We don’t sell print, we create experiences.
I know that sentences like that could sound slightly contrived, but when you actually drill down to the final outcome of what we do, that is pretty much what you get. The experience might be one of fun or one of motivation, care or peace.
With Wall Glamour, we have found a significant amount of our work comes from healthcare. We often get immediate feedback from patients and professionals that what we do is an experience. And part of that experience is distraction, where the artwork and murals have the ability to enable patients to be lifted out of the pain or negative experience they are going through.
With adults, we can slip into other worlds with ease when presented with images that remind us of ‘that holiday in the Coxwolds’ or ‘the wilds of Scotland’. For children’s wards, we developed a partnership with Usborne books, and used their 1001 Things to Spot images as murals. These illustrations feature, for example, 10 boats, 8 ducks or 4 airplanes for children to find.
We print and install these huge images onto the walls of treatment rooms where children may be having injections or other procedures. Nursing staff use these images to distract children’s attention, and we know from feedback these are very successful in turning a negative experience into something less difficult.
Let’s take a step back, how did I get interested in experiences?
Back in 1999 I took a job at an agency. When I joined, the company had been on an acquisition spree and bought three new companies to add to their client roster and skill sets. They were a 3D agency – back in those days that meant anything in the real world that wasn’t print based. It was mainly comprised of exhibitions and visitor attraction work, but we also worked on huge branding projects.
Due to the type of work we produced, we often had to know everything about everything. We worked on software user interfaces, visitor flow mechanics around buildings, vehicle and building graphics, interactives for museums and retail stores, and we even secured one of the most expensive domains of its time for a client which was if.com.
All of this seems so diverse, but it really all boils down to the customer experience. If a new brand wants to make themselves known, we could help them. If an established brand wanted to ensure their current customers trusted them, we also helped them with that.
When I was at the company I was a creative artworker. My skill set is pre-print, which isn’t as sexy as design, but I was headhunted twice for my skills in pre-print and with a Mac. Though I wasn’t hired as a designer (which was my ultimate goal), it was at this job that I first realised my narrow viewpoint of design was only graphic design for print – ‘design’ was way bigger than this. I worked with some very smart people and in the four years I was there, I grew the most as a designer, which is what my role eventually became.
As I was the youngest, most tech-savvy person in the whole company, I naturally filled the unofficial role of ‘creative technologist’. This was the era of the .com boom and I loved the buzz that was about the place. I personally secured a huge project from a large international mobile phone brand. The project was for a megastore in southern Europe, a Visitor Experience. It was run by a small team of five people, well two people really, the Creative Director and I.
This was a multi-million pound project and I was one of the key designers on it – talk about big boots to fill. This was around 2001 and technology was not the same as it is today. In fact, very few mobile phones had cameras, Bluetooth was on about three devices and there was no internet, not like today’s internet anyway.
As an avid technologist I was able to dream up ideas like a Photowall, where customers would come in an upload a photo of themselves, prior to the days of the ‘selfie’. The photos would be projected onto huge screens or projections that showed the diversity of the mobile users. This would have a ‘celebrity’ for a day appeal for the users and therefore associate the mobile brand with the people.
We designed mini exhibition areas with some of the key sponsorship deals, which included a very high-profile football team and a Formula One team. Bluetooth was only really just taking off, but as a geek I could see the up and coming use of the technology.
So, we designed a multiple language PDA device that pinged you information via Bluetooth as you walked through the exhibition areas. We chose PDAs, which you hired from the exhibition shop area, because it was that far back in mobile history and most mobile screens were about an inch.
These days, that same concept would be on your own device and Bluetooth or even QR codes would access the information. You could even overlay in Augmented Reality a video of the F1 team doing a pit stop… how technology helps us interact and experience brands is a very interesting subject.
Another project I worked on back in the day was for a large multinational food giant and one of their sweet brands. The idea was to create a countertop sweet dispenser. We developed a plastic slot system that clipped together, it was versatile but a little dull, so we added in some interactive fun.
The sweets had a factory theme so we created a whistle that sounded every so often, there were valves that would ‘whoosh’ and a proximity sensor that would applaud when you took the sweets out to purchase. The experience was one of fun for the kids, but as a parent now I feel slightly different about the levels of sugar consumption we were encouraging. Times do change, but the essence of the brand was certainly experienced by kids and adults.
With a grounding in design and branding I somehow moved into wall graphics. Wall murals are just as effective a tool for creating an experience, but the experience is not about selling. In much of the work we have done with Wall Glamour, we have created a love for a space, or an experience that distracts the user.
When people walk into a startup incubator or accelerator they are looking at the people and they are looking for clues that consciously or subconsciously say they are in the right place. Are they in a temple of tech, commerce or creativity?
There is a certain look and feel when it comes to the kind of things you can expect to see in a startup space, and this ranges from geek right through to art. Incorporating all of that into the space is going to be a mess, but if you can find a theme that expresses it then you subconsciously help the users to get it. From the tweets I’ve seen around a project we did in that space, I know that it produces a passion, people love the space and regularly tell other people about that love. It is more than just the wall art, but if there was artwork that was truly terrible, would users still love the space?
The final experience is that of healthcare. Much of the work we do with Wall Glamour is in healthcare and we see first-hand the massive change to staff and patients as we roll out the designer’s vision on the space.
Studies have been done that show improved spaces have a positive effect on patient outcome, so what we do really is life changing. It is a significance sometimes lost on us when we’re in the throes of printing and installations, but we are often reminded by the look on patients’ faces or by comments from staff.
Changing hospitals into much nicer places also has a positive impact on the NHS. If patients are better faster, less resources are used. However, number crunching isn’t really the thing that interests us. What we enjoy most is creating memorable experiences for teenagers, children and adults.
Experiences can be had anywhere and with anything, and where we are now I can see our wall graphics are enabling users of spaces to experience wellness, peace and care. And also fun, excitement and connection.
We can’t fix errors in business procedure, but we can enhance your staff’s experience of your company or brand.
We can help create motivation in your gym, but we can’t supply the willing bodies ready to expend energy at the alter of fitness.