Connecting People With Powerful Audiovisual Experiences | Dutch digital design | Open mic


Three interviews with three digital spearheads. Based on the themes of the Adyen Design Meets webinars held at the end of last year, in collaboration with Dutch Digital Design. The second interview is with Wouter Westen, founder and creative director of Amsterdam-based Circus Family, and former snowboard enthusiast, DJ and traveler. We’re talking about interactive installations, or as they like to call them at Circus Family: powerful audiovisual experiences.

About Circus Family

In 2004, Wouter and Daan Lucas (now Managing Director and Founder of Random Studio) launched Circus Family: a collective of like-minded freelancers, each with their own expertise. Most of them were dedicated snowboarders who wanted to create amazing work by selling their own stories about their travels and taking editorial content to the next level. One of their first customers was Canon, for whom they developed interactive content, including short animations, films, moving images and event photos.

Then, in 2007, Wouter decided he wanted to focus more on film and motion graphics, and apply it to events, in new forms and forms. For example, instead of creating ordinary advertisements, they would be interested in projection mapping. A technique used to transform objects into a display surface for video projection. This was the start of Circus Family as we know it now. To create an overall experience that corresponds to the concept that corresponds to a customer, a brand or a product. LED installations with impressive animated graphics for social media.

Why powerful audiovisual installations?

“It’s what we believe in, what we’re good at. Combine graphic design and technology. In this way, we are able to create bold and visually strong experiences. Tailored experiences for each particular customer, brand or product – bringing a concept or idea to life. A match between people, expertise and technology will create the best ideas, not just a compromise. ‘

A powerful experience by Circus Family

The KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) holographic bar at Amsterdam, Rio de Janeiro and Oslo airports. A great collaboration between DDB Unlimited, ourselves and the customer. An experience that brings KLM’s ‘connecting people’ benefit to life, while creating surprise and intrigue among KLM travelers.

Customers traveling to these three different airports are connected in real time by being projected onto a transparent hologram fabric: their faces are tracked and their movements determine the angle at which the hologram is projected – creating a 3D effect. Tracking data is sent wirelessly across the world. This way, travelers can chat live with a hologram from their counterpart at their destination airport and get advice on where and what to visit at their destination. The Hologram Bar allows strangers who would never have met otherwise, to connect, chat and exchange local travel tips.

Was everything simple?

“This is certainly one of the projects we are very proud of. It does whatever we wanted. The whole worked. And above all, it brought the customer’s brand message to life. And no, it wasn’t all simple and straightforward. We are talking about wireless technology for thousands of miles across the ocean. In addition, all of our facilities escaped passport control. So if something went wrong, something as simple as no WiFi connection, our people on the ground had to get special clearances to enter that part of the airports. However, that didn’t stop us. We did it! “

And then came Corona

“As much as we don’t want to let the coronavirus crisis get in our way – it challenges us to think even more beyond the norm, something we love to do – Corona has made events and public spaces less accessible. Also less accessible for our facilities. Therefore, we have shifted our creative minds online, to content and social media. How we could move our expertise online. Create tailor-made, interactive and always powerful experiences. We also started to work on how we could link our physical facilities to an online environment. As part of this new way of thinking, we were invited to participate in an incredible social project in Utrecht: Living ApartTogether. ‘

About living together

Loneliness is increasing in cities around the world. Also in Dutch cities. The Corona pandemic only added to that. Living Apart Together is a research and art project that aims to make loneliness less taboo, reach out and help connect people.

“We were one of the creators who created an installation / work of art on Berlin Plein, Utrecht. Everything outside, completely corona proof and free. Our creation is called Harmonie, an interactive installation made up of 16 pillars – all separated by exactly 1.5 m – where light and sound meet, activated by the presence of passers-by. Sensors detect movement and create sound and light effects accordingly. The interaction between the people present at the installation and the online visitors creates a veritable symphony of sound and light. Yes, you can also interact with the installation online! We hope this will encourage people to discover new spaces, to interact and to connect. Both offline and online. Reduce this feeling of social isolation.

Trend research by Circus Family

“We believe that people, including customers, are looking for a more personal and tailored experience. A unique experience. To stand out from the crowd. Indispensable in a world where there is so much going on. This is also what people expect. They share their personal data and expect something personal in return.

Of course, technology is important to us. However, we will always first look at how to bring a product, brand, etc. to life. We will then find the right technology to make it happen.

We also just talked about data. Data, big data, being more and more accessible is important for us. Having access to open source data * allows us to create these personal experiences. We can build installations based on the data and interact through it. As we created for the Dutch energy company Eneco.

We built an interactive LED strip wall on one of Hollands’ largest wave breakers. The wall reacted, in real time, to the wind, thanks to data collected from analog wind turbines along the entire length of the wavebreakers. This visualization of the data allowed participants in the Dutch championships to “ride a bike into the wind” to prepare for gusts of 134 km / h.

The wish of the Circus family

“That the world will soon be able to physically connect again and that we at Circus Family can continue to create physical and audiovisual experiences. To help with this process of connecting people, both in the real world and online.

And to create more of our own commissioned interactive works of art and display them in a public space, museum or hotel lobby. To convey our own message, our own vision.

The ideal future of Circus Family would be to strike a balance between art and commerce, combining graphic design with technology. ‘

* open source data: an open source database contains open and free code to download, modify and reuse.

Main image by Juri Hiensch


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