June 26, 2015
The team behind the Lao Niu Discovery Museum of the CNCC visits JRA's offices. From left, Mrs. Loretta Luke Yajima, JRA's Mike Meyer, Ms. Ni Zhang, Mr. Xuecheng Zhou and Ms. Hongxiao Li
So you’ve finally signed the contract and work has started, but that's not the end of it. Instead, you’ve only begun your journey toward a new set of challenges.
It’s About Relationships
One of the most underestimated aspects of doing business in China is the value of maintaining an ongoing personal relationship with your client throughout the duration of the project. Keeping the client happy has a lot to do with the work you are providing them, but not entirely. Western firms often overlook this crucial aspect because we believe that if we do our work the client should be happy and we should be paid on time. Conversely, your Chinese competitors will spend more time "courting the client” even after the contract is signed - to ensure that the ongoing work process continues to go smoothly, which will hopefully result in getting paid, and in a timely manner. This does not mean that you have to take your client out to dinner every month or call every week. But checking on them from time to time to provide information or to just listen to their thoughts and concerns can make a world of difference.
Your relationship manager shouldn’t be your design lead, or chief analyst, or production manager, etc., as this can often muddy the waters between the needs of the project and the needs of the relationship. Instead, this should be an account executive or principal, someone who manages the project from a contractual standpoint, who focuses on keeping the communication positive and the client happy.
Always More to Learn
It’s important to remember that even once you successfully enter and compete in the Chinese market, there will always be much to learn as the business environment and cultural landscape continues to evolve.
For example, as you begin to make more in-roads into the Chinese market, you
These are all important issues that need to be understood in order for you to approach proposals and projects in the proper manner. By discussing these issues with your fellow industry professionals and learning from their first-hand experiences, you will be better prepared to understand and adapt to these issues as they come to light in your own business dealings. Hiring a local representative can also provide a great deal of insight and may be well worth the cost of consulting fees.
In conclusion, China is a complex yet dynamic market that will offer great opportunities to those who truly commit to adapting themselves to best fit the market and culture. It just takes patience, a willingness to learn, a flexible approach and an ongoing commitment.
June 24, 2015
In the wake of last week's dizzingly successful IAAPA Asian Attractions Expo, we are pleased to announce that Lao Niu Children’s Discovery Museum of the China National Children’s Center (CNCC) is now open to the public. Lao Niu Children's Discovery Museum is China's first stand-alone children's museum, a collaboration between the Lao Niu Foundation and Beijing Normal University. The 50-million yuan museum, located in the Xicheng District of Beijing, enables children from infancy through age seven the opportunity to enjoy an interactive and innovative experience of discovery.
Children and parents alike enjoy the interactive water table.
The Museum’s philosophy of education is to respect children, to value the moment when parents and their children interact with each other, and to improve cooperation, attentiveness and perseverance. JRA (Jack Rouse Associates) provided overall planning, design development, and fabrication and installation project management for the Lao Niu Children’s Discovery Museum’s 26,000 square feet of exhibit space, which is themed around the animals of the Chinese zodiac.
Playing pirate in the Drama area.
Within the museum’s five exhibit halls and fourteen galleries, children will be able to exercise their minds and bodies through observation, practice and exploration via a series of interactives and creative play experiences. They will also learn how to exercise proper judgment through testing, exploring and problem solving. Specifically, children will have the opportunity to:
Learning about the human body through play.
Through the Lao Niu Children’s Discovery Museum, the CNCC hopes to provide children with opportunities to understand the diversity of their world, discover their potential and improve their resilience in the face of challenges.
The Construction area holds the building blocks for fun!
June 19, 2015
In our last segment, we discussed the importance of changing your business mentality and communication style when bidding on projects in China.
4. Getting It Right: Accurate Translation
Sounds simple, but are you sure your portfolio is properly translated or what you say in a presentation is accurately interpreted, so that the decision maker on the client side (who usually does not understand English) gets your message? Often, we all spend a lot of time writing an elaborate proposal or preparing a graphically beautiful package, but the only problem is - it's not in Chinese, or, even worse, it's poorly translated by a translation company that has as much insight into your business as they do with insurance or banking. High quality translation or interpretation cannot be overestimated. It's worth the time to locate professional translators that have experience in working in your specific line of business, who understand what you do, who care enough to take the time and exert the effort to get things right.
5. Get A Guide
If you were to go scuba diving in new waters, chances are you’ll go with a guide. What about navigating the waters of business in China? Even if you have been there many times, it never hurts to have a local resource to help you guide through unfamiliar territory. The sooner you acknowledge the barriers and get help, the sooner you are off to a more efficient and enjoyable journey.
Hiring a guide allows you to focus on what you do best – your business – instead of worrying about how to hail a taxi or how to interpret broken English. It is a small price to pay to engage a consultant who is versed in the Chinese business environment and understands its unique set of subtleties and underlying minutiae. Not only will this help you be more productive in your pursuit of qualified leads, but will also save you a lot of time spent in pursuing “opportunities” that are really wild goose chases. A knowledgeable representative can help you avoid potential clients just looking for free creative, will keep you away from participating in competitions in which you don't stand a good chance to win and can protect you from clients who just want to use your proposals as bargaining chips against your competition.
So you’ve gotten the job – congratulations! Now what? We’ll tackle that question in our final segment.
June 17, 2015
JRA Blog Readers, we have a special treat for you today. For the first time in JRA Blog history, we are offering a kid's-eye view of one of our newly-opened projects, Peoria PlayHouse Children's Museum! Today's special correspondent is Keira McCoy, soon-to-be fourth grader at J.F. Burns Elementary and daughter of JRA VP of Marketing & Business Development, Shawn McCoy. Take it away, Keira!
