Interview with our digital team

«Be prepared to be amazed again»

Christian Streng and Luca Tomasi are the first points of contact at Messerli when it comes to digital components for Live Experiences. In the interview, they talk about what they like most about it – and what works especially well in their contact with clients.

How did you end up in the digital world of Messerli?

Christian Streng: Initially, I trained to be a decoration designer at an advertising agency. It was there that I got the opportunity to produce trade fair concepts and I soon noticed that this was more my thing. I moved into the digital sector about six years ago. We were thinking about how we could give our clients a better spatial understanding of the projects. Even if we produce great renderings, they remain a “flat” view and only give a limited idea of the fully developed concept. In discussions with our partners at the company ZAAK, the idea of creating a digital version of our model for trade fair construction and event projects arose. Today, the technology that we’re using to do this is known as Augmented Reality. I had the opportunity to take on an intensive role in this development project.

 

Luca Tomasi: After my apprenticeship in electromechanics and electronics, I spent exactly three months working in this profession. Through my circle of friends, which was mostly made up of graphic designers, I then discovered a love of graphic design and computers. 3D animations quickly became my hobby and I worked for various companies in the area of post-production for film and television for eleven years. I went freelance thirteen years ago, initially with 3D animation projects. Then, seven years ago, I made the move into interaction design.  I’ve since deviated increasingly towards interactive installations. With my part-time job at Messerli, I now have the opportunity to build something with it and merge the boundaries between the analogue and the digital.

What do you find particularly fascinating about digital?

Luca Tomasi: When you start developing an installation, you don’t just have a blank sheet of paper but a small, empty, real world. Within that, you have to build an environment, create content; you are a storyteller and a stage designer. You have to imagine that you are the viewer and think about what they might want to look at more closely. What arouses their curiosity? And I find it exciting giving an insight into worlds that would otherwise be invisible. The viewer should be prepared to be amazed – which children find easy, but adults have often forgotten. We have to tease it out again and show things that people are unable to see day to day or in reality.

 

Christian Streng: I really like it that people are able to open new doors with digital tools. We didn’t have that in the past. Being able to be interactively involved in the action, without any need for huge construction installations: that only works if this part can be realised digitally. We are still at the beginning of a development and have not yet arrived at the end of the possibilities. For me, it’s important that people are able to develop new ideas and also understand what’s happening in the market.

Luca Tomasi, Interaction Designer, Andreas Messerli AG

«When you start developing an installation, you don’t just have a blank sheet of paper but a small, empty, real world.»

In which technologies do you see the greatest potential?

Luca Tomasi:It is a huge challenge evaluating which technologies are useful and are which are just gimmicks. “Gadgets” come and go and  – like lots of things in the digital world – have little substance or lack any consistent implementation. Other technologies have their niche where they are useful. However, I don’t believe in a technology-driven approach. You mustn’t underestimate the person. I believe that the technologies with a future are all the technologies or ideas concerned with involving the person – so that they, maybe for a brief moment, forget everything around them and are amazed and fascinated.

Christian Streng: Our core business remains Live Experience. That means we are less concerned with technology per se than with thoughts about which new tools we can usefully incorporate into these landscapes. And then it’s about how we generate added value in the process. We have been examining this subject for a long time and are thus also able to give our clients recommendations about what suits their specific needs.

What works especially well as an activation measure?

Christian Streng: Those who only move in the analogue world and are then suddenly pushed into the digital one are quickly overwhelmed. That’s why a soft transition is needed. I like what’s moving between digital and analogue – such as a wooden panel with nice illustrations on it that people can touch and so set a process in motion. In the form of projections, it then triggers emotions in the  viewer. Our aim must always be for people to form a positive connection to the event and be reminded of something special.

Luca Tomasi: It’s about the question: How do people become aware? And we are, of course, conditioned to be aware of movement. It could be a tiger coming  to attack me. So, the first priority has to be to create this moment from pausing and looking around. We are sliding increasingly into a cognitive world. Everything is being intellectualised. But we are still beings with all our senses – and these have to be stimulated. Its success is thus not merely about appealing to the visual but is about using this entire technology to provide further impetus. Hence, that also means not striving for purely purpose-related or sales-oriented implementations but appealing to all senses – thus resulting in a positive image transfer.

Which arguments convince clients to invest in digital activation elements?

Luca Tomasi: Going purely digital unfortunately has a value problem, in exactly the same way that analogue and real have the reputation of being inflexible. Hence, one argument can be to use an analogue support structure and expand it flexibly with digital content. So you give this structure a second “playtime”. Whether you now have an installation for three days at the trade fair or for a year at your company headquarters, the outlay is the same in each case. As a result, it is always important for us to find out from the client where else such elements could be deployed. Is there a showroom or an entrance area that could be upgraded? That, of course, has a huge impact on the financial justification.

Christian Streng: Exactly, this “multi-use” is the most important point in most cases. It is our responsibility to flag up these various different options. And the response so far from clients has been very positive.

Christian Streng, Manager of Planning, Concept and Design, Andreas Messerli AG

«The better prepared we are for the client, the more targeted we can support them and take the project in a direction that gets the client to their goal.»

What is the biggest challenge when implementing projects like these?

Luca Tomasi: Content is a huge issue. And I think it’s increased even more with moving, interactive media. In order to do the best possible job, we need as much good information and material as possible. It is always good when you talk to a client and they already have certain ideas or show a sample film that corresponds to what he’s conceived. That can be a good starting point. But it’s important not to be set on certain technologies. It is better to derive them from the desired effect or the content to be conveyed. People can work out what is best in a joint discussion.

Christian Streng: We have to reach out to the client and support them. Especially when they are breaking new ground, it’s difficult for the client to assess what content they should supply us with. But the better prepared we are for the client, the more targeted we can support them and take the project in a direction that gets the client to their goal.

Thank you very much for this interview!