In Season 5, Episode 2, we chat with Linda Klein and Brian Corrigan, the co-founders of Farm-to-Spaceship, about how to make the experience economy more relevant to businesses, and in turn, more economically viable for artists.
Linda and Brian introduce us to new vocabulary for understanding the experience economy. I particularly enjoyed hearing them talk about a conceptual “experience mixer” to dial up and down different aspects of experience design. We dig into the idea of “friction,” which is central to escape room design, and an important dial to consider for any type of experience.
We also dive into the art world and discuss the unfortunate stereotypes surrounding “starving artists” and “selling out.” We touch upon how artists can better understand their economic value and impact.
Farm-to-Spaceship’s community-driven model for creative placemaking provides a unique service at the intersection of business, art, and community. Linda and Brian truly understand the “power of play” and how play can create social cohesion. This episode feels like a Masterclass in crafting meaningful experiences for the customers and community. I hope you find it as inspiring as we did.
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RECON Remote 23 will take place August 19 – 20, 2023, online.
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Topics Discussed in this Episode
- [02:06] Peih-Gee talks about how she met Linda in Denver and that she was intrigued by what Farm-to-Spaceship was doing to help promote the experience economy in local businesses. Brian talks about how he came up with the name Farm-to-Spaceship while traveling around the countryside in Denver and realizing that this represents the major businesses in Denver: agriculture and aeronautics.
- [03:39] Peih-Gee explains that Farm-to-Spaceship is about creating community and creative experiences. Linda goes on to describe Adventure School, a year-long program meant to foster community. It brings together creators of all kinds including entrepreneurs, artists, chefs, and scientists to demonstrate how their individual practices can intersect with the experience economy.
- [04:17] Linda talks about why the experience economy is important. Brian talks about how Adventure School is like a business accelerator for experiences. They help communities figure out how the public realm can interact with the private sector through meaningful experiences.
- [05:21] Brian talks about a business’ front door as a “portal” into a story, and says they explore how businesses can integrate a storytelling layer into their built environment.
- [05:39] Brian gives an example of one of their cohorts, Rainbow Dome, where experiential art meets roller skating. They created outdoor pop-ups that you can roller skate through, and also created indoor installations at roller rinks.
- [06:39] Linda mentions that Adventure School is a great platform for people who have never seen their business through the experience lens. She talks about a home goods store that came up with the concept of a dinner party in their storefront window, and how it led to increased sales and also a sense of delight from passersby.
- [08:11] Linda says that a great by-product of the program is that artists begin to understand that they’re entrepreneurs, and that business owners realize that they’re also artists where their canvas is their small business. Artists also start to understand their economic value and impact.
- [08:39] The group discusses the pitfalls of certain vocabulary like “starving artist” and “selling out as an artist.” They talk about how this vocabulary creates the sense that artists are not entitled to make money.
- [10:15] David talks about his background in UX design, and how everything goes back to the idea that “everything is a designable surface.” He says everything we interact with is a “canvas” and not enough businesses or people consider the impact of how they present interactions.
- [11:16] Linda talks about an “experience mixer” or “slider.” She describes this as a concept similar to a sound mixer with different sliders to adjust levels of sound. She says if you apply experiential concepts to the mixer, you can adjust the different levels of sensory experience, personal aspect, or agency, for example.
- [12:05] David talks about the considerations Room Escape Artist has for whether or not the website will cover a certain experience, and whether or not it’s an escape room. In general, an experience will fall under the Room Escape Artist umbrella if the audience has agency.
- [12:48] Brian talks about some of the “labels” for their “experience mixer.” These include dials for the senses, and sliders for interactions and emotions.
- [13:58] Linda talks about “friction.” She says friction is what determines how long an interaction lasts, and how difficult it is to get through. She says that the right amount of friction creates an opportunity for the audience to realize it matters that they’re there.
- [14:22] David talks about friction in escape rooms, which need enough obstacles for the player to feel like they’ve accomplished something difficult.
- [15:03] Brian talks about “placemaking” as the deliberate design of the public realm. He goes on to talk about “creative placemaking” and how this highlights local cultures and local history.
- [15:39] Brian talks about the differences between making a space more aesthetically pleasing and making something experiential. He mentions the acts of co-creation and opening up opportunities outside of the business.
- [17:50] David talks about how when interactions are done wrong, they can feel artificial. Linda talks about the differences between a company making a statement about who they are and what can happen when it becomes “who are we together?”
- [19:21] Peih-Gee mentions the need for escape rooms to create a beautifully designed environment for player photos. Linda talks about the “transformation economy” where you can offer the audience an opportunity to make meaning out of the moment and to share a purpose.
- [22:51] David talks about how experiences should have both a sense of purpose and a soul. Peih-Gee says that aesthetically pleasing photo ops came with the rise of Instagram, and mentions that with the advent of TikTok, it’s becoming more clear that people want media that allows for co-creation and interaction. She mentions The Nest as an example of an interactive story that allows its audience to become a small part of the experience.