Hi! My name is Keira McCoy. Me and my brother Finley McCoy got to go to the Peoria PlayHouse! It was so much fun! Here are some of the things Finley and me did!
My favorite thing I did was the ball pit! Finley and I both loved it! You do stuff with balls to get them into a hole. These include the ball gun, basketball hoop and the sucker thing.
Also they have a thing where you make balls float in the air! Here’s my mom checking it out.
Also, you can hear music, and when you do you go under all the balls that went into the big bucket and they drop on you!
But my brother’s favorite thing to do was to play with kinetic sand. He made sand castles and destroyed them! You can see he is making a sandcastle in this very picture!
Sand is fun, but it’s also messy! So in the next room, they have a vacuum and air machine. To work each different setting, touch the button right next to the word that says the setting you chose.
The vacuum setting sucks in sand, and the air setting blows sand off. It makes you clean, but as you can see, I used it differently!
Lights, camera, action! Those are some words you’ll hear at the Peoria Playhouse movie theater! You get to pretend to be the ticket person, draw on your face, dress up, change the setting of the movie, and zoom in.
3...2...1...Blast off! Super Keira and Captain Finley have left the movie theater!
Wait for me! Is something you’re gonna hear at the train station! You can drive the train and there is room for passengers. Also you can play with trains inside and outside the train.
So let’s hop on and go to the farm!
Cluck! Moo! Oink! Baaa! Yeeha! Rupp! Those are some of the sounds you’ll hear at the barn. Here you can pick fruit, climb a chicken coop, control a tractor, sort fruits and vegetables and see how farmers fill your kitchen.
It’s wet! It’s blue or clear. It’s water!
The water rom has a water bubble, plastic versions of what animals you might see in the water, a fish tank, a place where you can connect pipes!
In another room, you can play with tools like hammers, screwdrivers and saws! It’s like being a construction worker!
As a kid, your imagination builds up! And with this room you can build whatever you can imagine!
Also at the museum you can play a matching game, see how fast humans and animals heartbeats are, use a microscope and make music with your heartbeat.
If you’re ever in Peoria, the Peoria PlayHouse is a great place for kids to be kids.
Thanks Keira! Tomorrow, we'll profile the opening of another children's museum - one on the other side of the world...
June 15, 2015
The South Carolina State Museum recently received six awards for its major $23 million “Windows to New Worlds” renovation and expansion that opened in August 2014. The industry-leading awards recognize the State Museum’s project for its extensive historic preservation efforts, unique and innovative design, and outstanding construction leadership.
As the state’s largest and most comprehensive museum, the South Carolina State Museum offers a unique, entertaining and educational experience to visitors throughout its 225,000 square foot facility located in the heart of downtown Columbia’s Congaree Vista. The State Museum is housed in one of its greatest artifacts, an 1894 old textile mill full of character and charm. In addition to beautiful meeting spaces throughout the facility, guests can explore outer space in one of the largest planetariums in the Southeast, watch an interactive 4D movie and look through a vintage telescope in a one-of-a-kind observatory.
Through private and public funding, State Museum leadership and industry-leading firms, the State Museum successfully transformed its nationally registered historic facility into a world-class attraction with one of the largest planetariums in the Southeast, a state-of-the-art observatory and the only permanent 4D theater in the state. JRA worked with the State Museum to develop a thematic visitor experience that would embrace and highlight the history of the mill.
The strategic collaboration of many individuals and organizations helped solidify a high-quality project that has received the following 2015 awards.
“These awards are a direct result of a quality project made possible by the hard work of many stakeholders and an outstanding design and implementation team,” said State Museum executive director Willie Calloway. “We are proud to have successfully transformed our 19th century mill building into a true cultural destination.”
In addition to JRA, the State Museum collaborated with a variety of industry-leading consultants. Awarding-winning architects, Clark Patterson Lee and Watson Tate Savory, took their cue from the thematic design with an approach that both reinforced the rich historic fabric of the original structure and introduced additions that were contemporary yet sensitive to the mill in scale and rhythm. The museum then brought on industry-leading experts to construct the project, including Gilbane Construction (general contractor), Evans & Sutherland (planetarium contractor) and SimEx-Iwerks (4D theater contractor). The project preservation, oversight and review were provided by South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Historic Columbia and the City of Columbia.
Although the project idea was formed in 1997, it was not until 2002 that serious deliberation, fundraising and planning began. The State Museum explored several design concepts and did extensive benchmarking, including a trip made by museum executive director Willie Calloway to the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, which was the inspiration for the planetarium’s glass cube design. The final design plan focused on a historically-sensitive renovation, including repurposing existing spaces, uncovering and rehabilitating original interior features and adding modern additions to the exterior of the museum.
“Our goal was to embrace the mill and bring its original character back to life,” said Calloway. “We paid close attention to every detail – from ripping carpeting out and refinishing 100 year-old wood floors, to bringing in reclaimed historic mill flooring, to removing sheet rock to expose the mill’s original brick interiors. We also made sure any added features into the mill space complimented our vision of restoring and celebrating the historic mill building.”
In 2012, the State Museum broke ground on the 75,000 square feet “Windows to News Worlds” project to renovate and expand the Columbia Mills Building, the home of the State Museum and a former textile mill listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to the planetarium, observatory and 4D theater, the project consisted of adding a new telescope gallery, lobby, store, meeting and office spaces, and student entrance and lunch room.
