Wow Factor Takes A Team

February 4, 2014 by guest author, Stephanie Gutnik


Guest Post: Sean James, Managed Services, Christie

My work puts me in the middle of a lot of tremendous visual projects designed to grab attention, communicate a message, and deliver an experience.

If there’s a common thread among all of those projects, it’s the team approach used from the idea stage all the way through to execution.

Brilliant multimedia designers can come up with ideas for visual feasts, things no one has ever seen or done before. But they don’t know the technical gotchas and tricks.

Savvy technologists and integration specialists know the best tools to apply, and the best way to get things done. But they’re not typically wired the same way as creative people. They don’t always have the eye, or mindset, to create and fulfill big visual ideas.

Project managers, meanwhile, sweat the small stuff, and get things done, on time and on budget. Without them, projects get chaotic. But PMs are not in the room to talk brand continuity or spec display technology. They are there to ask how much things cost, and when they’ll be ready and delivered.

Making Wow Factor, you see, really does take a team.

Case in point: It was just a few weeks ago that my company was part of a big, wildly talented team that lit up the street-side façade of the flagship Barneys apparel store in New York City. It is the focal point of the retailer’s holiday celebrations, and the second year in a row Christie’s Managed Services was involved.

Seriously organized people start thinking about Christmas in the summer. But the team at Barneys New York – Dennis Freedman and Tommy Dobrzynski – who envisioned the display windows and gallery, started meeting and planning in early spring. At that point, the creative team had already been working on concepts for several weeks with artist Joanie Lemercier and urban music icon Jay Z, whose education-focused foundation for disadvantaged youth was receiving charity proceeds from the event.

What got turned on months later, in late November, was a blend of projections, display cubes and flat panel displays that truly pushed the envelope not only for how digital gets used in retail, but how digital gets used … period.


The third floor of the Madison Avenue store was turned into a 1,200 sq. ft.  gallery, with a 360-degree panorama of seamlessly projection-mapped visuals. The video was shot at a mind-bending 16K resolution using six cameras, and then edited and put on the store walls using edge-blended projectors.

Lemercier created a 16-foot-tall floating city, made of folded paper, that was projection-mapped to show everything from twinkling stars in a night sky to a slow-moving sunrise. It would take a long time to explain all the intricacy behind that part.

In another window, a different Lemercier installation was covered in thousands of mirror fragments, and also mapped with projected light. One more window combined an all-weather display panel backdrop with a giant sleigh ride prop and live improv actors.

Crowds flocked to the sidewalks and inside to take it all in, and the different players on our collective team watched anxiously as the client gave us a satisfied smile. It all worked because “team effort” wasn’t just a feel-good talking point, but a fact.

And that’s my point here. Having done digital signage work for several years now, and watched the sector evolve and mature, I’m happy to see more and more projects taking on this team mindset, and running with it.

I’m seeing less and less focus from clients and business partners on the technology to be applied, and much more attention given to the idea and the aesthetics of the project, and the overall value the project can deliver.

It might sound like heresy from a guy who works for a large tech company, but it’s OK and good when the concept, and content strategy, and objectives, lead the discussion … and the technology part gets figured out later. I’m hoping the days when end-users buy software and hardware, and only then start thinking about content, are going, or gone.

There are amazing content design companies emerging in our field that do a great job of marrying objectives to creative. There are really good consultants who get their clients thinking that way.

But we’re all going to prosper when each project – whether it’s a couple of screens hung in a one-site boutique or a multimedia feast that transforms a store, rail station hall or airport concourse – has all the right people at the table. It’s a big, good thing when the outcome reflects that team’s collective ideas and work.

I’m looking forward to DSE next week, hearing about projects and seeing the new technology and ideas that can deliver for the team and its plans. Christie and I will be at booth 527. Make a point of dropping by.

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