As founding partner and CEO of DesignContact in New York City, how would you define what you call “brand theatre,” and what is your role in these projects?
Brand theatre is any event or experience that brings a live audience in direct contact with a product which translates into an experience they can feel. Ideally, the audience will understand and appreciate how the product or company will make their jobs easier or their lives better. Often, brand identity lives in a flat world, such as print, broadcast, or Internet. Typically, few brand guidelines exist for the transformation from 2D to 3D, and we are often the first to interpret them in this way.
For the launch party of the Aquitania on the World development in Dubai, your company created oversized video projection that filled the three-story windows at the Buddha Bar. What were the challenges of this project?
There were several immediate challenges. First, the development is several kilometers offshore and was on a pile of damp sand, so we needed to bring it to life for the audience who couldn't see or feel it. The next challenge was the venue itself. The Buddha Bar in Dubai was designed to be a striking and distinctly Asian space — quite different from Aquitania, which is a water-borne paradise named after the Atlantic coastal regions of France and Spain.
The opportunity for a solution was in the massive three-story windows of the Buddha Bar, which we turned into an aquarium, bringing the essence of the sea to life with oversized video projection. The projector was placed low in the front of house and projected at an upward angle — under the six massive chandeliers that hung in the space — onto a set of chiffons that hung over the windows. A 16:9 window was knocked out of the image that aligned with a borderless front projection screen. Strip lighting was hidden behind the low-performance platform, and intelligent lighting in the house helped fill out the image. Overall, the effect was magnificent and completely transformed the experience of the space for the audience.
Among your projects in live events, exhibits, tradeshows, and meetings, which do you find the most rewarding and why?
Any event with an audience that moves them in some way — astonishes or delights — is rewarding, especially if this can be repeatedly achieved. In general, public exhibitions, theatrical presentations, or special effects environments, though temporary, are the most rewarding. At the other end of the spectrum are more permanent installations, such as an interactive mural we installed, that continues to draw attention and compliments.
What is the best career advice you've ever been given?
Know your audience! A good idea in the wrong venue is doomed to fail.
And what's the worst?
On the way to a second interview for a job as the CEO of a design firm, I was advised the meeting was “just a formality” by the person who arranged it. I was later told I did not get the job because I did not seem to take the event seriously. I take all meetings seriously now.