The new expansion is having a positive cultural tourism and economic impact and is providing many new opportunities to educate and inspire South Carolina students through innovative programming that focuses onscience, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
June 12, 2015
In our previous post, we mentioned that there are some significant differences in the Western and Chinese styles of attractions business. Believe it or not, as different as the Chinese are, more often than not, they have adjusted their work style to try and meet you half way. To meet this important market the rest of way, here are some guidelines to consider when pursuing or working on a project in China.
JRA's Coca-Cola Pavilion for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo drew in tens of thousands of visitors.
1. A shift in mentality
Perhaps the biggest hurdle that one faces in entering a rapidly changing foreign market is that a lot of the knowledge and strategies that had been developed over many years in working in the industry don’t seem to apply. This can be extremely frustrating and, therefore, it becomes all too easy to blame the client for their naiveté and for not doing things the “right” way. To properly gauge the situation, however, one must take a hard look at their own approaches to see if perhaps their work processes should be modified to best suit the needs and culture of the market. It’s important to remember that, more often than not, it is much easier to adapt oneself than to try to force adaptation unto a potential client or market.
2. Be accessible.
One of the best ways to bridge the geographical and culture divide that exists between East and West is to be easily accessible to your potential (and current) Chinese clients and to do so on their terms. Look at your current marketing material and protocol in handling Chinese inquiries. Can potential clients easily contact you? Can they call someone who speaks Chinese or do you expect them to write to you in English via the email address on your website? What seems easy to you may be viewed as a barrier to them. Yes, you may have successfully conducted business in Japan, India, even Korea, and were able to do so effectively through corresponding via email in English. But the reality is that when doing business in China, communication is much more effective through phone conversations in Chinese than through emails in English. It is simply a function of the manner in which your potential clients prefer to communicate, and you can easily adapt to accommodate this.
3. Voicemail, email and texting
It may be frustrating, but many Chinese don’t like to use voicemail or email (even though it's printed on their business cards). Don't be surprised when days have passed and they haven't replied to an important email from you. When that happens, the easiest way to get the information you need is to pick up the phone and call them (or better yet have someone that speaks Chinese call them if you don't speak Chinese).
Don’t worry, your clients won't be offended because it's 9:00 at night. A lot of Chinese business is conducted around dinner tables and through mobile phones. Unlike Western business, where one refrains from calling in the evening or weekends, it is less of a concern in China. You may also be surprised at how much business is conducted via text messaging. It's not unusual to see suit-clad businessmen and women tapping on their mobile phones like American teenagers. They’re not typing an email, but exchanging a text message. If you need a quick, simple response and are having a difficult time connecting to your client, next time try to text them. This is not to say that email doesn’t play an important role in communication, as more and more people use email, especially the younger generation. And, of course, emails are used heavily after the project starts for day-to-day correspondence and document transmission.
In our next segment, we’ll talk about the importance of outside help to your communication process.
June 10, 2015
To register for the 2015 IAAPA Asian Attractions Expo, visit www.iaapa.org.
Next week, thousands of industry professionals from around the globe will gather in Hong Kong, China for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions' 2015 Asian Attractions Expo (AAE). AAE invites participants to "Discover, Create, Engage", offering four days of networking, eight educational sessions, 19 hours of show floor time, and a variety of special events and tours - all designed specifically for the Asian attractions market. JRA is honored to be a platinum sponsor of the Asian Attractions Expo.
Here's the 2015 IAAPA Asian Attractions Expo by the numbers:
With all of this growth and excitement, JRA was curious to see how the whole Expo comes together, and the IAAPA PR Team was gracious enough to share their secrets and tricks of the trade:
JRA: When does planning for the AAE begin? How far in advance is the host city chosen?
IAAPA: Planning for AAE is a lengthy process that begins with the selection of the host city, which is itself a complex, multi-year process that involves discussions with and input from IAAPA’s volunteer leadership.
JRA: Why is Hong Kong particularly suited to host AAE?
IAAPA: Hong Kong is known for its sophisticated infrastructure, accessibility, business-friendly environment, professional expertise, and vibrant lifestyle. Located within a five-hour flight of 50 percent of the world’s population, Hong Kong is recognized as one of Asia’s premier destinations for meetings, incentive travel, conventions, and exhibition.
The city boasts several world-renowned attractions for Asian Attractions Expo participants to enjoy, including a cruise around the island from the newly built Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, a breathtaking view of the city from Victoria Peak, or new attractions at rapidly expanding theme parks Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park Hong Kong.
JRA: How many IAAPA staff and volunteers work on AAE (approximately)?
IAAPA: A majority of the IAAPA staff has a role in the planning and production of AAE as the show is comprehensive and involves most departments within IAAPA. We work approximately five partner companies to assist in advance of AAE and on-site with marketing, registration, show floor set up, safety and security, and more. In addition, we have 14 ambassadors, young professionals in the attractions industry, who volunteer to assist us during the week.
Also, IAAPA’s Asian Pacific Advisory Committee and Asian Pacific Education Subcommittee is involved with the planning and development of the education program, and there are several individuals who volunteer to be a session speaker as well as member facilities that partner with us for off-site tour and help us produce a top-quality education program.
JRA: What are some of the new components or highlights of this year's AAE?
IAAPA: Each year the show contains the newest products and services and the latest innovations in rides, attractions, ticketing, food and beverage, and more. This year the trade show floor will feature 69 first-time exhibitors.
Leadership Breakfast Keynote Speaker: Jim Reid-Anderson, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Six Flags Entertainment Corporation—the world’s largest regional theme park company with $1.1 billion in revenue and 18 parks across North America—will deliver the keynote address at the 2015 Asian Attractions Expo Leadership Breakfast.
