Every day, we are surrounded by Earth’s atmosphere, which makes our planet livable.
It blocks the most powerful sun rays from hitting us, keeps the heat trapped here so we don’t freeze and helps keep the oxygen in the Earth so we can actually live. That’s the atmosphere that keeps us alive, but what about the atmosphere that surrounds us in our own lives every day?
Atmospheres change around us daily depending on where we go, what we are looking at or who we are with. Our work atmosphere can be can make us feel one way and our atmosphere at home can lead to a totally different feeling. How can this be? Well the answer is in the details and how those details make us feel.
I was recently at Disneyland, and whether you love or hate it, you can’t deny that they do an amazing job at creating different atmospheres. Each land and ride is crafted to have the look and feel of wherever you are. There are not just big signs reading “Jungle Cruise” or “Splash Mountain” standing in front of chain link roped-off lines that lead to the ride. No, Disney has worked to add every detail they can so that the ride and area surrounding the ride feels authentic and true to that story or time period.
The attention to detail involved in designing a perfect atmosphere became very apparent as I walked into the new Star Wars land for the first time. As you walk into this new area of the park you almost expect to see a new shiny area that’s still been untouched by people over the last 20+ years. But that’s not what you get. Instead, you see a well worn landscape in front of you. The walls are worn, cracked and dirty in appearance, the ground has cracks running throughout it and the fabric hanging from the shops are also torn and ragged, as if they had been there for years. There are even tracks from a robot molded into the walkway as if R2D2 accidentally ran over the cement while it was drying. Even while you are standing in line next to the Millennium Falcon you will notice that tools and other items have been left on crates, as if someone just finished working on the ship. Disney has even gone so far as to create new packaging for their gift shop items in Star Wars land. You will see far less of the blue Disneyland plastic bags and more unique cardboard boxes that carry droids and other treasures.
These details, though probably not noticed by many, create the authentic Star Wars atmosphere. To get these details right took time. To throw in extra tidbits like tools and robot tracks took planning. Yet, to the average visitor, the details are either passed over or simply noted and moved on from. So why go through all this extra work? Surely if you told people there was a millennium falcon ride they would still show up to ride it, even if it were just standing in a warehouse. However, Disney knows that the details and atmosphere are the key to making an unforgettable experience. They know that making the story come to life will bring people back to the park time and time again in order to relive that experience (or tell all their friends they need to go and experience it for themselves). The atmosphere of Disneyland is what makes it so successful.
So what does this have to do with designing at an agency? Well, everything we make can still create an atmosphere for the viewer. A digital ad that is usually scrolled by quickly on social media, can instead — with the right details — capture the viewer’s attention and create the necessary atmosphere to keep them engaged. Even if it is only for a few seconds. If you get the details right, you can capture the audiences attention and give them an unforgettable experience that will draw them into the product, event or company.
Perhaps we are not designing for Disneyland, but no matter how large or small the design may be we should remember to create an atmosphere for our clients and audience. If we can succeed at building the atmosphere we want, we will not only captivate more of our audiences, but also keep our clients happy as they see the businesses they have created come to life.