Friday, August 23, 2013

Experience Design: Phil Hettema chairs sessions for TEA's SATE '13 conference, Oct 3-4 in Savannah

Hettema will get SATE delegates talking: about “how interactive technology is allowing people to immerse themselves in themed environments and participate”; about “low-tech ways of audience interaction”; and “the role of great creative design.”

“What's Next” is the theme of TEA's SATE '13 conference presented by Christie® Oct 3-4 in Savannah, Georgia at the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD). The 2-day conference organized by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) has a next-gen emphasis appropriate to its setting at a leading design school with a curriculum in themed entertainment.

See additional information about SATE including conference registration.

“Experience” is the sum of the SATE equation (Storytelling + Architecture + Technology = Experience). As Experience segment chair of SATE '13, Phil Hettema, a top creative in the attractions industry, is organizing the culminating sessions of the conference.

Hettema is probably best known for his 10+ years as SVP of attraction development for Universal Studios Parks. Notable recent projects with his own design and master planning firm, The Hettema Group, include “Beyond All Boundaries” for the National World War II Museum, the USA Pavilion at Yeosu Expo 2012, the world's largest observation wheel for Caesars Las Vegas and the visitor experience at the top of the new World Trade Center in New York City.

“It is not necessarily axiomatic that a powerful experience is a great experience,” says Hettema. “We mustn't lose sight of what moves us as human beings. You can build the most complex, state-of-the-art attraction with all the bells and whistles, but does it really touch us emotionally or viscerally, in a way that's memorable - and repeatable?”

According to Hettema, Experience - within the consciously designed and often elaborately detailed and media-rich environments of theme parks and visitor attractions - is the delivery of story “in a way that includes all our senses and our emotional and intellectual reactions – and is participatory, tangible. You are part of the story. You affect the story, intentionally or not. You affect the people you're experiencing the story with. That is the secret sauce of this business: shared experiences and memories.”

Hettema intends to get SATE delegates talking: about “how interactive technology is allowing people to immerse themselves in themed environments and participate”; about “low-tech ways of audience interaction”; and “the role of great creative design.” Interactivity for its own sake doesn't cut it: “Something that reacts to you in the space doesn't necessarily make the story better; it has to be the right interaction, the right sequence, the right pacing.”

The SATE '13 conference culture is shifting away from case studies and more toward using projects as examples to share ideas and practices. “SATE is as much about the attendees as the presenters – we're all in this business together,” says Hettema. “It is a setting for open dialog about why we do what we do, what it involves, and how we can do it better; to share knowledge gained from our mistakes as well as our successes. There are compelling questions in the air. Being in Savannah at SCAD, we expect that the design student participation will bring fantastic energy to the event.”

Other SATE segment chairs, organizing sessions on Technology, Architecture and Storytelling, are Mk Haley of Disney Research and Al Cross of PGAV, and Adam Bezark of The Bezark Company. SATE co-chairs are Aram Ebben of exp, and Stefan Lawrence of Stefan Rules! TEA president is Christine Kerr.

SATE sponsorship opportunities are available: Contact Kathy Oliver for more information.