- [24:40] Brian talks about how escape rooms harness the power of play to create social cohesion.
- [25:04] Linda talks about how people need to opt into “play” and how “play” requires agreement. David talks about “forced fun.” The group discusses “fun” versus “serious” and the struggles of injecting play and fun into business.
- [28:59] Linda tries to define “fun” and talks about how it should produce a type of prolonged delight. David talks about the strangeness of finding fun in things like troubleshooting a crisis. Brian talks about how some scary experiences can somehow create a fun story.
- [31:30] Linda talks about the difference between “fun” and “funny.” She mentions “fun” as a flow state and how friction can increase fun.
- [32:24] David talks about the Sapir–Whorf Hypothesis (Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis). The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states that the grammatical and verbal structure of a person’s language influences how they perceive the world.
- [33:24] Peih-Gee mentions that in Cantonese, the word for ‘”fun” translates to “good play” and the word for “funny” translates to “good laugh.”
- [36:31] Linda talks about some of the core tenets of improv like trusting, yielding, committing, listening, and “yes and-ing.” She talks about how improv training can help change your perspective on life when you decide to “plus” everything instead of denying.
- [38:11] Linda shares an example of how a business can inject a little fun into its business model. She talks about a bookstore in Denver that has a random “thunderstorm” with projections and sound design that happens periodically. Brian mentions the poolside “popsicle hotline” at the Magic Castle Hotel. David mentions an iconic giant termite landmark that’s the mascot for Big Blue Bug Solutions, a pest control business in Rhode Island, and the delight that it brought him as a child.
- [41:30] Linda mentions that “surprise and delight” is one of the sliders on her “experience mixer.” She says that playing with scale, making things giant or tiny, is one way to create surprise and delight.
- [42:37] Linda talks about how Farm-to-Spaceship is funded by the government and grant programs and the type of funding they offer to their participants. Brian tells us that the community as a whole asked the economic development project for their grants to go towards becoming a place of great experiences. They also work with philanthropic partners.
- [44:38] Linda walks us through Adventure School. She says it’s a multi-day intensive to create a cohort of different people. They’re given seed funding to create a prototype, they get to design and test the prototype. Then they’re given a second round of funding, similar to the type of funding available to tech companies.
- [45:50] Brian talks about the importance of listening to what the community wants when working in the public sector. He says you must work with the community and think about what can be done together.
- [47:42] Linda cautions against “prescriptive programs” that don’t take the community’s desires into account. Peih-Gee gives an example of a story she heard in college about a program developed for a community designed to greatly increase the harvest output. This program ultimately failed because it didn’t take into account the culture of the local community. The program required both men and women to participate in the harvest, and the men refused to farm, citing it as “women’s work.”
- [49:55] Brian talks about the dangers of improving a community only to have it become gentrified and bought out by rich outsiders, crowding out the artists that made the community great. He says one of the ways we can avoid this is to ensure that local artists are adequately compensated for their contributions in order to create equitable economic systems.
- [53:37] Linda talks about how Adventure School creates ideal conditions for “trying” and how important it is for a vibrant community to try different things.
- [57:43] Linda shares a bonus story about a comedy show she created where the audience kept finding themselves in unexpected situations only to be set upon by the same groups of performers in different roles over and over again.
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Resources Mentioned in this Episode
- Farm to Spaceship website
- Immersive Denver
- Rainbow Dome
- The Secret Comedy of Women
- Linda Klein Story Slam
- Brian Corrigan’s work
About Linda Klein
Linda Klein is one of the many business artists who push-started Denver’s exploding Immersive Arts scene. She has sought-after expertise in narrative design, user experience and project management. Labeled a hospitality empath, she leverages her unique perspective to show companies and organizations how strong, load-bearing stories are the future of business. Her clients span many sectors and include AARP, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, MAINSPRING Business Development and Hillside Communications.
About Brian Corrigan
Brian Corrigan is a creative placemaking artist-designer-entrepreneur working at the intersection of the experience economy, technology, and community development. His socially engaged practice spans rural, urban, and suburban communities and focuses on sparking and supporting the development of healthy, inclusive, and vibrant neighborhoods for all people. NPR, PBS, Cool Hunting, Springwise, Denver Post, Streetwise, Business Journal, and Dwell Magazine have featured his work. He is an ArtPlace America Grantee, NewCities Global Urban Innovator Finalist, Knight Public Spaces Fellowship Finalist, and an International Award for Public Art Finalist. His projects have been published in Streets Reconsidered: Inclusive Design for the Public Realm and The Digital City: Media and the Social Production of Place. Corrigan is a cofounder of Farm-to-Spaceship, a workforce development initiative working across the state to position Colorado as the best place for artists to thrive in the Experience Economy.
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