Opening Night Event at Hong Kong Disneyland: Attendees will mix, mingle, and recap the first day of the Expo while enjoying rides and a new spectacular night parade at Hong Kong Disneyland. Attractions open will include the recently finished Mystic Point area, featuring the "Mystic Manor" ride, and Grizzly's Gulch, featuring the "Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars" steel roller coaster. Guests will also experience Hong Kong Disneyland's "Disney Paint the Night" parade, which debuted in October 2014.
Education Conference: Eight diverse education sessions. Topics will cover key aspects of the industry, including safety and maintenance, innovation, human resources, marketing, and more led by industry veterans and experts.
Featured New Speakers:
Lynton V. Harris, Chairman and CEO, The Sudden Impact! Entertainment Company
Weitao Liu, Director of Sales – China Region, Triotech
Christina Tse, Director of Marketing Communications, The Ritz-Carlton and J.W. Marriott
IAAPA Safety Institute: During this full-day program, industry experts will share best practices on topics affecting your business such as safety, standards, security, and ride operations, as they share insight into the best practices in safety operations during this full-day institute program.
IAAPA Institute for Attractions Managers: The two-and-a-half day program is an in-depth study of five core subject areas for successful attractions operation: Finance, Operations and Safety, Marketing and Communications, Revenue Operations, and Human Resources and Leadership.
JRA: How has AAE changed over the years, particularly given the rapid growth in the Asian attractions market?
IAAPA: The growth of the trade show floor is a good example of how Asian Attractions Expo mirrors the growth of the industry. As new parks, attractions, and properties are developed, the demand for new products and service - as well as quality education within the region - is increasing, and we have seen that reflected in our numbers.
We have also made a concerted effort to ensure the education program is comprehensive and offers fresh learning by adding new speakers and session topics.
JRA: What would you like attendees to walk away with? What's the takeaway?
IAAPA: Asian Attractions Expo is the place for amusement park and attractions industry professionals from the Asia-Pacific region to gather together to purchase products and services; learn about what’s new, trends, and best practices in the attractions industry; and connect with other industry professionals.
Participants walk away with new business relationships, business leads, and potential clients, and insights into the latest innovations, products, and services, and better knowledge and understanding of key operational areas.
Many thanks to Colleen Mangone and Dave Mandt for the interview, and to the entire IAAPA staff for what we're sure will be a fantastic Expo! Next week, stay tuned to this blog, as well as our Facebook and Twitter feeds (hashtag #IAE15) for all the details as reported by our very own Chloe James Hausfeld. And if you're in Hong Kong, be sure to visit us at Booth 1424. See you at the Expo!
Keith James and Chloe James Hausfeld are ready to greet you in Hong Kong!
June 08, 2015
When it comes to living in the moment, there's no time like the present.
“Slowing down takes conscious effort because our internal clocks have been reset over a century of technological advances aimed at doing things faster” – Trendswatch 2015
“Time is of the essence.”
“I don’t have time to waste.”
“I’m out of time.”
We use these phrases every day. In today’s world, our interactions are measured in 140 twitter characters, texting shortcuts (LOLs and SMHs), memes and emoticons. While the technological advances of the last several decades have made our lives seemingly easier, in many ways they’ve only allowed us more time to overcommit ourselves. Research suggests that we are more stressed (and therefore unhealthier) than ever before – more disconnected from our friends, our families, our communities, our food, our sense of place and even ourselves.
In our final recap of the 2015 Trendwatch report, we’ll examine the various movements that seek to reverse the rat race, encouraging us to explore the world – and the art – around us. We’ll then put all these trends together to assess what they mean for the future of museums.
The Slow Movement - Acting Deliberately, Living Presently
In 1986, political activist Carlo Petrini began the “quest for slow” with the Slow Food movement, which urged people to more carefully consider the origins of the food they eat everyday. Protesting against the opening of a McDonald’s in Rome, the movement strived to preserve traditional and regional cuisine, support local business, and prevent the globalization of agricultural products. The largely unorganized Slow Movement has now spiraled into travel, technology, medicine, parenting, money, fashion and a seemingly countless host of other realms, the overall mantra being that faster is not always better, and that life is better when it’s savored.
"Farm-to-table" has become synonymous with Slow Food and a trendy tagline for upscale restaurants.
At the end of the 1987 film hit Dirty Dancing, mountain resort owner Max Kellerman laments the extinction of the extended family vacation: “You think kids want to come with their parents and take foxtrot lessons?” he asks. “Trips to Europe, that’s what the kids want. Twenty-two countries in three days. It feels like it’s all slipping away.” As travel has become faster and more efficient, two phenomena have occurred. Many of us, this blogger included, have found that getting into “vacation mode” sometimes takes the entire vacation, because there’s no longer the decompression time that transitions work into play (not to mention the increasingly harried pace of travel). Secondly, Americans in particular receive so little vacation time, there’s a need to check off as many “bucket list” items (or countries) as possible in as little as one long weekend. The Slow Travel movement encourages travelers to literally stop and smell the roses (or tulips or cherry blossoms, depending on your destination). Slow travelers immerse themselves in the local culture of one or two small areas, enjoying a leisurely bike ride through the countryside, “wasting away” an afternoon at a winery while chatting up the vintner, relishing the local cuisine over a three-hour, four course dinner. Travel thus becomes about connection and less about a predetermined itinerary.
Slow Travel encourages us to turn off Google Maps and tiptoe through the tulips.
