What does an experiential designer actually do? Imagination’s Diandra Elmira explains
Continuing our series demystifying the industry’s myriad roles, 2D experiential designer Diandra Elmira explains how she goes about the business of ’designing moments in time’ for brands.
Diandra Elmira of Imagination / Imagination
Every time someone asks me what I do, I say I’m an experience designer. They’re like, ‘what?’
Essentially, I specialize in creating immersive, interactive, physical and digital brand experiences. That could be designing pop-ups, product launches, or innovation within retail. It could be how we can elevate certain products in actual stores, or it can mean more digital projects such as an end-to-end digital UI and UX or something with VR and AR.
I didn’t know this job existed until about two years ago. I studied graphic communication design at university and did a module called Experience Environment. Their motto was ‘designing moments in time.’ It became my favorite part of design – the moment of human interaction and how, when you put your design into the world, people react emotionally to it. That’s essentially what I do right now.
Last year, I was in a digital design role. I was really interested in the technology part of that, so I did a coding boot camp and got really into it. Afterward, I found this role, which is essentially the intersection between the tech part and the creative part of design.
Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of pop-up brand activations. They’re a mix of graphic design, creative direction and spatial design. I’ve been doing a lot of pitches for these lately, bringing big ideas about what we want to do into the process.
Usually, in 2D design, that would mean working out how it’s going to look: what do we want the colors to be? What do we want the people to see? But in 3D, it’s about how it looks spatially: how do people get into it? How big is it? What things should we put in that people can actually touch?
I work as part of the 2D design team. But the whole creative group is a bunch of UX designers, 3D designers and strategists – about 67 people.
The days change depending on which project I’m working on. A big chunk of my job is spent thinking about new ideas, new ways of innovation, new ways to engage audiences and connect with brands. I could be researching new technology to use for a particular brand. I could be designing a website in Figma. I could be spending the whole day in research and ideation. I use Figma quite a lot and, for research and ideation, I use Arena (it’s a nicer Pinterest).
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Controversial opinion: I actually like pitches. I quite like working under pressure. I like the sense of urgency. With longer projects, it’s amazing to have the time to do more research, work with more people and have the time to polish things. But I love being in pitches because it’s really fast-paced. You do amazing work in such a short amount of time. It’s stressful sometimes. But fun.
A lot of my work doesn’t see the light of day. But even having the idea and doing the work in the first place is an achievement. If it doesn’t happen, then we evaluate and think about what’s gone wrong and what’s gone right. When we’re proud of it, we share the pitches we don’t win with the wider group. It’s all a learning process. Hopefully, when a project doesn’t end up seeing the light of day, the validation from the next one that does will see you through.