Seattle Skies

A new interactive experience updates a classic.

As if you needed another reason to head for Seattle, there’s the famous Space Needle, hip since 1962 when it was built for the World’s Fair. Now there’s a brand new way to experience the amazing views. Skypad™, designed by Belle & Wissell, is an award-winning interactive experience that invites guests to browse photo archives, sign into a 3D guestbook, and make their own wonderful (but possibly vertigo-inducing) memories.

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The Space Needle has long been a symbol for the Seattle experience, with more than 1.5 million people traveling from all over the world each year to enjoy the view from its Observation Deck. It is the second-most visited attraction in Seattle (after the Seattle Central Library). Belle & Wissell (Seattle) was challenged to design an interactive platform that encourages visitors to explore the views and share their memories of the experience.

SkyPad™, part of a suite of digital enhancements to the Space Needle experience, is a 20-foot-wide interactive wall that integrates with the inner core of the Observation Deck. Belle & Wissell collaborated closely with an interdisciplinary team that included brand strategy agency Creature, Olson Kundig Architects, A/V hardware specialist Streamline Solutions, database consultant Idea Gateway, and the Space Needle’s internal team.

Skypad™ encourages visitors to make their mark on a 3D global guestbook and to share and browse Space Needle memories. Belle & Wissell designed the Skypad™ interactive guestbook to encourage visitors to leave their mark and visualize the distance and significance of the journey they have taken to get there—via an 8-foot-tall interactive 3D globe.

Meanwhile, visitors can explore 52 years of memories through a photographic installation that allows guests to view and filter memorabilia, early tower design and construction, sunsets, and other images. Multiple visitors can access the screen at the same time, navigating layers of content depending on how much they want to explore. Guests are also encouraged to contribute their own memories by uploading photos through the Space Needle’s website. SkyPad™ blends design and technology to give visitors both the inspiration and ability to share memories and build new experiences together in one of the world’s most iconic towers.

The project was a Merit Award winner in the 2015 SEGD Global Design Awards. The jury praised its ability to accommodate multiple users simultaneously and its simple interface. “The best ideas are the most accessible,” the jury noted. “Technology can often alienate people, but this simple interface makes the content immediately engaging and people can even personalize their visit to let others know they shared in the same experience.”


Client: Seattle Space Needle

Client Team: Karen Olson (vice president, marketing), Erica Rintoul (Elevate project director), Deborah Scaramastra (project manager), Erin Peterson (on-line marketing manager), Glenn Arnold (IT manager)

Location: Seattle

Project Area: 500 sq. ft.

Open Date: July 2014

Design: Belle & Wissell, Co.

Design Team: Gabe Kean (design director); Thomas Ryun (art director); Edrea Lita (senior designer); Eric Harvey (designer); Sarah Faulkner (studio producer) Edward Tang (technology lead), Scott Thiessen, Seb Chevrel, Alex Maurouard, Erik Hicks (programmers), Serge Bokach (quality assurance engineer)

Fabrication: Schuchart (general contractor) Olson Kundig Architects (architectural Integration), Lockwood & Sons (prototype fabrication)

Consultants: Streamline Solutions (A/V hardware specialist), Creature (brand strategy partner), Idea Gateway (database consultant)

Photos: John Jeffcoat

>> Skypad was a Merit Award winner in the 2015 SEGD Global Design Awards. See more award-winning projects in the Design Awards archive!

>> For more great content in your areas of interest, check out SEGD's Xplore Experiential Graphic Design index.

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