Have you ever visited the doctor only to feel like you were a product on a conveyor belt? Dr. He or She rushes in, asks you three questions, writes a prescription and leaves before you can even say “hello”? Due to duty hour limits and more stringent electronic medical record keeping requirements, new residents have less time to interact with patients than ever before, with appointment durations averaging only eight minutes! As a result, bedside manner takes a back seat, the quality of care invariably suffers, and patient satisfaction plummets. The Slow Medicine movement thus “emphasizes careful interviewing, examination and observation of the patient over the growing array of medical tools and gadgets. In addition, Slow Medicine recognized that many clinical problems do not yet have a technological ‘magic bullet’ but instead require lifestyle changes that have powerful effects over time.” Espousing a “low tech, high touch” philosophy, Slow Medicine, like Slow Travel, values the power of human connection over the computer screen or the clock.
“Eye Candy” Versus Cultural Experience
In 2008, consulting firm CEO Phil Terry, who had never been much of an art enthusiast, found himself in front of Hans Hoffmann’s Fantasia at the Jewish Museum in New York. He spent an hour in front of the work, studying its intricacies and drawing parallels between it and a Jackson Pollock work nearby. “Did one influence the other?,” he wondered. He found that he enjoyed absorbing the work and contemplating its origins, so in August 2009, he decided to invite four friends to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to look at art – slowly. He wanted to see if and how their views on art would change if they considered a painting for more than the standard 17 seconds. The visit was a success, and Slow Art Day was born with a simple mission: “to help more people discover for themselves the joy of looking at and loving art.” As Psychology Today remarked, Slow Art is “grounded on the premise that one should savor artworks in a conscious and deliberate manner rather than simply gulp each one down as ‘eye candy’.”
The Slow Art mantra - sitting, not sprinting.
Terry’s next Slow Art experiment took place a mere four months later and featured 16 museums in the US, Canada and Europe. By 2010 there were 55 Slow Art Day sites, and on Slow Art Day 2015 (promoted via eponymous Twitter and Instagram hashtags and a Facebook page), over 200 venues around the world took part. Participants signed up online for a group at a host location, and each group was asked to attend, pay the museum’s admission fee and examine five pre-determined pieces of art for five to ten minutes. They then met up with their volunteer hosts and the other participants in their group to discuss the works over lunch. Per the New York Times, research has uncovered that museums can serve as calm respites, positively affecting health and wellbeing. By making the museum visit a mini-marathon and not a sprint, the visitor has the opportunity to make the experience their own, engaging their senses, reflecting their personal interests, and mitigating the “museum burnout” so many of us encounter when we feel the need to conquer ten masterpieces in thirty minutes.
Several museums are expanding Slow Art Day into a year-round movement. Based on the success of Slow Art Day 2015, the di Rosa Museum in Napa Valley, California is considering adding a monthly Slow Art session to their programming. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, a participant in Slow Art Day for the past several years, has embraced a “revised philosophy of spending time with a work of art to afford a natural pathway of discovery.” VMFA now offers classes in which participants focus on one of the museum’s works for an hour, unlocking its mysteries before engaging in spirited discussion. The museum’s lead educator, Celeste Fetta, believes that this slow programming, coupled with their new tagline of “It’s Your Art!”, encourages a personalized experience and enables guests to see the museum and its collection as their community living room.
Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
The Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, with the help of a $40,000 Met-Life Innovation Lab for Museums grant, launched its “Slow Museum Project” in 2014. The project was designed to “re-envision the museum as a site of recreation, reflection and respite”, and to “determine what a museum would look like if it slowed down its activities while encouraging profoundly pleasurable experiences and meaningful relationships.” The Project resulted in the creation of interactive, intergenerational discussions, art making, hair braiding, and poetry workshops, and a storytelling and art installation. It also culminated in the development of the Museum’s internal “Slow Museum Criteria”, which stipulate that a Slow Museum must be, among other characteristics, “subversive”, “multimodal”, “whimsical” and “revelatory”.
So how can museums embrace these traits and the “Slow Museum” trend? The report suggests that, as with the five trends we’ve discussed thus far, museums need to strategize a way of incorporating slow into their layout and programming, whether just on Slow Art Day or throughout the year. However, they must also embrace the fact that visitors move at different speeds – while some dart through the museum frantically checking items off a list, others will read every graphic panel, voraciously digesting every fact (and artifact) that they can. Museums thus need to establish a baseline for visit duration – by institution, by gallery and even by painting – to determine how to address their programming and master plan to suit the needs and paces of all guests. They also need to provide opportunities for museumgoers to pause and reflect on what they have seen – whether by including areas for quiet contemplation or providing forums for dialogue where visitors can share and compare their experiences.
The Big Picture
Over the past few months (call it “slow blogging”), we’ve
While these trends may seem unrelated, they are all largely reactions to the unprecedented times in which we live. Information is traveling faster than ever before, technology platforms seem to change overnight, and the journey to keep up with it all sometimes feels futile and unending.
As CFM Director Elizabeth Merritt remarked in her American Alliance of Museums 2015 Annual Meeting presentation, “museums need to think about what future they are preserving for, and what affect [their institution] will have on the world.” Cultural institutions need to carefully consider how these different trends operate within the context of their established missions, incorporating those that fit and perhaps tabling those that don’t. Yes, museums need to engage new and younger audiences, but technology is not a panacea and cannot serve as a replacement for interpersonal connection. Many of the above trends emphasize making the visitor not just a passive observer of the museum experience, but an active participant – using their smart watch to access additional information on a painting, suggesting new content and programming through data sharing, or stepping back to fully absorb a painting and share their experience with the art observers around them. Via a new technology, a personalized membership or a Slow Art Day, museums need to respond to rapid-fire societal shifts by taking a breath to strategize opportunities for deeper connections with its values, its community, and its visitors. Only with a renewed sense of themselves, their place in their world and the value they provide with the public can museums meet visitors where they are, nurturing life-long cultural relationships and riding, not fighting, the current of change.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our recap of Center for the Future of Museums (CFM) Trendswatch 2015 report. To continue to follow these trends and how museums are reacting to them, visit the Center for the Future Museums blog, and subscribe to their weekly “Dispatches from the Future of Museums” newsletter. Later this week on the JRA blog, we’re offering a kids-eye view of the newly opened Peoria PlayHouse Children’s Museum, so stay tuned, and thanks for reading.
