Styriaversum: An Interactive Lobby

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Styria Media Center Graz (Credit: Styria Media Group AG)

Ars Electronica Solutions’ “Styriaversum” concept outshone a field of international competitors and was selected for the makeover of the 390-m2 lobby at Styria Media Group AG’s headquarters into an interactive brandland. The Styria Media Group is one of the leading media corporations in Austria, Croatia and Slovenia. Beginning in June 2015, visitors to the corporate offices where this company’s success story was launched will be welcomed by an Ars Electronica Solutions-designed lobby that’s an interactive showcase of Styria Media Group’s diversified product line.

We recently met with Senior Director Bernd Albl of Ars Electronica Solutions to talk about this exciting assignment. His account provides a behind-the-scenes look at how clients go about commissioning Ars Electronica Solutions.

Bernd Albl (Credit: AE Solutions)

How did you get in contact with Styria Media Group AG?

Bernd Albl: I set up a meeting with some top execs at Styria Media Group in Graz. First off, I gave a presentation about Ars Electronica and Ars Electronica Solutions, the message being that we’re more than a museum, that we also perform services for private sector clients. In addition to Event and Show Design, Shop Experience and Urban Media Development, we also offer Brandlands and Exhibitions, which is exactly what Styria Media Group wanted for a new Media Center at the Graz facility that’s been its head office ever since the company was founded. So, on the basis of this presentation, we – along with several other international agencies – made the short list of those requested to submit a formal proposal. And then each candidate pitched the project its staff had developed.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the field of Brandlands and Exhibitions?

Bernd Albl: Ars Electronica Solutions’ Brandlands and Exhibitions division conceives and implements exhibitions and interactive installations elaborating various scenarios. In going about this, we take advantage of leading-edge technologies and pursue the media art approach that Ars Electronica has pioneered. Accordingly, our concept is to configure a welcoming space in which visitors to the Styria Media Group in Graz can interactively explore and experience the company’s products.

(Credit: Styria Media Group AG)

Go into some details – how did the assignment actually proceed?

Bernd Albl: We received a briefing by the Styria Media Group in which they described their “big picture” and explained to us their priorities and what they wanted to accomplish. After that, we had to refine a concept in a relatively short time. It had to be completed within a few weeks. After that, we presented our concept for a proposed solution to the client. That was in late 2013. A couple of weeks later, we were informed that they had decided in favor of our proposal and wanted to do this project with us.

How does Solutions carry out an assignment like this? Tell us about your various in-house groups, and the capabilities their staffers bring to the table.

Bernd Albl: Basically, the Ars Electronica Solutions approach is to set up a theme-oriented team. On each one, there’s a project manager, of course, and various fields are represented: software engineering, media design, technical operations and, naturally, administration. Then comes the selection of the project manager: someone who’s interested in the assignment and is motivated to take it on. He/she then requisitions various types of human resources. An administrator is required on every project, of course; then, the manager completes the team by selecting specialists from the fields that the project calls for. The nature of the assignment determines how many engineers, media designers and technical operators are needed and who’s interested in joining the crew. In the case of Styria, this wasn’t hard at all because there was lively interest on the part of our staff right from the start. After all, this is a beautiful, colorful project and an opportunity for Ars Electronica to show off what it’s capable of. Thematically as well, the Styria Media Group, Austria’s largest media conglomerate, is a terrific match for the media art that Ars Electronica is implementing there together with their people.

Audioversum – MED-EL World (Credit: Johanna Mathauer)

Have you already carried out projects like this one?

Bernd Albl: For MED-EL, for example, we created a whole company-focused exhibition that extends throughout an entire building – from the lobby all the way to the top floor. It’s comparable to a certain degree.

Is this a trend that more and more buildings are being outfitted with interactive features?

Bernd Albl: This is what’s happening in the world we live in! Naturally, you want to provide people with information the way they’re used to interacting with it in everyday life. There’s normal signage and printed posters – now, I’m not saying that they’re no longer state-of-the-art since, obviously, each one is well-suited to particular situations. But they need to be supplemented. A media mix is what it takes. So here, you can very clearly see a trend towards imparting content in a more innovative, modern way.

Audioversum – MED-EL World (Credit: Johanna Mathauer)

What are the special challenges you face in carrying out assignments like these?

Bernd Albl: Needless to say, you have to always keep in mind what the client wants! You must constantly consider: What’s the content you want to get across; who’s the target audience; how does the target audience interact with the content; what’s the best way to present this content to this target audience? And, of course, ultimately, it’s a question of financing – how big is the budget the client is making available to bring this concept to fruition? After answering all these questions, you have to come up with a successful balance.

Are you at liberty to reveal a few details about the Styriaversum project?

Bernd Albl: No, it’s all strictly confidential at this point. I’ll be able to say more about it after the opening in June 2015.