by Elke Reva Sudin & Yasmin Solomon
As creative event professionals, we at Drawing Booth have been in the digital art and event space for a long time and can give insight from our experience and strategies. Here we sharing how we use creativity to evoke moments of connection across the digital divide.
The power of art has magical properties to connect dispersed communities. There are many precedents for using creativity to connect people. When you participate in something as an individual, you become part of a wave where other people want to experience an event for themselves. That’s how you start a trend; people want to engage for their own experience, and for the collective sense of purpose.
So many of the art projects that sprang forth as a result of the pandemic exemplify the reality of working with what we have to combine in-person and private distanced connections, but more so- the push to make those hybrid events happen takes us to the heart of creative work: recognition, expression, connection and transformation. This year’s semi-private Mardi Gras celebrations where people decorated their homes instead of parade floats brings personal expression into the public space, personalizing while collectively sharing together outdoors. Meme activities like the 518 Rainbow Hunt, online generate/prompt creative ways for people to connect together in their private spaces and acknowledge the work of others. Action and care for political causes (BLM Murals, Human Rights), unify people while harnessing the diverse expressions, voices, and resources of involved communities to make voices heard and make change happen.
CREATIVITY VS ART
Drawing Booth has been in the business of using art creatively in bridging digital spaces. While we use visual art tools and techniques (i.e. digital brush strokes and certain software) to achieve our artistic aims and provide artistic products, our creative strategies can be applied to any medium or experience. In what we do, art is artifice, using lies to tell truths. We do this all the time in event creation: building and experiencing themes, ‘concepts of cities’ and pretend getaways enabling us to mentally vacation or explore. Art moves us to a place or time.
Creativity is all in the making of this moment, so first, establish the importance of setting aside time for delight in creativity. That allocation of time- our most precious resource- is the key to investing in the moment of the experience.
What creativity does:
- Enables us to learn something new
- We learn to see ourselves and others in a new way
- Encounter and cultivate an inner sense of wonder.
- Creativity uses our brains differently and thus has us stepping out of our comfort zone.
The Unknown Moment: The live experience of someone problem-solving in the moment.
Why is the live creative experience exciting and what role does creativity play in that? We talk about “being in the moment” all the time but we also know it’s harder said than done. A live creative experience is an act of genuinely living in the moment, which means engaging with/in the unknown. Hybrid provide us with other outlets to welcome the unknown.
Setting up a hybrid event is about understanding your digital space, your physical space, and your people. Without being overwhelmed by all of the digital possibilities, remember that technology is the tool but the people provide the event. In planning a hybrid event, this means starting with using what you have first and only then figuring out what you might need (and that’s where you start thinking big!)
Some tips to remember for Hybrid events:
We can experience the same things in real-time. We also don’t have to. You might have heard “timing is everything!” or “the importance of Location! Location! Location!” Choosing the primary touchpoint in space (a physical or digital destination) to find something, or time to be present to engage with an event can be the lynchpin around which to start planning your event.
There are a million screens! Use them!
Make it easy to approach. If the portal is too difficult to find, requires homework (ie. ‘download this app first’, or ‘print that’), or takes too long to load you’re not going to want to participate, so why would your guests?
Use yourself as the guinea pig. Demo! Tweak! Demo! Tweak! Do it again! Try it with another audience.
THE DRAWING BOOTH FRAMEWORK FOR CO-CREATION
How do you empower creativity and put it in people’s hands?
People have to be invited, prompted, given instruction, given the tools.
Create boundaries and gaps: Set the stage for participants to fill in the gaps. The guest activates their own creativity and curiosity to see what is missing and how they can fill in/answer/expound with what they know and have. How they fill in the gap is where they express their sense of freedom and uniqueness.
Process Driven vs. Results Driven: In creating an event we want to be a part of the participant’s moments, but we can only create a space for the participant to decide how to engage. To that end, determine if your primary goal is a strong event where the participant is focused on being in the moment, or an event where it is expected that the participant’s attention will be divided, so ensuring that they take away or recall key details later becomes more important.
Safe places to fail: When we talk about being our own guinea pigs, this is also what we mean. It is important for the creative process to fail. Whether in your own brainstorming, or for the guests to experience a moment of stretching themselves wherein they may not have the prettiest or best takeaway, but feeling comfortable and learning about themselves in the process is important. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. We move the needle by nudges and nudging people out of their comfort zone by balancing anticipation; a fear and a thrill of the unknown.
