Creative Circus: How to Create Experiences with Design

Club ADCN, 12 October 2017

Written by Marsha Peters

In this day and age it can get hard to free our inner child from the IKEA of our minds only to occasionally return to Småland. Therefore ADCN believes that design frees the inner child, asking to remove all insecurities to be fully immersed. For that reason we hosted a Creative Circus workshop at our club ADCN together with ‘Trapped in Suburbia’ and ‘Graphic Matters

The workshop focused not only on graphic design or design for that matter, but on how to make design interactive and create an experience for the viewer. More then thirty creatives attended and together we learned about the importance of (graphic) design in our society and why we should go from observer to participant. Ready for the takeaways?

Takeaway 1: Graphic design is about impact

Designers shape and influence our perspective on current issues that matter. According to Dennis Elbers, cultural entrepreneur and founder and curator of Graphic Matters, the Blind Walls Gallery and 3sec Gallery, there are three major trends in graphic design.

Expressing to the world what is happening or should not be happening.

Humour: can be positive or negative.

There is already enough shit out there. Why not focus on the positive?

As an example of activism Dennis brings up lawyer Klaus Staeck who became a political activist and started creating posters addressing certain issues in the 70’s. Staeck was never schooled to be a designer, but he felt design was the only way to get his message across.

In his career, he has been taken to court for a whopping 41 times by major companies which illustrates how real his messages about poverty, environment, peace and humanity are. The subjects he raised over the span of 50 years are – unfortunately – still ever so relevant.

Poster made by Klaus Staeck, printed in 1988. Source: Google

Another example of optimism comes from the man Dennis himself. With his 3 sec gallery, he transformed the otherwise boring and grey walls of a parking lot in Breda to an art gallery. He calls it the 3 sec gallery because you drive and walk past it after you’ve parked your car or when coming back to your car. It’s instant happiness!

A few of the instalments in the 3sec gallery in Breda. Source: Facebook

Takeaway 2: Graphic design is a great tool to address serious issues

Sometimes it’s easier to spark a conversation without talking. A great example is The Inflatable Refugee by Belgian artist Dirk Schellekens. He designed a life size refugee which travels across different waters in the big cities of Europe.

The Inflatable Refugee ignites the conversation about the refugee crisis: not necessarily taking a stand but just appointing an issue via design. It gives the viewer the opportunity to raise the discussion by the means of imagery that we all perceive differently but most likely have an opinion on. In this case, the design acts as a tool to enkindle discussions that normally might be swept under the rug.

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Takeaway 3: If you want people to ‘get it’, make it interactive

The second speaker is Karin Langeveld. She is an experience designer, graphic designer, lecturer and teacher. She is the Director and Founding Partner of ‘Trapped in Suburbia’ and Flags of Peace Foundation. The point of their work is to inspire, make people think or make them feel some type of way. They live and work by the motto:

“Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I’ll understand”, by the Chinese Confucian philosopher Xunzi (312-230 BC).

In their work, they combine the aesthetics of design with user experience. For example, a poster which uses sensory touch to make music. When you touch or press certain parts of the poster, different sounds come out. Not only is the poster aesthetically pleasing, but by adding multiple sensory impulses to the experience like touch and sound, it becomes immersive. The user is now a part of the work instead of just a passive observer.

Sound Posters from Trapped in Suburbia on Vimeo.

Takeaway 4: Analog + digital go hand in hand

Analog is not dead. There, we said it. Most of us still use pen and paper, draw and paint. And we still use digital to make things for the analog world like posters, flyers, flags etc. As for design, look at stationary. Who doesn’t love stationary? Digital design makes the analog world better.
Let’s look at the interactive note pad TIS designed. The objective was to get people away from their desks and up and moving. TIS designed a note pad that at first glance looks like just an ordinary note pad. The fun part is that on the back side of each piece of paper there is a ball pattern. When crumbled up you can play soccer, rugby, American football or throw a tennis ball into the bin. Instant gamification.

ADCN Creative Circus

Takeaway 5.The medium is the message and the essence
If content is king and distribution is queen, context is God. The best way to tell a story, depends heavily on the context you are planning to tell it in. Say when you’re making a book about a video artist. Doesn’t add up, right? But what if the book becomes interactive in a way that you can still view the video’s?
TIS designed a book about the legendary Dutch designer/video artist Jaap Drupsteen. He was a pioneer in the use of chroma keying a.k.a the blue screen effect. This technique allows you to superimpose actors or elements into totally different environments.
The book comes with an accompanying app in which the user can experience chroma keying themselves. The app allows the reader to superimpose a selection of his video clips onto the book, bringing the clip to life whilst explaining the process.

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Source: Trapped in Suburbia

Graphic design is an excellent way for designers to voice their opinions on different current subjects and to open the mind of the viewer to new ways of thinking. It enables the artist to address serious issues but also spread laughs and positivity. If you tell the story in such a way that the viewer can participate, they will be more likely to understand what you were trying to tell in the first place. By letting the user in on the piece and give them a multi-sensory experience, they become immersed in the work. It gives the user a better grasp of the story the design is trying to convey by activating the viewer to become a participant co-creating the story.

It was a great evening, full of awesome design work to get inspired by. We had a lot of fun in Småland! A huge thanks to Dennis Elbers and Karin Langeveld for sharing their work with us and showing what inspires them. And of course, a major shout out to everyone that attended. If you would like to attend similar events in the future to connect and work/play with likeminded creatives, you can become a member of Club ADCN here.