Interactive lighting design and media architecture are the new vogue. In Australia, Sydney’s Vivid Festival and Melbourne’s White Night celebrate all things light and interactive, and we, the public love it. This scale and interactivity is now being applied to buildings both inside and out. Our most recent project, the 888 Collins Street façade was inspired by community driven data visualisations made possible with new skills and technologies.
888 Collins Street is now a landmark for media architecture in Melbourne.
Motivated by the rapid growth in this relatively new area of design and architecture we are keen to understand what it takes to produce interactive projects of the highest quality. During a timely visit from our long-time collaborator and software design genius, David Hayes, we asked him to share his key technical considerations in the creation of interactive works.
Here’s what he had to say…
1. Stability Stability Stability
Unsexy but vital to the success of any project is knowing that the system being used is reliable, low maintenance and will always work as it’s supposed to. Creating a beautiful art-piece that works in the studio is one thing, but a prominent public location demands an always-on approach. You can’t hang an “Out of Order” sign on the side of a building. At the end of the day clients have an expectation of unattended operation – they don’t want something that requires constant staffing or training to problem solve a complicated system.
2. Consider the Medium
There is generally an expectation with digital media content that the medium will almost always be a traditional broadcast on a 16×9, flat, 2D surface, high resolution and bright. By sticking to this standard the content becomes the whole story, the screen an unobtrusive medium. However, when working in the organic and built environment, while the same tools may be used to create content, the output can be vastly different. Therefore it serves designers to consider both the medium and the content equally in the creation of the story.
3. Consider the Unknown
The saying could not be more applicable: you don’t know what you don’t know…
With any interactive or generative project it is imperative to consider the relevant variables and incorporate as much as can be accounted for into the design, but you can’t anticipate everything. As an example, with content that responds to the presence of people, you must consider how software will react to one, ten, or hundreds of people. Appreciating people’s diversity, their interpretations and therefore interactions is another consideration (although real-world interaction styles may not even become apparent until after the artwork is in place), along with extreme weather events.
This does not mean you have to prepare for every possible eventuality. If that were true we would never complete any projects.
Which leads into the next consideration…
4. Flexibility to the End
The nature of the technology, development processes and the scale of projects means that we often cannot setup prototypes in the studio and test content at one-to-one scale. This means, generally, no one sees the actual output until everything is installed in its final form.
We rely on high quality and millimeter accurate 3D renders to plan how content will look in situ, but inevitably adjustments need to be made. These can include altering colour, brightness, fullness/sparseness, or movement on-site in real time, therefore flexibility is a result of the first three considerations: designing for stability, for the medium and for the unknown.
If these things have been thoroughly accounted for, flexibility to adapt during the development process and at the last minute should not be a harrowing prospect.
5. Understand the Language You are Using and Why
In the same way cinematography and filmmaking have a language, there is a language to interactive design and media architecture.
This language can be conversational, active/ambient, reflective/reactive, playful or sophisticated. It manifests in palettes used, intensity, fixture design and placement, transitions, speed and style of movement.
In terms of a client’s needs, generally we can divide projects into two broad categories: prominent or reflective – and it’s important to ascertain which one the project sits in. If the project is the spectacle, if it is what people are coming to see you want it to be prominent. The visual language and techniques should deliver that. If the project is passive, designed to contribute to ambiance or a particular function, it should work in support of that purpose, not be so prominent as to distract from it.
It’s important to deliver interactive works that fulfill the client’s needs and integrate effectively into the environment.
Stay tuned as we stay on this topic and our Creative Director shares his ‘5 Top Tips for People Centred Interactive Design’….