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Jessica Murray

Jessica Murray

Akendi Alumnus

The Powerful Art of Experience Thinking

Art can have the same transformative power as any great technological advancement. Experience design isn’t only for products and technology; artists can also benefit from adopting this mindset. From theatre performances to seasonal attractions, artists are creating work that uses technology and experiences to express their concepts. This makes sense as using experience design allows artists to consider the experience as a whole and carefully craft an experience that can have a powerful impact on the viewer.

I’ve seen some amazing museum exhibits, theatre performances, and art installations all trying to create a memorable immersive experience. In an age where there is always a new tech toy to play with or a new app to try, people expect exceptional experiences and artists have been using that desire to create new ways of experiencing art. Transforming ordinary spaces into new worlds that take you beyond the velvet rope, encouraging play, creativity and curiosity.

So, what makes a piece of immersive art powerful?

1. A Good Story

The experience itself needs to be able to take me on a journey and tell a story. I want to see a progression of the story, even if it is abstract. If there isn’t a strong story to be told, then why am I here?

2. A New World

People want to leave the real world behind when they enter an immersive installation. However, we can’t just be dropped right into this new world, we need to be eased into it. There needs to be a progressive reveal of the world you are entering. Whether it’s crawling through a washing machine to get to an Alice and Wonderland-type world or moving through a black hallway to a little 1902s speakeasy.

3. Attention to Detail

This new world needs to feel authentic, not only does it need to wow you on a large scale, but it also needs depth. Smaller physical things that are interactive allowing the audience to fully assimilate into their new reality.

4. Create Curiosity

These experiences have levels built into them. The more you explore, the more you will discover. Touch something and it lights up; push on a door and it reveals a secret room.

5. Controlled Crowds

I’ve been to some really cool installations that were ruined by long waits, feeling rushed and hordes of other people. These things break the illusion that the artist has created.


And if you are looking for an exceptional immersive experience check out some of these:

Sleep No More, NYC

An immersive play based on Macbeth, Sleep No More takes its audience into a wildly beautiful film noir version of Macbeth.  You become a ghost in a multi-floor Shakespeare play where you are part of the story, sit on anything you wish, touch anything, and follow any actor. There are only a few rules: no talking, never take off your mask, give the actors space, and follow your curiosities.

Meow Wolf , Santa Fe

Step into the quirky world designed by artists at Meow Wolf. The deeper you go the weirder it gets. This multimedia installation allows guests to touch anything they wish and is fully interactive and reactive.

Haunted Casa Loma, Toronto

Once a year Toronto’s Casa Loma turns into a haunted house of horrors – the perfect setting for a spooky adventure. Walk through the gardens and underground tunnels at Casa Loma, each section of the castle transformed into different scenes from some of the most famous fictional horror characters.

What can we learn from Immersive Art?

That art, design, and technology will change and evolve with the needs of people. We can take inspiration from experiences like the ones above to go beyond good enough to create something truly exceptional. Well-crafted experiences linger, bring people back and keep people talking about how excited they were for years to come.

Jessica Murray

Jessica Murray

Akendi Alumnus


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About Akendi

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.