The proliferation of digital technology and content is proof that customer experiences, powered by digital technologies and content, have found their way from the desktop and mobile screen to physical environments. B2C and B2B brands are seeing physical environments as a key touchpoint for actively engaging customers and partners with product and solution stories. In addition, the same technology also positively influences employee work culture, inspires innovation, and education.
With smart, data-driven buildings, interactive entryways, and reactive digital artwork, organizations across industries have recognized that the design of their spaces — whether intended for work, service, commerce, or even play — greatly influences the way people feel, how they behave and what they believe. We are even seeing corporate America turning from monochrome, cube-laden and private offices, to brighter, open, and agile creative destinations. And for good reason.
Creatively, digital technologies and content enable brands and marketing teams to tell stories in ways not possible with static, traditional design. This in no way diminishes the importance of hardscape, where design and materiality play a big part in creating any experience. Instead, it’s a recognition that the future must involve a collaboration between the two. Both must work cohesively together, along with lighting and audio design, to truly elevate brand communication and ensure that our corporate spaces are evolving as quickly as the technologies used by the people within them.
A world of possibilities
Digital presentation technologies designed specifically for delivering content in physical spaces provide designers with new canvases and brushes to create and present content. Expansive video walls and large format displays enable the delivery of ultra-high definition video for motion graphics, live-action branded entertainment, and dynamic, data-driven content. Projection mapping software means content can adorn nearly any surface, object, or structure, allowing even an entire building can become the canvas for artistic or brand expression. Dynamic data opens even more new possibilities for content, ranging from uses of social feeds to personalized content delivered based on user interaction.
These experiences are all about changing the way people feel. What’s so powerful about expansive video walls, environments that react to a person’s presence, data-driven art, and projection mapping technologies is that they suddenly transform the places that people traverse everyday into storytelling experiences. Now brands have a new canvas to touch the hearts and minds of customers.
All of these possibilities also create a great deal of flexibility. Content can be adapted and dayparted, serving up different experiences at the right time, to the right people, and in the right way. In corporate environments, an entire customer journey can be customized based on their specific industry and known challenges.
Take, for example, the McKesson Vision Center – an award winning customer experience center. This isn’t a standard retail setup, looking for sales above all else. Instead, customers can learn firsthand how the brand touches and powers critical areas of healthcare – from the delivery of pharmaceuticals to powering modern medical care. McKesson’s center is effective because the way it’s designed emotionally elevates solutions in the hearts and minds of audiences. Seeing its benefits in action changes the way people feel about solutions. It makes it far more personal than reading it off of a website. With its use of integrated tablets and screens, it’s also a wonderful example of creating hardscape with digital design.
When things go wrong
Challenges or downsides exist with any platform and digital installation experience are no less immune. Placed in the wrong hands or in possession of an ill-equipped, ill-funded, or inadequately staffed group, bad digital integrations have disastrous results. For example, many times digital technology is an IT-funded initiative. As such, brand and marketing teams are often not properly consulted to give input on key content creation requirements needs, address environmental design considerations, or create an optimal internal workflow for keeping content fresh and relevant.
In addition, even when marketing is involved, sometimes a comprehensive content strategy is overlooked. Digital content must be updated regularly, and the frequency of updates carefully planned. Depending on the use case and placement within an environment, digital content can quickly feel antiquated, especially in high traffic areas like a corporate lobby where content exposure is frequent, and information expected to be timely.
Digital technology must also be maintained and managed by a team that understands the platform. Technology has a shelf life and costs for maintenance can become an unexpected drain on resources. In addition, groups must be assembled that understand content specifically for large format display technology. A print, UI, UX, or product designer may not understand content creation for expansive, video wall or projection content. Similarly, mobile UI designers may not understand the unique requirements for interactive single or multi-touch experiences.
Building better corporate spaces
As we push towards innovation in the B-to-C space, it’s important that we also insist on the same level of digital design and interactivity in B-to-B corporate environments. Afterall, creating digital experiences has never been easier, with vast performance improvements in terms of digital display, content delivery and content rendering technologies.
Branded spaces need not be staid offices, lobbies and other environments. They can be inspiring canvases for storytelling that elicit emotions, change perspectives and inspire action. They can also lead to stronger communities and enhanced work environments. That’s what immersive space and experiential design should always aim to do – tell a story that uses multi-sensory technologies to bring people together. When executed correctly, these experiences can completely transform people and brands from the inside out.