People Make the Experience

Editor's note: Spark is actively trying to share our story and that means sharing more from our team. The core of the team starts with our founders: Charly, Joshua and Ronnie. These three unique thinkers are building a company that focuses on collaboration while embracing differences. Their different perspectives and approaches combined make the Spark product better. In order for our customers to get to know Spark better, we wanted to share a bit more from each of them. We’ll let you recognize where they differ and where they align but one thing is for sure all the perspectives together make for greater experiences.

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To understand how I discovered I wanted to design experiences you have to go back to Portland, Oregon. At that time, I had quit working on ships forever and was working for Lululemon. Lululemon, which is known for being a people based company, has employees read this book that asks three questions:

What am I the best in the world at?

What am I deeply passionate about?

How can I make money?

If you can imagine a Venn diagram of your answers, the goal would be to shoot for somewhere in the middle where they overlap. I had no idea how to answer these questions, so I contacted everyone I knew and asked them to answer for me. The answers kept leaning in one direction, that my Dad said most succinctly—  I was good at creating positive personal interactions. So, while in Portland with this new information I had time to think, decompress and reflect on my experiences as a Disney character and working in hotels, and I was like wait a second, “It's somebody's job to make those happen.” I was always a cog in a wheel of an experience factory, but who builds factory? The other thing I was starting to pay attention to, were the new wave of family games that were all about individuals shining over winning. It was changing family game play, shifting from competitive board games like Monopoly to more collaborative games.

These personal revelations weren’t the start of Spark, but they were the first steps in joining the side that designs the factory.  I went back to ships for a few stints to get my foot in the door, but this time with a vision that I was going to be designing the factory. My time on ships and designing experiences for a brand solidified my strongest beliefs about experience, that it’s about people and brought me back to my passion: creating positive personal interactions. This is still where I focus a lot of my perspective when I’m collaborating on projects with the team. How is the experience creating connections between people?

What does it mean to focus on people? The first thing is focusing on segments of people based on their interests. Adventurers versus relaxers, explorers versus learners, understanding these different groups and what their interests are, is at the foundation of understanding how we can deliver the best experience. Brands have really started paying attention to their guest segments so that they can help their guests find more meaningful points to connect around, but just ensuring those points exist isn’t creating the experience, it’s the actual connection between people that is the experience we help clients facilitate.

Experience design, for me, is recognizing identities, giving them something to connect over, and then helping facilitate the connection.  I'm on my soapbox and here is my message: “everybody matters.” If one person showed up to trivia, oftentimes staff will say sorry we need at least 10 people to make this happen, which I think is the biggest fallacy.  Staff can be trained to engage with, speak to, and ask some trivia questions to that one person. That is what they're there for, I see this as a real challenge, and an opportunity for brands to help create those connections. There's no thing that you need more than one person to do unless it's a qualified team event. So the point is that every body matters.

Connecting between people in a space is what drives me, and what I bring to experience design. When you think of space the way architects, designers and engineers do, it’s different. They engage with the space throughout the entire life cycle of the project but where we come in, whether it's early on, or after the space has been built, we are squarely focused on the person in the space. Fortunately, we get to work with a lot of great companies and designers and we can draw a lot of inspiration from the spaces we’re in and engage people of different levels in different ways drawing inspiration from those spaces. We think about it through technology or not technology, through entertainment or not, and the quality and the level of those elements.  The systems including lighting, sound, and amazing uniforms, all of those contribute to the moment of connection. How staff are trained to use language to facilitate connection, how connection becomes a metric of success, and how people interact with each other in a space to create those experiences are the questions I’m trying to answer.