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Foong Ling Chen

Foong Ling Chen

Akendi Alumnus

Foresta Lumina: Magic Done Better Than Disney

“Good design, when it’s done well, becomes invisible. It’s only when it’s done poorly that we notice it.” – Jared Spool

But what about extraordinary design; design so enchanting you cannot ignore it? Generally when user experience is talked about, the discussion is about whether the product is useful and/or usable. However, another important aspect of experience is emotion. Often we report satisfaction as a measurement but emotions encompasses much more than that (pride, joy, belongingness, just to name a few).

I first heard about Foresta Lumina from a friend, who expressed her interest in attending an illuminated interactive forest night walk. At first I was skeptical. There was a high chance it would be nothing more than a lame light show; an empty promise of spectacular written by brilliant marketers. But I’m glad I let my friend convince me to take that 7-hour drive. Without telling you too much and killing the enchantment of it all, I’ll attempt to tell you why it was magic – and how it compares to Disney.

A story that Includes the User Helps Connect the User to What is Happening.

Foresta Lumina is an outdoor multi-sensory installation devised and executed by Moment Factory, a studio in Montreal. Foresta Lumina tells folklore filled with myths and creatures, and takes visitors through an immersive night trail.

Forest Lumina A

At the beginning of the journey of Foresta Lumina, the visitor steps up onto a small podium and whispers a wish into a large phonograph. The visitor is informed that their wish is now contained within a (ordinary) rock, which they carry with them throughout the journey.

Forest Lumina B

This type of interaction creates ownership. From the start, Foresta Lumina has asked the visitors for a favour; it asks the visitor to make belief. By doing so, the visitor now has a personal stake in the adventure. The visitor at Foresta Lumina now feels that their journey is a part of a greater communal experience.

Technology Helps Drive the Vision, not Determines it.

The best thing about Foresta Lumina is that it is held outside. It takes part in a park where man made sounds blend into sounds of nature; it becomes hard to tell what is fabricated and what is not. A great part of achieving this mystery is to integrate the mechanics deeply and to keep the visitor focused on the story. Even if curious visitors are able to pull themselves away from the story, the technology is embedded so seamlessly it is hard to trace where the effects are coming from. With lighting and sound the creator of Foresta Lumina, Moment Factory, is able to emulate fairies, create creatures out of trees, and push the boundaries of storytelling.

Forest Lumina C

In Foresta Lumina, the technology is indispensable; it is evident that a lot of consideration has been done on the designers’ part. With that said, Foresta Lumina works well because the technology isn’t in the forefront but is the apparatus that brings the story to life. If the focus were to be heavily on the technology, the result would be something unimaginative. It will not engage the user. It will not provoke emotion, and what is the fun in that?

Why is it Better than Disney?

I would say Disney does a comparably impressive job in telling an immersive story and appropriately implementing technology to its true advantage. Even so, I believe Foresta Lumina is better than any Disney experience I’ve had because Foresta Lumina feels more organic. It is hard to explain what makes it feel that way, but if I tried I would say that each element within Foresta Lumina takes its time to breathe life. The elements work at its own tempo, making visitors feel like they stepped into another a world, a world that could still exist without the presence of humans. While the visitor is imperative to the experience, at the same time the visitor is its own separate entity. Visitors are able to wander at their own pace and explore each section as long as they want. Unlike Foresta Lumina, I personally feel Disney tries to be too perfect and calculated; the Disney experience feels much more contrived. Foresta Lumina is held in a park in Coaticook, two hours east of Montreal. I admit Coaticook is quite a ways away but, if you are ever passing by in the summertime, I urge you to make a stop. The magic is worth it. If not, all the more reason to come back here and debate with me on my Disney comparison.

To learn more about Foresta Lumina, check out their website.

When was the last time you were enchanted by design?

Foong Ling Chen

Foong Ling Chen

Akendi Alumnus


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Akendi is a human experience design firm, leveraging equal parts experience research and creative design excellence. We provide strategic insights and analysis about customer and user behaviour and combine this knowledge with inspired design. The results enable organizations to improve effectiveness, engage users and provide remarkable customer experiences to their audiences.