Carrie Arnold recently relocated from London to take up the helm as Business Director of Experience Design at Imagination. We chat to Carrie about her approach to enhancing environments through experience design and her thoughts on the intersection of technology, people and urban spaces.
November 26th, 2015
You’ve recently taken up the role of Business Director of Experience Design at Imagination. Can you tell us a little bit about what you love most about this new position?
People. What’s always driven me is supporting both organisations and individuals reach their full creative and commercial potential. For both individuals and brands it’s a very similar approach. It’s about helping them articulate their purpose, supporting them to understand the people they want to talk to, to give them a new perspective. This then allows them to go out into the world and sell compelling products, services or experiences. Ultimately it’s about using creativity to unlock commercial potential.
You’ve held some impressive roles during your career. Tell me about contributions to the built environment that you believe have made a positive impact on our relationship with it?
I’ve had what you could say is a diverse career. One thread has been consistent – I’ve helped each client go through a moment of transformation. In my previous role at Imagination, we helped Ford become a consumer electronic organisation through MyFord Touch in-car interface program. I’ve enabled global media organisations to make the cultural changes to embed digital mind-sets; advised global brands from Burberry to Nokia to increase digital capabilities across retail; and supported Nike to partner with Microsoft with Nike+ Kinect Training. It’s been a learning curve, but each project has helped these organisations expand their offerings into new arenas.
What’s your approach to enhancing environments through experience design?
We design intuitive connected experiences that enhance and transform the spaces where we work, shop, play and live, turning them into more vibrant, inviting and engaging places. Rather than simply building a passive building, we believe in creating active destinations. Places people want to inhabit that are sustainable, connected and accessible. Places that can adapt to the needs of business, residents and the wider community.
We do this by bringing spaces to life through technology, content and entertainment. We work with some really interesting clients from developers looking to add value in innovative ways, brands aiming to enhance their customers’ experiences and architects aspiring to integrate technology into their designs.
Where is the relationship between technology and people heading? Why it is important to urban spaces?
If for a moment we look to the future; in 2025, 630 million of us will live in 37 of the world’s megacities. I’m personally from one of them – London. I know too well that what’s important, as our cities grow, is to ensure that we have the right level of transportation, infrastructure and civic services to keep our cities running. So, how can technology help us plan for this new type of mass density and diversity? The opportunity lies in creating civic digital services that enhance how we live, work and even help us plan our future cities. Think of the opportunities to aggregate data that could help us better understand how we interact with our cities, so we can create the right type of places for our communities.
What’s your take on Malcolm Turnbull’s comment that cities need to become “more like humans and less like cars”?
To build the best livable cities, and Australia has some of the most livable cities in the world, you need to think about people first and then plan and design from their needs. Absolutely, density is the solution, but with density you also need to activate the ‘buzz’ of a city that’s on a global stage.
If we want a more creative city, this means creating experiences that attract people to our CBD, from day to night. We need to create destinations that are activated through rich cultural and entertainment experiences so people can start to identify with these places and make them their own.
The other part to achieving this vision is to connect our cities. Connect our suburbs to the CBD with more public transport. For our cities to be healthier we must encourage people to get out of their cars. Again, technology plays a role here.
Mobility means more than just transport. Mobility is a means of access – to goods, services and information. Some of the most innovative uses of increasing a city’s mobility comes from the private sector. New York has opened its doors to Google introducing 5,000 driver-less cars by 2016. Google’s acquisition of the two companies behind LinkNYC signals its focus to bring free public Wi-Fi to cities. Google is learning about how we move through our cities and with that comes its ability to give us access to new information that can serve our communities in new ways.
What are the key trends that are influencing the places that we go to entertain, shop and work?
One trend that I believe will open up a wealth of rich opportunities to retailers, corporations and consumer brands alike is the convergence economy. The places we go to are increasingly becoming more multi-functional. Hospitality is incorporating retail, workspaces are opening up in our city’s precincts, and retailers are encouraging start-ups to share space and skills.
If you connect this to the blurring lines between media and retailers, Conde Nast and Burberry are perfect examples. Where publishers are becoming media houses, retailers are becoming publishers and media houses are looking to commerce. When you bring these trends together – multi-functional place and blurring of commerce and media – you have a fertile ground for new opportunities. What if our future places acted as magazines? Where the merchandiser is the editor? A place where you see products before going home to buy online, where retail is theatre, not about transactions. You could then leverage strategic brand partnerships with consumer brands that don’t have bricks and mortar – helping both businesses reach out to new consumer groups.
What’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on?
I challenged myself last year to follow my own personal passion and set up my own mentorship consultancy, Future Present. I set out to help creative businesses make their ideas happen. Again, another steep learning curve. One where I had to unlearn everything I had learned in my career up until that point.
I was incredibly fortunate to work with a host of London’s creative talent including digital immersive Yoga start-up, Yung Club and Hirsh & Mann, a physical technology start-up – whose sister company, Technology Will Save Us is changing the technology agenda in education.
Another highlight for me as part of Hirsch & Mann was working with retail trend consultancy, The Future Laboratory, helping them think about the future of their business. For me, the most exciting projects are when I’m working with diverse and interesting thinkers. Fortunately for me in my current role at Imagination, I’m working with some of Sydney’s best strategists, creatives, technologists and producers.
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