The line between art, technology and design is more blurred than ever, and no group knows this better than the AIGA, the NYC-based professional association for design. To celebrate its centennial, the organization tapped renowned brand agency Collins to create a commemorative book celebrating some of the most influential designers and their work over the past 100 years. However, a book wouldn't cut it for Collins, who took the commission one step further by tasking the recently formed internal Collins Experience Design group to create a large scale interactive installation. The stunning wave of a wall gave life to the book's content and puts users in charge of the piece.
Inspired by the book's cover art featuring a 10x10 dot grid (one for each year of AIGA's existence), Collins' Director of Experience Design, Brett Renfer, was given one guideline for the installations: make it big. "My earliest idea was to make this grid inhabitable, so that’s where I started," Renfer says. "We wanted it to be a logical extension of the book, but create a different program for the event." Celebrating the life's work of 24 designers, the hanging grid of 100 projection-mapped clocks was controlled by iPad stations and a site-specific URL accessible by anyone with a smartphone.
Users spun the clocks's hands to create different designs and collaboratively unlock content from the book about each designer. "Each person that connected received a unique color, and could spin the clocks and change the color of the clock faces by drawing across a smaller 10x10 grid on their phone," Renfer explains. And for a clever twist, the installation autonomously influenced what users saw on their devices on occasion as well, reversing the conventional interaction model. "Once enough people had interacted, the clocks transitioned into the medalist mode. The clocks selected a medalist and turned to spell out their name letter by letter. At the same time, everyone who was connected saw their small grid fade into the medalist’s story about the beginning of their career."
While building such a forward-thinking installation presents a range of hardware and software problems to solve, Renfer says the most difficult part of the install was simply getting it in the air. "We knew from the start that we couldn’t touch the ceiling, but wanted something that reached out over everyone’s heads," Renfer says. To make the installation soar (and not crash the party) Renfer called on production expert Tom Haggerty. The final design is a free-standing 18-foot structure with a dramatic arc that uses a weighted base to stay upright.
After 100 years of design, looking back is equally as important as looking forward. And though Renfer's impressive installation only stood for the evening of the event, it foreshadows the future of successful design communication—interactive, collaborative, connective and impeccably executed. Keep an eye out for future interactive projects from the emerging experience design department at Collins and check out AIGA online for more information.
Photos by Angela Jimenez for AIGA