There are well-known design principles for the disciplines of visual design and software engineering. There are also long-established rules for music composition, copywriting and all the other fields that converge in our world of digital, interactive and immersive media.
Beyond the realms of these specific creative endeavors, there is another level of design that comes into play when we’re devising and maintaining a process that brings together these varied elements to create integrated solutions that address specific goals.
There should also be design principles for this domain, but long-established and universally-accepted rules do not yet exist. In order to proceed correctly we must invent and refine principles as best we can — based on experience, and intuition — to inform conversations around how we do things, and why we do them.
Manifesting these principles is the primary purpose of the Company.
Towards this end, we offer seven design principles that drive our process (the number seven, it might be noted, is arbitrary and may change — per principle number 7).
A better understanding of the world — and each other — has long been the goal of both science and art. We are in the business of combining these practices, of merging technology and storytelling — all the more reason to be thinking about how the experiences we create improve our audiences' understanding of their world, themselves and each other. This idea is, after all, at the heart of any good story.
As we design and execute any project, we should be asking ourselves: What do people take away from this experience? What do they learn? How do they see things differently? How have their attitudes changed?
If we can’t answer these questions we’re not doing our job.
Technology is disruptive. We are constantly reminded of this. Change is a constant, and in our business, this is to be embraced. But it’s not the only constant, or at least it shouldn’t be — this is why we need design principles: to remind us of constant and underlying truths.
We are in a highly dynamic era. But we need to do more than just keep up with the changes around us. It’s not enough just to “move fast and break things.” It’s not even always necessary to move fast — fundamental principles still apply as the technology on the surface, or the delivery mechanisms, shift and evolve.
We are Designers; Design is the process of making useful things, and what makes something useful — that is to say, what makes something valuable, to humans — has in many ways remained constant.
It’s common to hear that, since the arrival of ubiquitous connectivity, “everything has changed” — but this is, in fact, not true. We’re all still human and we still have the same basic needs, fulfilled in more-or-less the same ways. We can always do things differently by employing new technology and techniques, but the real goal is to do things better — which comes back to making us more human, more alive and aware.
The above principles prompt us to embrace Simplicity — to focus on what addresses a need, to put our energy into what furthers a solution, while avoiding unnecessary, superfluous distractions and diversions.
But in many cases, the needs and the goals are not as clear as they could be. This is why we begin our process with Discovery — to fully understand the intentions, the audience, and the desired transformations before we begin to design an experience.
Syncretism is a term that refers to blending practices of various schools of thought, to merging or assimilation of several originally discrete traditions. In theological terms, a fundamental unity underlying all is implied.
We live — and work — in a world of boundaries and categorizations. For example, we often hear the terms “left brain” and “right brain,” and there is a tendency — even in our business — to think of art and engineering, stories and systems, as separate and distinct activities. We often encounter an assumption that there are two kinds of creativity and two types of creative people.
But this is a recent phenomenon in human history. To the ancients, all sorts of creative endeavor were grouped together as one idea: techne — the root of the word "technology" — referred to the "human ability to make and perform" and included not just disciplines like architecture but also arts such as music and theater.
The modern distinction between artists and engineers is artificial, and it's often not helpful. Furthermore, it's likely to be a temporary historical phenomenon. From the present generation on, there will be no artist whose life is not completely infused with technology. And there are still few, if any, humans — even the most serious scientist or engineer — with whom a sublime image, a beautiful melody, or a powerful story doesn’t resonate.
Of course individuals have their own strengths and weaknesses, their own interests and desires. People of diverse backgrounds also bring their own valuable perspectives. And on a practical level, to get something of any significant magnitiude and complexity done, we must divide and conquer: a functional project team must have clearly-defined roles — and often (though not always) one must specialize to do world-class work.
But it is foolish to assume that an individual team member can only make worthwhile contributions within a narrow set of limits or a predefined category.
People are not one thing or another — not this or that. Neither ourselves, as creators, nor our audiences. People are holistic systems. What we are trying to accomplish, in this business, is the creation of integrated solutions, with various components working together, seamlessly. We should be thinking this way, at all times and in everything we do — one brain, one experience, not a right or a left.
The best engagements never end: an event may be closed, an activation completed — but that doesn’t mean it’s over. There are questions to answer: What data did we collect from the execution? What did we learn? What is the feedback from our efforts, and how does it play into the next iteration? How do we reuse and repurpose what works, and improve or jettison what didn’t?
This process should form a continuous feedback loop; if it doesn’t our we’re not getting as much out of our efforts as we should.
The importance of research and experimentation should never be overlooked. It’s often a good idea to break things — like traditions and assumptions. But it should be done in the proper environment, such as a laboratory, or a modern art gallery, or on stage at an avant-garde performance venue.
Then we clean up the mess, and we can apply what has been learned to the creation of practical — and predictable — solutions for our clients.
Are these principles hardwired? Etched in stone (or silicon)? Of course not. Evolution is constant. Rigidity is not sustainable, especially in our business. The ideas presented here — or at least the way they’re described and the manner in which they are manifested — will continue to evolve, like everything in our industry. Points will be added, emphases will shift, as we progress and learn. But the core ideas — the essential elements of the foundation upon which the integrity of the process is based — remain consistent.
We help clients refine objectives and messaging, explore methods for measuring success, and identify how a given engagement fits into larger strategies. We recommend and conduct research to better understand the needs and desires of audiences. From these processes come detailed plans for creating compelling experiences with measurable results.
From high-level design concepts down to detailed specifications, we imagine visions for audience experiences and create roadmaps for their successful execution. This is often an iterative process, with visualizations at increasing levels of detail — describing information architecture, navigation and interaction paradigms designed to meet well-defined goals.
From refining existing assets to generating new graphic and motion design, typography treatments, user interface components, dynamic infographics, video, animation, sound design and more — we make sure all the essential pieces are in place to convey messages and inform audiences in an engaging manner.
While a great deal of the interactive magic happens in the software realm, many solutions also involve hardware components such as embedded sensors, microcontrollers, networked devices, audio and lighting — as well as integration into scenics, staging and architectural environments.
We manage the creation of solutions from initial concept through final delivery — wherever it takes us. Our event production staff has installed and supported digital solutions and associated infrastructure at venues ranging from museums and trade shows to galleries, festivals and more.
We develop and maintain propietary platforms and processes to streamline the creation of interactive experiences. This ensures that the solutions we deliver for our clients are developed as efficiently as possible and are based on proven pipelines and infrastructures. Modular architectures and tools for content management facilitate a continuing lifecycle for many solutions.
Drawing upon experience shipping several major software applications for digital media and design — and leveraging our platforms and production experience — we develop stand-alone tools to further creative endeavor and optimize communication channels.
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