And, in case you were wondering, the next Slow Art Day is Saturday, April 9, 2016.
June 08, 2015
Kids-at-heart guests enjoy taking a closer look at the new Peoria PlayHouse
On Friday, June 5th, the JRA-designed Peoria PlayHouse children's museum held their "Our First Night at the Children's Museum" gala.
The event not only gave the local Peoria community a first look at the world-class facility, but also helped to raise funds to support the soon-to-open museum in its first year of operations.
Over 300 guests dressed in "ready to play" attire attended the party and enjoyed a wide assortment of appetizers, as well as a delicious buffet. An open bar kept attendees quenched as they danced to a live DJ under a perfect summer evening.
The real draw of the night, however, was the chance to explore the recently-completed museum and try out all of the interactive exhibits. Whether it was role-playing in the agricultural exhibit, sailing a model boat down the facility's whimsical water table, or pretending to be a movie star within the museum's dress-up area, a great time was had by all.
Attending the event from JRA were Mike Meyer, who served as JRA's lead designer on the project, as well as Vice President Shawn McCoy and his wife Kimberly.
June 05, 2015
Part One: Asking the Right Questions
This month, thousands of industry professionals will gather in Hong Kong for the IAAPA Asian Attractions Expo. China is one of the fastest entertainment markets in the wold, and brings with it both opportunities and challenges. In this four-part series, JRA VP of Marketing and Business Development, Shawn McCoy, and 321 Consulting CEO, Dawn Tong, discuss the opportunities and challenges of doing business in one of the world’s most exciting markets.
HarborLand - Ningbao, China
Over the last decade, China has aggressively moved forward with the planning, design and implementation of a variety of high-quality theme parks, museums, expos and mixed-use developments. But for those of us who have pursued and/or created projects in China, it has become evident that in order to reap the rewards of the world’s fastest growing market, you must overcome a series of seemingly never-ending challenges. How can those who have yet to approach this market do so in an effective manner? How can those who currently work in China become more efficient and more profitable? The following provides some thoughts to consider as you develop and refine your own strategy for approaching China.
When doing business in China, it’s easy to forget that you still need to analyze the opportunity and environment like you would when looking at any other business opportunity, and ask yourself basic questions, such as:
But let's face it, doing business in China is difficult. What do the Chinese mean when they say "we like your work and we will contact you soon?” Why do they always bargain? “When are they going to sign the contract, it’s been months!” In most cases, potential Chinese clients don’t intend to waste your time or money, it's just that they do business differently.
Now that we’ve teased you with the questions, in our next blog will offer some potential answers.
June 04, 2015
“[Technology] is supposed to improve our lives, but sometimes it just distracts us from what really matters. That’s where wearable technology has the most potential – to be in our lives, to be there for us, but not in the way.” – Isabelle Olsson, Google Glass Lead Designer
In the next decade, typing on a computer keyboard, or even a smart phone, could be as anachronous as your Commodore 64, Atari Game System or eight-track. As the tech world experienced what was widely claimed “the year of the wearable technology boom” in 2014, devices that could monitor your sleep, track your activity, retrieve your messages and photo-capture your memorable moments appeared in the forms of watches, bands and even fabrics. And the momentum shows no signs of stopping – by 2018, projections of wearable technology in the market range from 130 to 180 million devices. Though the challenges for such devices are great – from privacy concerns to aesthetics to operability – the benefits to retail, medicine, entertainment and culture will seemingly only increase as the technology matures. In the fifth installment of our six-part Trendswatch 2015 recap, we’ll analyze some of the devices currently available, weigh the benefits and pitfalls, and consider how cultural institutions can take advantage of their potential.
Peaks and Valleys
According the Trendswatch report, “wearable tech is about seamless integration, invisibility and blending technology into everyday life.” Some of the world’s biggest companies have made great strides in wearable technology, but they’ve also experienced some major setbacks. In 2013, using a focus group of “Explorers”, Google attempted to deconstruct the fourth wall between technology and the “real world” with Google Glass. The glasses, which were available in three styles, featured a touchpad interface on the rim that allowed users to swipe through a timeline interface displayed on the lens. In addition to showing the weather, photos, updates and emails, the glasses could take photos and 720p video.
Though Google Glass was released to the public on May 15, 2014 at a price of $1,500 per unit, Google pulled the product from the market a mere eight months later. More than half of the 16 Google Glass developers jumped ship in late 2014, citing lack of consumer interest and poor hardware specifications and seeing more potential in enterprise software. There were also concerns about privacy, since Glass wearers can snap a photo with the blink of an eye, virtually unnoticed by those around them. Naysayers have even coined the term “glasshole” for those early Glass adopters that were so obsessed with their device that they eschewed the outside world, calling the spectacles “pretentious and intrusive.” A Fox Business Insider article dubbed the technology “the most expensive dust collector ever sold” and consumer electronics expert Tim Bajarin deemed it “the worst $1,500 he ever spent in his life.” In fact, the backlash around Google Glass’ unfortunate debut is such that consumers have begun questioning Google’s credibility – a hit to the brand that could cost a lot more than $1,500 per unit.
