Creating richer interactions.
I caught part of this ESPN spot the other night that had a brainstorming session as a part of it (thanks Seth!). One of the things that stood out was the state of the whiteboard; it was smudged and well used. This small detail told a story (to me at least) that the brainstorming session that we were seeing was simply one in a sequence of brainstorms that had gone on over time. While it was a small touch, it was probably intentional and added to the overall story in an important way. Rather than making me feel I was seeing a staged event, it helped to create the illusion that I was seeing a window into a different world.
I think the best advertising has always done that. It’s offered a window into a world that has been sustained and created by a myriad small touches and details. I think that’s why some of the best creatives I worked with often completely overwrote the scripts they were planning to shoot in order to be able to pull from a more richly defined world. Perhaps they needed to fill out the story beyond the spot in order to get the details right, but the result was a much richer, more textured, layered and complex story than otherwise.
It occurs to me that this is one lesson from traditional marketing that can be useful to preserve as we try to innovate and create new ways to reach people. Even though we are now often creating interactions and experiences rather than communications, the same principles apply. Interactions and experiences are still windows into a world that we are trying to create, we can make these worlds as rich (or as barren) as we choose by “overwriting” them and creating context and layers of additional meaning.
It seems like this might be a different way to think about interaction design. The trend up till now has (driven by companies like Google) been geared heavily toward the utilitarian and functional. Our collective obsession with user-centered design exacerbates this, but as more and more brands start creating interactions rather than communications, there will be a need to create differentiation that won’t be possible from simply following best user-centered design practices.