Since my last post we have been busy designers! This year my involvement with TEDMED has been an expanded one. I am charged with both the overall experience design and the creative direction of this year’s event. It’s just a few short days away from becoming a reality. It gets a little trickier too. Besides my new role, which has been a blast, TEDMED is being hosted at two venues simultaneously. We jumped right in.
Our goal of creating a remarkable experience at each venue is on-track, but it has not been without creative and strategic challenges. Consider the two venues, The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco and The Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Both are amazing places. Truly landmarks. The Palace of Fine Arts was created for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition and has been nicely cared for and renovated in the past century. It is a grand facility. The Kennedy Center is an iconic structure housing multiple stages, halls, and performance venues. Also grand, but as a building designed in the late 1960’s it has a markedly different personality. Why two different locations at the same time? Both areas are hubs for medical research, innovations, leadership, policy, and funding. The live interaction between the two stages will be truly inspirational.
But you can see the challenge. How do we design two entirely different spaces to interact with each other and share content seamlessly, all while ensuring the right experiences are occurring at each locale? We also put high value on conversations and connections away from the shared content. We had to intentionally design for those experiences as well. In the end, we had to determine what needed to be closely replicated at each location and where we would let each venue’s personality nuances shine uniquely.
The additional challenges of these two spaces added complexity to our solutions but it will be a truly unique experience that was definitely worth the effort. It came together. We are counting down the days until we share this with the world.
TED’s first foray out of the US recently concluded with many words of praise. The Vancouver Convention Center was an incredible venue with priceless views of the water and mountains. Great times, great talks, great feedback. But, one early fundamental challenge to this venue was the lack of a theater. So the challenge was presented to Steelcase and the Rockwell Group about a year ago: can we not only build one from the ground up, but can we also make it more amazing than any other theater space that is out there? TCondon worked with The Rockwell Group on the furniture portion of the theater, creating a blend of 15 different types of seating styles covered with muted blues, golds and greens.
In addition to the theater, we also designed many smaller simulcast gathering places that allowed TEDsters to experience and interact with the event even when they chose to be away from the theater. We are always considering different functional needs and multiple desired interactions at events like these, and we draw upon our experience to ensure the spaces are not just visually stunning but are very useful as well.
The response was great and it was another amazing TED!
A few years back we noticed that there were some people attending TED that had to break away from the event to take care of business concerns. There are many ways to engage with the TED space, but at that point people had to physically leave the venue to track down usable meeting and work spaces. Time away from TED meant missing featured talks, meaningful unplanned conversations, and chances to meet people from all over the world with every kind of background.
Fast forward to the last couple of TEDs and you would now see that there are Workspring “pop-up” centers that are on the same premises. By engaging with the Workspring spaces and hosts, people could now take care of business needs without fully disconnecting from the TED experience. Win/win! TCondon worked with the Workspring team to design the space. We had to accommodate for use by individuals, small teams, and larger groups, all with a wide variety of needs, so we knew we had to build a useful space with a lot of flexibility.
We know that the experience people have in a space is not just about the style and arrangement of furniture. While that must be well-resolved, individuals meeting at Workspring need to feel like their time spent there was rewarding and remarkable. So we holistically dug in to everything about the space — we focused on work postures, power and charger access, sharable technologies and whiteboards, and great food options being available to recharge and revitalize. We also dug in to the softer details: music that varied depending on what type of work zone you were in, a variety of lighting approaches, also dependent on the functional area, and ultimately teaming with Aveda to customize soaps and lotions in the restrooms and lounge. We even brought out a few surprises. One day it was extra chilly outside, so we treated everyone to an impromptu hot cocoa break. We were designing not just the space, but the details that rolled in to the entire amazing experience. Who knew it could be so refreshing just to take care of a conference call!
Just a bit of hospitality to welcome visitors to our home city. TCondon partnered with Steelcase, Experience Grand Rapids, and the Gerald R Ford International Airport to create a small welcome center for those arriving at the airport. This space has a concierge, info boards, ipads, charging stations, and some nice seating options for anyone looking to relax, recharge, and discover Grand Rapids. It was a true design challenge to pack a lot of usefulness into a pretty small footprint, but it is a very functional little space.
It was nice to work with Steelcase, who donated the furniture, in contributing to our community.
As a designer, I live and breathe color. You know what I mean. I have to make color decisions every day as we design breathtaking client environments! And, even though I have a color “palette” that speaks to me personally — in the clothes I wear, the colors I paint with, the pieces I may select for a room in our house — I have to park those biases when I consider the spaces we design. What I personally like may not be the right solution for our clients. I consider the mood and attitude of the space, the purpose of the space, the desired energy we are tasked to create. There is color psychology around that. Plus, we are constantly investigating color trends, and how any of those colors may harmonize with, or complement, the choices we are making around the product color and material options that will be in the spaces we are creating.
