The definition, as recorded on Dictionary.com, is:
Noting or relating to digital technology or images that actively engage one’s senses and may create an altered mental state.
Step into Dream Worlds
For us the word immersive means so much more than this definition allows. It is the essence of our work and lies at the heart of everything we do. For us, immersive experiences are the past, present and future of design, and we have embraced this movement wholeheartedly. Creating an immersive experience supports the notion of storytelling in its most basic form, for every story should be believable regardless of how fantastical it may sound. Immersive design transports you from a pane of reality to a pane of another life, giving the opportunity to leave one’s persona at the door and to step into an alternative world.
Immersive experiences can be long, short, complex or simple. They can throw you about, turn you upside down, make you see double or give you absolute clarity. An immersive world can trick the senses, bewitch the mind and summon emotions. Nostalgia is its best friend, calling upon memories that create new sensations.
A Window to Nostalgia
Immersive experiences give way to experience itself for it is a multi-sensory adventure that takes you somewhere you’ve never been before, traversing time and space. A window into times gone by, times that are and times that will be.
Any design can benefit from having a theme, especially when creating experience design, but there is a huge difference between referencing an era or tokenising a movement from the past – such as Art Deco or Masquerade – where props are used and matched with lighting as well as well-known design references, compared to a truly believable interpretation where you actually feel like you are in the 1920s or in a grand ballroom in Venice, transported back in time. The difference lies within the design itself, the believability of the set design and authentic props from that era itself.
You can choose to give a glimpse into the design, perhaps by simply having flapper dancers wondering around the room with huge feather props, or you could choose to disregard the clichéd expectations and showcase the real spirit of a 1920s cocktail party, with pieces from the era itself. By widening your search, you will easily find that there are suppliers who offer this authenticity, which ensures your design will be immersive because it is a real time-capsule and not a clichéd reproduction.
Of course, there are many tools that can help you reach immersive qualities in your design. Technology, supported by augmented reality, is a great example of how you can easily transport the user into a new world, simply by wearing an oculus. The advancements in virtual world technology are entirely believable, often used as a tool to convey ideas, sell concepts and enhance gamification experiences. We live in a world of instant gratification and this immediate transportation appeals to our insatiable demand for new discoveries.
Creating a physical world that is believable requires a different type of thought and careful planning. Set design has always been a fantastic way to portray different eras and to convey aesthetic detail, reliant on our hand skills to make each design beautiful and realistic. The added advantage of technologies such as CNC cutting and engraving means that design can be enhanced with detail and motifs authentically sourced from history, applied in a contemporary way.
There are wonderful sensory theories which can add a whole other layer of curiosity and intrigue, again aiding the believability of your immersive experience.
We have had the pleasure of working for some global brands who see the value of multi-sensory, immersive branding experiences. Creating an authentic link that transports customers into the product itself, thus creating a unique and entirely personal attachment ensures that each experience, and therefore the links to their specific product, can be sustained as a memory which made an impact in that moment.
Immersive experiences offer so much more than a glimpse into something; you are literally thrust into the narrative and left there to explore in your own time, and when you remerge, your life and perception will have changed.
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Sight, smell, sound, touch and taste – the five senses that constitute everything that is delightful about being a human being. The ingredients that orchestrate our olfactory notebooks of life are full of nostalgic connections and formulas that shape our interests, loves, dislikes and routines.
Each time we experience something new we create a sensory bookmark that acts as a quick-find glossary that we can refer back to on the second, third and fourth time of detection. It is this sensory glossary that continuously evolves and reinforces our love for certain things, as well as those moments that create other types of emotions such as repulsion.
Have you ever considered how your sensory organs can be used as condiments to heighten everyday situations? Take dinner, for example. There is nothing more rewarding than tasting your favourite food or sipping a beautiful wine – food is the joy of life – but were you away that your nose plays a vital role in what you actually taste, with olfactory notes punctuating your palette calling upon your sensory glossary that shapes a positive or negative reaction. Now imagine adding another, unexpected sensory element to this everyday situation and comprehend the possibilities?
We have had the privilege of unveiling these opportunities to a diverse audience, some that were initially skeptical of the experience itself and others who were curious and ready to try something new. The fascination and success of these occasions lies in each personal individually and rears particularly extraordinary results for those with an open-minded disposition.
For example, curious results can be achieved when using frequency to manipulate the sweetness or savoury notes in certain types of food. This is distinctly successful with both dark chocolate and roasted coffee where it is possible to make both taste sweeter, or bitter, using high and low frequencies.
Seafood is also a fantastic food group to experiment with, especially when adding interesting textures and environments to alter the perspective on the palette. Whisky works exceptionally well when matched with scallops and sea vegetables, complemented as a spritz over a risotto, served with sound and an environment of wind. Wind machines or fans could convey the habitat and shoreline of the scallops and create an ambience that takes each diner to the coast.
It has become increasingly popular to use unusual textures, props and utensils to create exciting enhancements for dining experiences with many restaurants around the world using these concepts to show innovation at the dinner table. There are many entry-level experiences that can be applied at home, for example, try eating dark chocolate whilst touching sandpaper and feel grit between your teeth – your mind can play fascinating tricks on you.
The Events Mill is currently developing a series of multi-sensory gastronomic dining experiences that will allow guests to understand immersive dining in completely refreshing ways. We are excited about bringing cherished stories to life through the use of food and to fully expose the true potential of experiential hospitality.