Apple hopes to avoid Google’s fate with its new Apple Watch. The company claims to have “invented all new ways to select, navigate and input that are ideally suited to a smaller device worn on the wrist.” The watch features a customizable face and notifies the user of incoming messages via a gentle tap. It can also send a tap, a canned text message or a heartbeat to another user, which Apple insists is “less about sending words than creating a meaningful connection.” In the health and fitness realm, the watch provides a complete picture of the user’s all-day activity – from sleep to workouts – and encourages the wearer to keep moving. It can serve as a credit card and as a phone, and already features hundreds of apps. Aesthetically, consumers can select from a wide range of face and band styles “for individual expression,” addressing a rampant criticism of most wearable technology being too masculine and homogeneous in appearance.
Dana Everhart, JRA Assistant Operations Manager and noted Apple product enthusiast, recently offered her opinions on the $350 Gen 1 Apple Watch. She purchased the watch in order to streamline her wearables, eliminating the need for both a FitBit for health tracking and a Pebble watch for communication. For her, being able to ditch her phone was huge selling point: “because I’m a girl, my phone is always in my handbag, not in my pocket, so I was always missing calls and messages. Now I can just look at my wrist.” She loves how the Apple Watch enables her to glance at a plethora of information quickly and then delete it just as easily – a faster way of processing and dismissing information. She also feels that she is not interrupted as much (“you would not believe how much time it takes to pull out a phone from my purse”), and she loves how she can talk on it, especially in the privacy of her home. While she enjoys being able to customize the watch face to what she wants to see, she laments that the device is cumbersome to set up and feels that you have to really have the patience to customize it and ride the learning curve. And she is not completely untethered to her iPhone – the phone needs to rest within a certain distance of the watch to ensure proper operation. Overall, she will continue to buy NextGens as they develop (she fantasizes that the next version will have a camera) and is 100% on board with the notion that wearable tech is the future despite its current challenges.
Even “The Mouse” has experienced the learning curve of wearable technology. In 2011, Disney officially announced the MyMagic+ online customer service system with its corresponding MagicBand wearable tech. Disney invested $1 billion in the technology, which was considered “a sweeping plan to overhaul the digital infrastructure of Disney’s theme parks and change the way they interacted with customers.” It would keep Disney World relevant, as many feared the park was “on the verge of become ‘dangerously complex and transactional.’” The MyMagic+ system and corresponding Band, scheduled to launch in 2012, would enable guests to gain entry in the Walt Disney World Resorts’ parks and attractions, make purchases at restaurants and retail outlets and unlock hotel room doors. Initial plans even called for cast members (Disney employees) and animatronic characters to be able to read a guest’s Band so they could wish the guest a Happy Birthday or address them by name.
A guest uses her MagicBand to enter the park. Image courtesy Disne
But the $48 billion media conglomerate faced a number of setbacks along the way, chief among them both external and internal discord. According to one source, “the pushback was huge…you had operations pushback, security and fraud pushback, creative pushback. There was never any shortage of pushback.” In its initial stages, Disney’s "Next Generation Experience" team worked with a variety of outside consultants, keeping the technology on the down-low with the rest of the company until they were ready. But once word got out within Disney, the real sparring began: “almost half the work was to support a political situation…at the beginning, we could move really rapidly, but when it got public within Disney, it changed the way we worked. It became more about surviving another day.” Another challenge was the sheer infrastructure needed to support MyMagic+ and MagicBand. In addition to fabricating the thousands of actual Bands, more than 28,000 hotel room doors needed their locks changed to support the technology. Over 70,000 cast members (Disney employees) needed MyMagic+ awareness training, and the resort needed to install more than 30 million square feet of Wi-Fi coverage in order to make its wearable tech band function.
While a showy announcement was made about the technology in January 2013, MyMagic+ merely rolled out in bits and pieces throughout the year, only becoming fully realized in the first half of 2014. Despite more than 250 initial glitches, reaction to the customer service aspects of the wearable band has been largely positive. Most guests reported entering their hotel room without a hitch, breezing through the turnstiles, and relishing leaving their wallet at home. At the Be Our Guest restaurant, guests can order their meal in advance via the MyMagic+ system and have it magically appear at their table when they arrive. At Test Track in EPCOT, guests can digitally design and customize their own car via the band while queuing for the ride. And with the PhotoPass service, photos taken on rides are linked to a guest’s account, where they can be downloaded and purchased after their visit. Guest intent-to-return and intent-to-recommend metrics are up, as is per capita spending.
But while the logistics-related attributes of the MagicBand are impressive, one cast member noted that ’honestly, it’s not so magical…it’s just for your hotel room [door] and paying for things.’ The Fast Company article concluded, "when you look closely, there’s less to MyMagic+ than what some of the team had hoped for.” Alas, guests still need to wear old school buttons to alert a cast member to their birthday or anniversary, and Ariel and friends cannot yet greet visitors by name. Due to the high restructuring costs of enabling MagicBands in Anaheim, and the prevalence of and dependence on smartphones in Shanghai, guests will probably not see MyMagic+ in those parks any time soon. According to Disney COO Tom Staggs, “we will use [the MagicBand] everywhere it makes sense. But we don’t want to let something we think is cool and cutting edge become a legacy item that we are trying to drag along.”
Streamlining Our Workplaces and Saving Our Lives
While retail and entertainment companies struggle to create consumer products of wearable tech, the medical industry and professional realms have largely succeeded in using the technology to streamline our workplaces and potentially save our lives. Per an article in the New Scientist, At Tesco, wearables can track where employees are going to give them location-specific tasks. Virgin Atlantic has new recruits record their performance with Google Glass so managers can assess it later. In a human resources experiment, Bank of America used sensors to investigate how co-workers interacted – who they talked to, their body language, even changes in their vocal timbre throughout the day. They used the data to eventually change their office structure to incorporate more employee interaction. And many companies are using wearable technology to encourage healthier habits in their employees in and out of the office. Of course, privacy is of great concern, and the use of wearables could substantially blur the lines between at-work and after-work life. According to NYU bioethicist, Arthur Caplan, “there need to be rules in place to prevent employers from using the technology to the detriment of employees.”
