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Bluecadet's Secret To Creating Immersive Experiences

Bluecadet works with large nonprofits including presidential libraries and national museums. But how does the creative firm handle each project?

Bluecadet's Secret To Creating Immersive Experiences

Lilly Preston, managing director of Blue Cadet [Photo: Cale Weissman for Fast Company]

The best way for an organization to engage with a person is to really figure out what he or she wants. That’s what the creative firm Bluecadet explained to a small group of attendees this week at Fast Company’s Innovation Festival.

The company creates dynamic digital experiences for large groups and spaces, predominately nonprofit. Projects include multimedia work with the Smithsonian and the National Air and Space Museum. But how does the firm figure out the best way to attack a project?

Figure out what's missing

The first questions managing director Lilly Preston asks are "what do you do right now?" and "what are you missing?" Following that, she looks into what the organization wants "someone to feel or take away." In short, this interrogation looks at the material available and tries to figure out the best and most innovative way to convey the message to customers.

Simple as this may sound, the beginning process is really one of synthesis and understanding. Josh Goldblum, Bluecadet’s founder and CEO, said that he often spends a lot of time trying to decipher a project. Often he works with museums that know a topic inside and out and explain it in a very dry, didactic manner. But the way to get more people engaged is to find the stuff underneath. Goldblum looks for "what they say over a glass of wine," he told me. That is, "the most interesting layer." Once that’s discovered the question of how to tell that story becomes much easier.

It’s easy to see how this process translates into Bluecadet’s work. Take, for example, a project the firm did with the Art Institute of Chicago. For an exhibition entitled Van Gogh’s Bedroom, the agency was asked to create multimedia complements to let museumgoers see deeper into the background of the artist’s work. The project had a 3D projection of the room Van Gogh paints, along with quotes and facts inter-spliced, all taken from the artist's letters and journals. People were also able to use a screen to look more closely at different versions of the paintings so they could get a real sense of the entire process. This all happened in a room preceding the actual exhibit, which helped the issue of boredom during museum congestion. In short, the project was able to highlight the research the Art Institute had done in a format that was easily and readily consumed by participants.

Josh Goldblum, Bluecadet’s founder and CEO

Look for engagement

Many of Bluecadet's installations try to connect users with their mobile devices and collect information like email addresses and social media accounts. Creating all of these points of access makes it possible for people to bring the experience home with them. With that, it makes it easier for them to connect with the project in the future. When asked what sort of data helps drive these projects and their success, Goldblum said, "We look at conversion . . . what are the points that you can really do to convert a person."

For one project with the National Air and Space Museum, Bluecadet built an interactive wall that allowed people to touch it and learn more about the history of aviation. People could also connect that experience with a mobile app they could download, which also collected social information about the user. The wall itself, said Goldblum, has "over 1 million touches," and was a great way to show off a "really robust app."

While there’s no exact formula for how the Bluecadet program builds out its projects, personal connection is at each one's core. At the firm's Manhattan offices, the team showed how it formulated interactive projects that allowed participants of all kinds to really experience a place beyond the physical space. The ultimate way to attack these projects, said Goldblum, is to ask: "Are you getting people on an emotional level, [and] are you getting people on an intellectual level?" From there, the creative world is your oyster.

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