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Chef Sean Brock loves cooking food over a large bonfire for his guests. According to Brock, when guests see the flames, smell the cooking meats, and hear the crackling of the fire, they develop deeper neural pathways, resulting in a more intimate, direct experience of the meal.
Brock’s bonfires are one example of a multi-sensory experience—the stimulation of multiple senses to create a more emotional and visceral connection with your environment.
AIGA, in conjunction with Disjecta and Parallel Studio, has chosen to explore this concept further by putting on their Design Week Portland event, Amplifier: A Multi-Sensory Tasting Experiment.
The studios created three separate teams, consisting of a visual artist, a sound designer, and a mixologist—all from Portland and of varying levels in their careers. The mixologist first made an exotic cocktail, then the teams collaboratively designed a themed room, styled to evoke the moods and emotions of the cocktail.
For the event, attendees will be led in small groups through the three distinctly designed rooms, with ample time to savor each drink and its corresponding environment. After, they’ll be encouraged to hang out and talk about the experience (all at the Jupiter’s NEXT Hotel).
“This is very much an experiment,” said Marilee Sweeney, AIGA’s special events director and owner of Gastronaut Design Studio. “We’re asking, what happens when we bring these talents and sensory experiences into a single space? And hopefully, that’s inspirational for all who come.”
Sweeney also added that many of Portland’s retail spaces and restaurants have gone “next level” in creating beautiful spaces. Amplifier hopefully answers the question: how do you make a space stand out in a field where everything’s already gorgeous?
According to Ethan Rose, owner of Parallel Studio, multi-sensory design is happening all around us. Yet when it’s done in a curated fashion, it can create a much more meaningful relationship with the experience.
“On a very basic, subconscious level, what you see in a space is influenced by how that space sounds,” said Rose. “All of this is built into our experience already. But this event is about designing and amplifying these elements to help tell a story and bring you more fully into where you are. It’s like a composed moment.”
Multi-sensory design is becoming increasingly popular in experiential marketing and event-based experiences. Yet AIGA, Disjecta, and Parallel are hoping that designers of all types—environmental, industrial, product, etc.—will be inspired to consider more senses than just visual or tactile when creating environments and executing ideas.
Sweeney says the event will also be helpful for restauranteurs, retail shop owners, and other mixologists. The event coordinators would love for this cross-pollination to inspire designers and makers to explore collaborations with groups they might not have otherwise considered.
“The lines between different areas of creativity are becoming increasingly blurred,” said Blake Shell, executive director of Disjecta. “Plus, interdisciplinary design is the mode of today and the future. So the more designers can think in multi-faceted ways about their work—and bring in different disciplines and communities—the more it’ll benefit their careers.”