? Go to the Temporary Museum for New Design in Milan where it will be on display through April 14th.

The second piece that is similar but different is Submergence done by a group known as Squidsoup


This piece includes 8,064 spheres and LED lit. It too responds to visitors. This time though it’s possible to enter the space. Imagine explaining crystal structure, data movement or some other unseen movement through 3D space. You can see this at the Gallery ROM for Art and Architecture in Oslo, Norway

Often we fixate the on screens as the visual way to present information. What we may need to do more of is dedicate more space and create 3D spaces to represent 3D phenomena. We feel this creates an experience and opportunity that in fact is more powerful that what we have normally done.

If you know of more examples send them to us here on the blog.

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web of engagement

Recently, at the Giant Screen Cinema Association conference, we here at ALCHEMY studio were asked to speak on how to maximize the educational impact of giant screen films while still reserving the entertainment aspect of this impressive medium. The thinking we shared is one that we feel is applicable to exhibitions as well as films, since we work in both mediums. While there clearly are differences between large screen films and exhibitions, there are some similarities that tie them together in terms of impact and entertainment.

  1. They both try to be impact-driven as well as meet  leisure time entertainment goals.
  2. They are mass communication mediums – they are for the general public, taken in by large numbers at the same time.
  3. Increasingly, there is a desire by either the medium or the institutions exhibiting these experiences to impact not only  the mass public but some very targeted groups including policy makers, and even those who don’t usually interact with these mediums.
  4. To various degrees, the experience is determined by the designer/producer, not by the visitor/viewer.
  5. And finally, perhaps most importantly, exhibitions and giant screen films are both storytelling mediums.

  But in our world these mediums and the stories they tell no longer sit in a vacuum. With the rise of social media and the ever-growing sophistication of the devices that we use while on the move – ipods, smart phones, eyeglass interfaces, etc. – the audience expectations of  who, how , when and with whom interactions occur is changing.   This means that, to be successful in both in impact and storytelling (entertainment):

we as designers and producers must incorporate all mediums – the “web of engagement” – that now surround us.

This clearly comes through in the recent research being done by Latitude Research. We really recommend reading their short summary. Their recent work in the future of storytelling is a clear sign that as we develop our stories in either exhibitions or films, we need to use this web of engagement if we are to meet the desires and the place where our visitors and viewers are. They target four ”I’s” to think about: Immersion- instant access to deeper information, provide context, different viewpoints, heighten the sensory experience, extend the story Interactivity – change the plot, interact with virtual and real characters and ideas, interact with others taking in the story, heighten the sensory experiences Integration – integrate the real/my world into the story, seamless interaction between media, use location, time, environment Impact – empowering action from the audience, self-improvement, commercial and philanthropic All of these require using the ubiquitous web of information and the anytime, anyplace technology.  Imagine these scenarios (taken, in this instance, from upcoming giant screen films):

  • What was/is school like for a Muslim in Jerusalem?
  • Can we direct where the tornado hunters go today?
  • Can you give me live “news updates” on the wildebeest migration?
  • Can we use Kickstarter to start a sequel?
  • When is the cosplay Dragon gala ball across the country?

These are just a few examples of the kinds of things the new generations are asking for from their stories. And, again, it’s not just films on the receiving end of this need – it will include exhibitions and other storytelling mediums (transmedia) as time moves forward.

                                                                                                Flow Media

We need to break out of our model of thinking of siloed one media projects when we start on a subject from the beginning.

We should let the story tell us what media to use to create which impacts.  This is the future of film and exhibitions that really make a difference. 

Clearly, as we design experiences, all of us must think across multiple mediums and determine which impacts and what parts of the story should be told where and how. These modes should be synced from the start because our audiences will be looking for that seamless coherence and alignment.

illustration from Latitude

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Inspiration – Light Reeds

Here is a very cool concept that we believe deserves to be built:


It comes from the company Pensa. Actually would be great to see these at museums with water or think of how you might riff on this idea for other “plants” or objects.

A great alchemy of art, technology, inspiration and message.

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