Pantone, which has been an industry-leading color resource for designers, has been digging into color trends for a little while now. I enjoy seeing their take on future color thinking, and their pick for 2014 came off a bit polarizing. I have seen reactions from “sweet!” to “really, Pantone?”. It is a purplish tint they named Radiant Orchid, and they describe it as a harmony of fuchsia, purple and pink, and claim it “emanates great joy, love, and health.”
My take? It’s all about context. Am I a fan of that color on its own merits? Not necessarily. But, I don’t think about color that way. Could we use it in a space we are designing as part of our holistic color solution? Absolutely. The entire mix is key to supporting desired behaviors and the intent of the space. If the strategic “feel” of the environment calls for a color like this, it’s part of the solution, whether or not I would pick it out as a sweater.
In case you are wondering, yes, I do own a sweater with some stripes very close to this color. I picked it up last year and I love it. Is Pantone tracking my color preferences? Well, I have a hunch that a range of medium blues will be trending upwards — let’s find out next year!
I am currently at TEDGlobal in beautiful Edinburgh. TCondon designed the many social spaces here at the venue and I am sticking around to recharge and be inspired. A huge perk from collaborating on events like the TED series is having easy access to some of the best ideas and thinking in the world, unfolding all around me.
Day 3 is tomorrow and the stage has been set for a very engaging week. “Think Again” is the theme this year and the challenge is to open one’s mind to the possibility that old ways of thinking must evolve as the world is changing. The status quo is certainly being challenged: Could stress actually be good for us? Maybe. Can men be comfortable with not being the bread winner in the family? Probably. Are you open to loosening the hold you have on the way you understand the world around you?
As I mentioned, T. Condon once again designed the social spaces at this event. Always striving to create a great vibe, the design intent was to craft a unique experience. Imagine combining a comfortable lounge and café with a cool book store, coffee shop indulgences, a Getty art gallery and intriguing technology innovations showcased in the Autodesk Exhibit. This combination is a big hit – I am seeing many connections and conversations happening throughout this lively space. It is exactly the types of interactions we were designing for. And, if you are here be sure to see the other exhibits throughout the entire building. Great stuff.
A personal favorite this year — don’t miss the robot lab. Raffaello D’Andrea demos his flying quadcopters. These are amazing robots that seem to think on their own. They are solving physical problems by utilizing algorithms that help them learn. It’s incredible to watch these drones play catch and to work together using a net to toss a ball back. You have to watch the video to believe it. It’s certainly more than what you find on the shelves at any hobby shop, but who knows when this sort of technology may be commonplace? More great stuff!
Workspring is a hosted Steelcase co-working environment in Chicago, and when they expanded to a beautiful new location TCondon got the call to partner with their architect and construction team to create a dynamic layout that supports individuals, groups, meetings, social gatherings and focused-work needs. Realize, too, that one day there could be 20 people utilizing the space, the next there could be 120, and that the way the space is utilized also varies day-to-day.
These realities seem to be, but could not be, contrary to each other. Rather, these needs had to coexist in harmony. TCondon had to develop a solution revolving around high flexibility for layout and use, with furniture and materials that could stand up to being reconfigured, moved, and repurposed. We also needed to be very careful that it didn’t “feel” temporary or impermanent and all the while allowed for comfortable interactions and rewarding experiences throughout.
We put on our empathy hats and imagined the many moments that would occur here. We imagined varied use-cases — from the focused, head-down individual laptop user, to a sales team meeting in town for the day, to team-building session attendees enjoying a casual refreshment break after a long day. Wondering for each: “What would I want from this space?”.
And, we landed at a solid solution that is getting terrific feedback. It’s a great space in a great location. If any of you are able to experience some time there, do so. You can’t beat that moment when you find your comfortable spot, hunker down with your laptop and a cup of coffee, and gaze down at the city below. Check them out online and book some time on your next trip to Chicago: http://www.workspring.com/
Dusseldorf, Germany was home to the Glasstec Trade Fair – the largest glass show in the world. 43,000 visitors attended this year and TCondon made sure Guardian Industries was a standout as they launched great products for 2012. Part of the challenge of a large show is breaking through the noise and clutter. We designed a welcoming space with a base of clean white, contrasting smartly with Guardian’s blue and green. We utilized large panes of glass and really cool interactive displays to fill the space without being busy. The glass itself was the star, shining, literally, in this beautiful modern space. We also blended together hospitality and meeting areas, allowing Guardian to host visitors and to fully showcase the comprehensive array of solutions in commercial, residential and interior glass products. We’re packing it up and getting ready for the next big event.