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02 June 2016

An unconventional approach: Working with Experience Place

When you order a coffee or step into a lift, you probably don’t give it a second thought. But months of thought have gone into incorporating seemingly ordinary experiences like those into the design of the New Zealand International Convention Centre.

Brought into the NZICC project by architects Warren & Mahoney, Experience Place are experts in creating experience in spaces, embarked on an intensive design research process starting with the people who’ll use it.

“Empathy is key to the design process. Who are the people who are going to engage with us? Who are the people we are designing for?” Sherryn MacDonald, design lead from Experience Place asks. The NZICC team, alongside Experience Place, interviewed around 70 professional conference and event organisers, audio-visual producers, caterers, delegates, corporate and Aucklanders themselves - asking what they looked for in a building and event experience, what would make it memorable for them?

International visitors were a big challenge. What would make them fly halfway across the world when they could just catch the speakers on the internet?

So delegates need to feel like they’re experiencing more than just another concrete box on the outskirts of a city that could be anywhere from Tucson to Townsville. That’s why the designers have made it easy for visitors to feel connected to the city by making it easy to get out and about during breaks or after hours and experience the unique New Zealand culture. But above all the focus was on the customer, removing their pain points and providing a differentiated and authentically New Zealand experience.

The findings from this extensive research is helping shape every touch point of the NZICC from an intuitive AV system, to what and how the food is served during the breaks. As far as she’s aware, no convention centre anywhere in the world has ever conducted design research of such depth with the goal of designing a choreographed end-to-end experience for users.

In this industry, it’s an unconventional approach. “This place has the opportunity to deliver multiple experiences for different people at simultaneous moments in time. You only get that from understanding people before you design”.

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