Reflecting on 2023 SEGD Branded Environments and Xlab

Last week, SEGD hosted our 2023 Branded Environments and Xlab events in New York City. We welcomed speakers and guests from a broad range of disciplines to the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, and what followed were two days of incredible conversations. 

Innovative Storytelling and Community Building: Highlights from the 2023 SEGD Branded Environments

This year’s SEGD Branded Environments, set against the creative backdrop of the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, NY, has once again surpassed expectations. The event, co-chaired by visionary designers Nasya Kamrat and Stephanie Riggs, alongside SEGD’s own CEO Cybelle Jones, explored the evolution of storytelling through experiential design that not only entertains but also educates and builds communities.

A Transformative Narrative at The MET

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s own Heidi Holder and Brett Renfer and media partner Kimberly Gim, Creative Director of Bluecadet, gave us a compelling recap of the evolution of the 81st Street Studio. Their insightful panel discussion on the future of experiences illuminated the pathway to transforming museum consumers into active participants within a new community space. Through their dedication to integrating STEAM principles, the MET is not just an observer of trends but a pivotal player in shaping the dialogue around educational and interactive experiences.

Engaging Experiences and Interactive Learning

The morning sessions continued with a panel discussion and then break-out interactive storytelling workshops, led by industry luminaries. Eric Alba captivated the audience with his workshop on Gamification and Technology, offering insights on how to elevate experiences through interactivity. Jasmin Jodry shared her expertise on crafting impactful experiences that resonate with audiences, truly extending the reach of narrative beyond the moment.

Wiena Lin challenged our perception with her session on Participation vs. Observation, urging creators to forge experiences that invite active participation over passive consumption. Julian Rad emphasized the power of Storytelling and Personalization, challenging participants how to place audiences at the epicenter of a story, thereby fostering a profound sense of community.

Defining the Value and Language of Experiences

The dialogue was further enriched by Stephanie Riggs’ interactive session utilizing crowd sourced AI (created by Scott Varland of Firetower Futures) to define terminology that we use and how we interpret, articulate and frame experience design in our own areas of design practice. Kelly Markus explored the nuances of ROI & ROE, providing a new lens through which we can measure the value in experiential design. Emilie Baltz introduced Sensory Storytelling through artful uses of taste, scent, sound and touch, expanding the horizons of how we perceive and narrate stories through our senses.

The Book of HOV: A Celebration of Cultural Impact

The event culminated in the discussion of the spectacular takeover of the Brooklyn Public Library, in honor of the one and only Jay-Z. Nasya Kamrat led an intimate fireside chat with Ian Schatzberg, Founder of General Idea Group, that delved into the creation of the Book of HOV. This session gave insight into the design behind the cultural celebration that fused music, art, and narrative, transforming the library into a vibrant hub of community engagement for new audiences.

A Collective Future Forward

The 2023 SEGD Branded Environments not only celebrated the power of storytelling in its many forms but also set the stage for a future where experiences are the cornerstone of community and education. This event was a clarion call to brands, educators, and creatives alike to collaborate in crafting narratives that empower, educate, and connect.

Unpacking the Future of Storytelling at SEGD Xlab 2023

2023 SEGD Xlab presented a compelling vista into the future of storytelling, framed within the vibrant interplay of technology and creativity. Leaders in experiential design convened to unpack the myriad ways in which emerging technologies can enhance, alter, and advance the narratives we share. This synthesis aims to unravel the rich tapestry of themes and dialogues presented at the event, promising a glimpse into the heartbeat of creative innovation.

Igniting Creativity

Stephanie Riggs, the beacon of the day, opened with a rousing charge on “Igniting Creativity.” Her thesis revolved around catalyzing the spark of innovation across disciplines, setting the tone for a day of expansive thinking. Riggs’ discourse was not merely an introduction but a call to action, to embrace the intersections of art, technology, and shared human experiences in storytelling.

The Ecosystem Era

Neil Redding took the mantle as the keynote speaker, presenting “The Ecosystem Era – Shared Experience for Humanity and Beyond.” His foresight into how interconnected experiences define our era underpinned the necessity of an ecosystems approach in creating narratives that transcend boundaries and foster a unified human experience.

Rapid Iteration & Inquiry

Marta Ordeig Bofías, in her interactive session, championed the significance of “Why Asking the Right Question Matters.” Through rapid iteration and engaging the audience, Ordeig demonstrated the potent impact of pivotal questions in steering innovation and the iterative process in narrative conception.

Panel Discussion: Hype or Here to Stay?

The panel discussion, featuring the minds of Justin “JB” Bolognino, Darragh Dandurand, Robin White Owen, Melvin Wilson, and powered by Scott Varland’s real-time AI crowd-sourcing platform, delved into pivotal technologies. They dissected the promise and pitfalls of AI ethics, mixed reality, wearable devices, the metaverse, and spatial computing, illuminating which might endure as mainstays in our technological lexicon.

Breakout and Dive-In Tech Sessions

Post-panel, attendees immersed themselves in hands-on sessions that pushed the boundaries of interactive experiences:

These sessions were crucibles of shared knowledge, fostering a dynamic environment of learning and exploration.

Concept & Creation Panels

The day continued with panels dissecting the ‘Concept & Creation’ processes. Eric Gunther and Sadah Espii Proctor unraveled the layers involved in developing unique concepts, marrying business strategy with creative design. A pivot to ‘Creation Considerations’ with Katy Yudin and Elena Piech offered alternative perspectives on translating these concepts into tangible experiences.

Closing Keynote: Fireside Chat

The event culminated in a fireside chat, a nexus of reflection and foresight, with Andrew Lazarow from Rockwell Group and Chris Conte from Electrosonic. They shared their wisdom on integrating technology within storytelling, unveiling strategies that shape immersive spaces and experiential narratives.

SEGD Xlab 2023 served as a crucible for the transformative power of creative technologies in storytelling. The speakers and sessions not only provided a glimpse into the capabilities of current technologies but also forecasted the shape of narratives to come. The event underscored a pivotal theme: it’s not just the technology we use, but how we apply it to enrich our stories and connect with our audience that will define the future of our shared human experience. As we move forward, the insights gleaned from this gathering will undoubtedly serve as a compass for creatives navigating the evolving landscape of experiential design and storytelling.

Thank you to all our speakers, and participants for making these events a mosaic of brilliant insights and meaningful connections. And a huge thank you to all of our sponsors, who continue to make each of our events possible. As we reflect on the profound discussions and innovative concepts shared, it is evident that the trajectory of experiential design is set to soar, making every narrative an opportunity to transform, connect, and inspire.

About SEGD  
We are designers of experiences connecting people to place. SEGD is a multidisciplinary community collectively shaping the future of experience design. We are a thought leader and an amplifier in the practice of experience design.

SEGD is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit education organization.

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