Conversation
Orchestrating Audience Journeys for Physical Experiences at Global Scale
Speakers:
Ryan Howard
Tina Blakeney
Profile:
Ryan Howard
Ryan Howard leads a global portfolio of experiential programs at Google with a focus on enabling experiences at enterprise scale. Previously, he led similar programs at Goldman Sachs and worked as a design and engineering consultant spanning a wide range of creative technology applications.
Profile:
Tina Blakeney
​​Tina Blakeney is a Director of Production in the Thinkwell Group’s Montréal Studio, where she draws on her background in the creative and digital industries, themed environments, immersive experience design, video production, and post production. Blakeney is an experimental filmmaker, photographer and VJ, working with 8mm and 16mm film for live performances and installations.
Soundbite:
“A lot of design is thinking about transactions. I don’t just mean financial ones, but around brand reception and community interaction. Thinking about what is being exchanged and what is desired, is a good way to start a conversation about value.”
Ryan Howard, on setting an agenda for a design project
Takeaway:
Tech companies like Google find themselves in a (fairly) unique position of designing products and experiences for individual users and billion-plus audiences. This unprecedented scale has prompted considerable internal soul searching about guidelines for accessibility and flexibility.
Takeaway:
Contemporary users expect emotional engagement, not just functionality or rich user experiences. This spans software and space and the expectations about these two realms are not mutually exclusive.
Soundbite:
“I think a way to frame the changes that are going on right now is that many companies find themselves moving away from the idea of ‘content management systems’ towards ‘journey management systems.’”
​​Tina Blakeney, on moving beyond information architecture towards full-on experience design
Soundbite:
“Applying notions of responsive design into physical as well as digital space opens up interesting conversations about scale. When we are talking about scale, how do we confront the biases that we begin to introduce?”
​​Tina Blakeney, on (wanting to avoid) making assumptions about audiences
Soundbite:
“The baseline problem that we are trying to solve is that there are screens everywhere in the world right now—of myriad sizes and aspect ratios. How do you create content that works in all those contexts? How do we free content from the web browser and bring it to multiple contexts?”
Ryan Howard, on creating flexible systems versus static designs
Project:
The Grove Experience Center is a project to emerge from Thinkwell and Google’s ongoing collaborations on spatial design. Taking inspiration from its California environs, the space engages in playful biomimicry, with structural and decorative nods to the trees Redwood City is named after. The center’s spaces contain numerous examples of hybrid experiences Blakeney and Howard describe, including a ‘digital campfire,’ a Google Assistant-powered gathering space, to a whimsical tunnel scored by machine learning-generated tunes.
Soundbite:
“User journey is always centred on the human. Whether that is an audience of a thousand or a single person.”
Ryan Howard, on user flow as first principle
Soundbite:
“It’s not just about wow moments, it doesn’t always have to end in something fantastic. Small daily interactions can be simple and intuitive—not everything has to inspire.”
​​Tina Blakeney, on resisting the urge to always make grand gestures
Commentary:
This might be tangential, but I wanted to share an anecdote: when I was writing my book, Broad Band, I profiled a group of women who built one of the earliest online services targeted explicitly to women, a First-Class BBS community called Women’s Wire, which became women.com in the early ‘90s. There was a tension within the Women’s Wire group that occurred at a key moment between the era of dial-up services, listservs, and message boards and the dawn of the World Wide Web. Basically, they couldn’t agree what the internet was for. Was it an information resource—a place where people went to get weather reports and stock updates—or was it an exchange—a place people went to share their experiences with others? Choosing one side, at the time, seemed vital to building a coherent business. One member of the team, however, told me something that I think is very wise. “At a certain level of intensity in an either/or argument,” she said, “the fact that it has reached that intensity is the indicator that the right answer is and.” When we’re talking about bridging between screens, and between meatspace and cyberspace, we should keep that in mind: we’re long past “either/or.” The answer is always “and.” And is fertile. We’re inhabiting a great big “and” right now, with this Forum, which exists everywhere and nowhere at once.