Designing Experience: Key Themes From REMIX Summit 2014

REMIX Summit London 2014

Held at Google’s London headquarters this week, REMIX Summit brought together entrepreneurs and innovators from technology, art and culture for two days of panels and keynotes. With a focus on experience design, digital curation and immersive storytelling, the key ideas from the summit apply across many industries, from event design to retail and marketing.

Mash-Up Mindset

Andy Taylor is head of movies at BBC Radio 1; the station’s target audience, 15-24 year olds, is a generation that sees intellectual property and ownership in an entirely different way to its predecessors. Speaking of the remixes, re-cuts and mash-ups that are such a driving force in contemporary culture, he reflected that “As the technology makes it possible, it’s natural.”

Radio 1 Rescores Drive

Taylor was integral in the station’s recent rescore of the film Drive, which includes tracks by Banks, Bastille and Chvrches. When he approached Drive director, Nicolas Winding Refn, with the idea to create a whole new soundtrack for a film that’s so beloved for its soundtrack, he received a resoundingly positive response. “You can’t own creativity,” Winding Refn said at the launch of the project. “You can steal creativity, emulate creativity, shape creativity – but you can’t own it.” The caveat to this, noted artist Cath Le Couteur, is quality: “If you’re going to use someone’s work, artists aren’t going to care – if you make it awesome.”

Digital Storytelling

Cultural sectors that have previously been slow to pursue digital are now embracing the opportunity to engage with the public in new ways. Dominic Dromgoole, artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe, explained that the theatre has moved its performances online, with Globe Player, because the timing is finally right. “We were appalled at the idea of theatre being recorded until HD technology came in – which could capture performance and bring it to life for the viewer.” And just as HD has transformed theatre, the selfie has transformed museums: Chris Michaels, head of digital at the British Museum, estimates that 20,000 selfies – “the biggest thing to happen to museums in 50 years” – are taken every day within the institution’s walls. He also guesses that the Rosetta Stone is the most popular co-subject.

Against Captain’s Orders by Punchdrunk

Royal Museums of Greenwich are collaborating with immersive theatre company Punchdrunk on a “high seas adventure” for kids next year. Called Against Captain’s Orders, the experience has been designed to bring the exhibits of its National Maritime Museum to life afresh. “Museums are storytellers” said Mike Sarna, the museums’ director of programming, but they can be “a bit predictable; our audience knows where that story is going.” By working with innovative outsiders like Punchdrunk, museums can retell their stories in ways that are new, but also true to them.

Fans Not Audiences

Sandra Schembri, Chief Encouragement Officer at not-for-profit Soho members’ club House of St Barnabas, said that their mantra was to “matter to people” not to “market to people”. If your customers care about the core of what you’re doing, they will champion your brand. Cat Botibol, executive producer of the Southbank’s upcoming immersive fairy tale Grimm Tales, went further with this idea: having spent their marketing budget on a last-minute repair of their venue’s roof, she said, they will be relying on fans to spread the word.

House of St Barnabas, Soho

Our online viewing behaviour is also changing, becoming less scattered and more fan-like: 40% of the content watched on Youtube last month was “longform” – 20 minutes and up – said Stephen Nuttall, senior director of Youtube EMEA. An audience watches and then leaves, he summarised; a fan base sticks around to comment, curate and collaborate.

Joseph Smith, co-founder of the Makerversity recently installed in Somerset House, spoke of the benefits of making your collaborators your fans. If you leave people room, he said, they’ll help you, and they’ll do things with your brand that you never envisaged.

Being Part of the Story

The National Theatre Wales doesn’t have a theatre, said its artistic director, John McGrath. Instead, it stages plays in disused buildings, mountains, forests and fields, and puts the viewer right in the centre of the action, where they can drive the narrative themselves. Recent production Bordergame tackled issues around immigration and citizenship, challenging participants to hear detainees’ stories and choose their (fictional) fate. “It ended with something very real, it was playful along the way,” McGrath said. Yomi Aveni, media liaison for Burning Man, examined why the “thing in the desert” defies definition: “It is not an event,” he said, “Neither is it a way of life. It is something that you incorporate into your life.” His new immersive production Breathe carries the tagline: “There are a million different ways of telling a story, including you being part of one.” In today’s “predictable” world, said Fabien Riggall, founder of Secret Cinema, experience design is only going to become more important: “In the future, we won’t release films or albums, we’ll release experiences.”

The Sultan’s Elephant, produced by Artichoke

“It’s our world. We make it, and we can make it different,” said Helen Marriage, director of performing arts company Artichoke – producers of The Sultan’s Elephant, among others. “Why wouldn’t you invite 1 million people to the street? No-one has to let you do anything.”

The New Face of Gaming

Ian Livingstone, one of the founders of pioneering British gaming brand Games Workshop, spoke passionately about the skills and opportunities that gaming offers, as well as its hugely diverse audience. “History has never been kind to games,” he said, but since beginning in the industry in the 1970s, “I’ve seen incredible amounts of change. Along comes Apple, [and] with swipe technology, everyone can be a gamer. Gaming has become mass market entertainment.”


From the phenomenon of Minecraft to a game as seemingly simple as Angry Birds, he said, “There’s loads going on under the hood when you play a game. They are a great learning tool, without children realising that they are learning.” He urged the British government to incorporate play into learning in school curriculums, and to invest significantly in gaming as a key part of the knowledge economy.

Homebuildlife and WGSN subscribers can read more about the cross-cultural power of games – and what that can mean for brands – in our new report Epic Storytelling – Gaming Trends, and can access all our content on trends and innovations in experience in our dedicated section, Experience Design.

– Sarah Housley

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