Case Study: Inviting People to Be Drawn or to Play at Adobe: Portraits Lounge and Sticker Activation Lounge
We provide the technology and the professional assistance, the guest is given some new tools to play with and some prompts, what they create they take with them. Two copies were printed- a takeaway one and another copy that went up on a wall. The result: A moment away from it all and the item created was placed in connection or variation to the rest of the images up on the wall. Invited: A lounge is an inviting demarcated space whose purpose offers comfort and a place to mingle organically. Prompted: A host introduces the activation and shows the newcomer an idea: in this case- the end result (sticker, what others have created) Instruction: The host provides suggestive instructions- What steps and tools will be involved and how they work to enable the sticker creation. Tools: The participants are provided with physical devices to do the activity themselves.
Take this a step further, can you print something onsite that people are drawing at home? Can people designing stickers onsite upload their drawings to a destination and people at home can vote on them and receive custom sets of stickers at a later date? Maybe someone’s art can go on a t-shirt commemorating the event?
Case Study: A Sense of Intimate Connection on a Grand Scale with the Virtual Live-Letter Writing Billboard
For this event we were was invited to be the behind-the-scenes artist for an event celebrating connection. Participants were invited to a letter-writing station to write a letter to a loved one on the other side of the station. A camera captured the writing, and the artist, in turn, captured the words where they were broadcast to a billboard-sized screen, bringing surprise and delight to the participants, and drawing in passersby. Can you imagine what this would be like if you could write letters to each other to appear on billboards thousands of miles away to loved ones across the world?
Hybrid enables magic and wonder. We can bring things from outside, from an intangible space or from thousands of miles away- from virtual and make them physical, or bring things from the physical world, upload them and ta-da!- Make them virtual.
How do you create a sense of wonder?
Show something that isn’t instantaneously logical, then unpack it.
- People like seeing a process. Watching something come to life takes the pressure off them having to do something. Give something central to talk about, comment on.
- Help transport someone there, and own it for themselves. Play with scale, for instance blowing up and make intimate experiences larger than life to share in a universal experience.
- Slow down time for moments of authentic connection. We spend our time distracting ourselves on devices. Live events create a moment. Give a moment where art allows you to feel and think about things differently. Let the content take you to another place. Create active attention, followed by a brief moment of reflection.
Summary of Elements Co-creating to Address Needs and Wants of Many
You can’t anticipate pleasing everyone, but you can devise an activity with multiple avenues of engagement.
Different entry-level points: We do not have to all have the same skills in order to be a part of that creative experience. Value the uniqueness of technology, of people, of approaches
Finding common ground and explore personalization within it: This can be done with customization of the same item.
Live individual contribution to one communal item: Making something together can mean influencing the creation of something outside of yourself, or working individually then collecting it together. Brainstorm with a group or make something that becomes part of a large mosaic.
Influence real-time creation from afar: For example use digital voting with a chatbox for someone to vocalize and answer, or someone to create in the moment. Use basic listening and responding to invoke participation.
Use specialized talent: Using professionals as stand-ins or role-models for those who don’t have the skills or confidence, or just need a little extra motivation. The talent can be the entertainment, or the human tool. For example, our artists can provide the live-sketching, or art instruction.
Tech Tools to consider: Standing screens to walk up to with live-feed camera, murals or large-scale immersive experiences with digital activity. In any situation, factor in the following:
- Sensory Changes
- Time (Sharing now and/or later?)
- Space (Physical guests and Virtual guests)
- Collective group action points and reflection points
- Intimate individual action points and reflection points
Then, using those elements to invite, to prompt, to provide instruction, and to provide the tools, will help you focus on the key elements of all in your next event:
- Recognition: Use visuals to honoring your people for who they are and what they do. Show them honor with their name, their likeness, their likes, and help others see and celebrate this person.
- Staying Relevant: It’s great to draw from consumer experiences but the consumer-driven view is changing so fast. How can live events keep up? Give your guests the opportunity to contribute what is influencing them in the current moment. As the culture and content change, give your people a place to share it. It will keep your event feeling relevant without you having to be on top of trends as much as they are!
- Cultivating Energy: Use visual and auditory elements to redirect attention during moments of transition and help keep the energy going while people are engaging through those in-between moments- often the most organic and authentic moments of all.
Part of the wonder of the creative experience is that you don’t know what you/they are going to do next! There is value in anticipation. You can be emotionally engaged (which is also why people are so scared to engage) in a safe environment. A truly remarkable moment tugs at vulnerability and builds a sense of achievement. Be good at breaking those barriers. Fail. Play. Levity helps.