May the force be with you

or the Star Wars "brand" experience, the organic growth of innovation, the return of the Jedi, or just Han Solo 🙂 Reading about the National Technology Medal given out for a lifetime achievement of innovation to Industrial Light & Magic took me back far to many years to count to 1977.

Star Wars had just been released, and I’d also gone to see Saturday Night Fever chaperoned by a very bored den mother to 5 preteen girls. The sci fi geek within, already budding with The Hobbit taught in school, as was Wyndham’s The Chrysalids, burst into full flower with the destruction of the Death Star and Darth Vader.

Two years later, I purchased "The Black Hole" a book written by Alan Dean Foster based on the screenplay of Disney’s movie of the same name. It was then, in 1979, that I came across an article explaining how the black hole sequences were shot on film and the sensation of travelling through the lights was created, and I first heard of "Special effects" or F/X as in the movie. It was love at first sight. The entire concept of manifesting the unreal and the imaginary using technical wizardry and "smoke and mirrors" captured my imagination. Every so often, when I’m in a nostalgic mood or I’ve overdosed on scifi I’ll go check out the jobs page at ILM 🙂 I’ve never qualified for anything even remotely like a janitor, so that goes on the back burner again. [eeee! digs out resume] Then again I could have just thought that the "light and magic" in Industrial Light & Magic meant design 🙂

Starwarsukmag7However, this isn’t just a ramble through nostalgia, it’s coincidental that I was reading a book today by John Seabrook, NoBrow where something he wrote about George Lucas and the Star Wars experience popped up just before I saw the NTM awardees list.  Add to that, the post I’d just put up on CPH127 on the branding experience, some thoughts emerged that I want to capture.  Seabrook, who has much to say on the ‘marketing of culture; culture of marketing’, observes that Star Wars was the first live action movie to become a brand. And not only that, it spawned the whole concept of merchandising and memorabilia, all of which combined with the books, the games and the movies, become a singular total experience, one that could "be" and one that you could "buy". That is the exemplar of brand experience by the man who created the brand, Star Wars. Yodaspeak is understood conceivably by more people than who speak english itself.  This leads me to my next thought, that of creating an experience, in and of itself, which in turn, gives birth to a brand. That of the experience itself. Circular reasoning? or experience design?

Further along, Seabrook goes on to talk about Skywalker Ranch, ILM, Lucasfilms etc, the real impact of the success of Star Wars, which gave rise to the computer graphics industry – Jurassic Park notably leading to Antz – which, he says, "toppled the notion that man was mightier than technology in one fell swoop" [nb: the singularity?], as technology became "the force" with which to create virtual worlds of fantasy and create a new "reality".

And I’d say myself, probably the roots of why the focus of  innovation is "understood" to be technological advances and not systemic, process or service, [experiential] advances. It is here that due credit should go to IDEO for the initial thrust to demonstrate and communicate that innovation is first and foremost rooted in people, not technology.

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