The Embrace Watch can detect seizures and alert friends and family. Image courtesy Empatica.
Per the Trendswatch report, “wearables can transform medical monitoring into an unobtrusive, portable, personal, always-on function.” The Embrace smartwatch can spot warning signs of an epileptic seizure and alert friends and family. A wearable skin patch currently in development can detect issues and release and record activity, while looking like nothing more than a child’s temporary tattoo. A Google nanoparticle covered pill can pinpoint cancer by interacting with wearable magnets on the skin. And sensors inside of helmets or mouth guards can help collect real-time cranial impact data on athletes and send it to their trainers. In the accessibility arena, devices like Glass can help the blind navigate their everyday environment through GPS and audio output, and those with communication challenges can use voice controls on Glass to help express themselves. These products are only a sampling of the medical advances that have come to light through wearable technology, providing a glimpse of the vast opportunities that may lie ahead.
Wearables in the Cultural World
As with the other four technologies we’ve covered so far, if used wisely, wearable technology could have a positive impact on the cultural world, allowing new and richer opportunities for audience engagement, and also for the protection of artwork and artifacts. Google Glass could help with video documentation of artifacts for better record keeping. It could also be used to create teaching videos and materials for “Ask a Curator” Days. Wearable technologies could be incorporated into what the Center for the Future of Museums (CFM) calls the “Biometrics of Cultural Engagement” – a simple wristband could track a guest around the museum to assess visitation patterns and exhibit popularity. A “cultural smart watch” could track a person’s culture-based activities, similar to fitness apps that currently track sleep or exercise, providing them with feedback on the number of arts-related visits they may enjoy in a given week, month or year.
Several museums are already incorporating the technology. The DeYoung Museum in San Francisco was the first museum to officially partner with GuidiGo to offer a guided tour on Google Glass. The device brought up images, audio and video files for the user on select paintings. In the “Body Metrics” exhibit at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, guests were equipped with a sensor kit consisting of three wearable devices, which measured their activity level, tension, mental focus and talkativeness as they participated in activities throughout the museum. At the recent American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting and MuseumExpo, the CFM offered a Museum of the Future, in which Expo visitors could access a GuidiGo tour of a mock-gallery via Google Glass. The “museum” featured mini-exhibitions from six different museums, and CFM found that participants were eager to find ways to incorporate the technology into their facilities.
Testing Google Glass in the Museum of the Future.
According to Neal Stimler, Digital Asset Specialist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “wearables traverse borders - connecting us to the information, people and experiences that define our lives,” and “museums’ engagement with constituents via wearables is key to sustainability in a mobile world.” In order to fully take advantage of this technology of the (very near) future, cultural institutions must develop polices regarding its use and proactively consider the privacy concerns. Museums also need to ensure that their infrastructure is robust enough to support wearable technology, meaning free and open WiFi and ample charging stations for devices, and create content suitable for several platforms so that guests can “BYOD”. Recalling Trendswatch trend #2, museums need a way of capturing the data that wearables provide in order to better suit their programming, flow and content to the needs of the guest for future visits.
Perhaps most importantly, museums need to incorporate wearable technology within an overall creative plan. Wearables are not ends unto themselves, and technology for technology’s sake, absent of any connection to institutional mission, will only leave the visitor feeling hollow and disconnected from the museum. But used wisely, with the right content and support system, wearables could provide yet another way for museums to strengthen their relationships with visitors and demonstrate their value to their communities.
For more information on wearable technology, please visit the Center for the Future of Museums blog. And join us Monday for our last Trendswatch 2015 recap, as we take a breath and slow down to embrace the value of art.
Tags: Blog N Learn
June 01, 2015
In this week's post, Kathy Abernathy of Abernathy Lighting Design takes to the blogging mic to enlighten us on the oft forgotten art of themed entertainment lighting design, and the importance of teamwork.
Often in the world of exhibit and thematic environments, we are asked “What does a Lighting Designer do?” There are a number of ways to answer this question. Two approaches are below:
With both theatrical training and years of experience in architectural lighting, Abernathy Lighting Design has been very fortunate to merge these two disciplines into many successful JRA projects.
One of our favorite and most challenging projects with JRA was Ferrari World. Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is the largest indoor theme park in the world. The park pays tribute to the passion, excellence, performance and technical innovation that Ferrari has established over the years and represents today. The park features over 20 state-of-the-art attractions within its 86,000 square meters (925,000 square feet) of interior space, each designed to bring various facets of the Ferrari story to life.
The project started with five lighting design firms all collaborating and working toward the common goal of passion, excellence, performance and technical innovation. All lighting design firms had theatrical training and architectural lighting experience; the perfect combination for this type of project. With this common background, the project design team was able to unify around a single set of standards and share a consistent design process even though each firm worked independently on different areas of the park. Almost every type of venue we have the opportunity to work on as lighting designers was represented on this project; museums, retail spaces, restaurants, offices, dark rides, themed spaces, theaters, training rooms, roadway and exterior lighting.
Since a picture paints a thousand words the following photos reflect how a true collaborative process among professionals can be a huge, huge success.
This project will stand for years as evidence of the collaborative process' success and the value of quality professional lighting design.
Tags: Blog N Learn