Using opposites to emphasis experience

A burning contrast

It would be a disservice to Flash Art to describe their work as "firework displays" - they combine fire, lasers, water and music in world-class spectacles, like the closing display of the 2006 World Cup final. Here's a great tip from Flash Art pyrotechnics wizard Markus Katterle, interviewed in Focus.

"If I want the audience to experience the colour red in the sky especially intensely, I first need to colour the sky green for one minute."*

Those of you who played with a colour wheel at school will remember that red and green are traditionally considered complementary colours - perfect opposites. Mixed together, they give a dull sludge, but they can placed in opposition to dramatic effect.

Contrast is a vital tool in experience design, and Markus' quote can be applied to much more than just light. Any loud chord seems louder if it crashes out of silence, and we all enjoy that cup of piping hot cocoa most when we are truly frozen.

One of the best uses of contrast in experience design I ever encountered is in the German National Museum in Nuremberg. The lobby here is very light, warm and airy, with acres of glass and glaring white walls. At the back, you pull open a heavy door and step - Pow!- into a cold, dark medieval cloister. The contrast is quite simply startling, and the feeling of time travel inescapable. Great stuff.

Contrast need not always be extreme, and it need not always generate a feeling of surprise. Use it to draw attention to your experience's best aspects, and to provide variation in your customer's emotional curve.

Where could you use contrasting light in your customer experience? And what about sound? Texture? Temperature? Aromas? Activity? Price?

* Focus magazine, 31.12.07 pg 83. Translation by Adam.
Colour wheel from jasmic at flickr.
GNM pic from bsnu.


SusanA said...

Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant.
I had not thought of this before. But without contrast, we can't 'see" things.

Adam StJohn Lawrence. said...

Thanks Susana! (Blush...)

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