Inspired by connected design at DreamWorks

Mon, 13 Jun 2016

It has been a while since I have put some time aside to write about something interesting in our industry ... the fact that I became a father 12 months ago may have played a part in part in this. Additionally, we have had some new interesting projects and products we have been working on ... and have recently completed and started sharing with everyone.

With a new year started (and halfway through) and with a slightly different perspective on life now with a child of my own, I felt it was time to start writing again.

I presume it was the child in me that drew me to the DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition at Wellington’s Te Papa National Museum, wanting to be immersed in the fantasy of epic tales of "Shrek" and "How to Train Your Dragon".'

While elements of the exhibition took you to these places, it was the design and creative process (and the huge amounts of work that went into them) that was told over four main sections.

Character, Story and the Worlds in which they live all had to come together to depict the tale that would connect with the audience and provide an experience that would take viewers to the place of fantasy and empathy with the heroes.

Why I felt this was relevant for the world of workplace is that we, as solution providers, whether designers, architects, property/project managers or soft fit out specialist (furniture) have to connect the key elements of an organisation together – people, purpose and place – in order to produce a better workplace that performs better and produces a better product for their customers. We are taking people on a journey to a new and better place, and that journey can take twists and turns to ultimately produce a happy ending.

The processes at DreamWorks were all collaborative with sketch concepts, model making (prototyping) and story boarding being shared and worked on to produce this amazing visual and comedic masterpiece that we are inspired to watch again and again (even as adults). In our experience internal and external collaborations on workplace projects produce the best results.

I was inspired by the character creation and how there was always key characteristics of the hero in the story that were ironically different from the physical conceptual character itself, but how these key characteristics were what made an emotional connection with the audience. Shrek, the Ogre, with a heart of gold and fighting for good, despite his grumpy demeanor, or Po the Kung Fu Panda who is a kung fu master, with a body shape of a sumo wrestler.

It was this thinking outside the box that resonated with me ...

By creating something that was not as expected (an Ogre hero for example) produced a better experience for those that were intended to experience it … we can all learn a lot from this when challenged with a need to create a new space or spaces.

The story was a connected process. Surprising to me, many of these tales (“Shrek” and “How to Train Your Dragon”) were derived from books written some time before the movies were pitched to be produced. It was the creative thinking of how this story would connect with the audience that made it what it was, and the teams were not averse to making dramatic changes to the status quo, making the story more inspiring. Dragons and Vikings were living in harmony in the original story of “How to Train Your Dragon”, but by making them mortal enemies in the movie, it enabled an inspiring journey for the viewer.

Linking the story in the tale to the purpose of an organisation, we find often by challenging what has been done traditionally and looking at changes i.e. considering the way in which a space is to share and not own, can produce much better outcomes for those that use and work in it.

I have purposely left the Worlds to last.

These were a produced connecting the people and the story. Take “Madagascar” for example. It starts in New York in Central Park Zoo. The animals are “comfortable” and in a routine. The colours depicted in this world connect to this, conservative and grey. However, when the animals end up in Madagascar where it is exciting, less structured and the real home to the creatures they meet, you are transported to a world of vibrant colour and depth. As a result, over time, the behavior of the zoo animals changed too as they got out of a forced and restricted place to one where they could act and behave in a natural way.

This is the direction I believe we are trying to take the workplace. Create an environment that encourages more natural behaviors and creative activity. It can only be done successfully if you connect all three elements, as focusing on one only will not produce the results the intended organisation needs.


Jono Vidak - Director - Vidak Limited


(Credit: Images by DreamWorks Animation SKG)