The Craft of Experience Design – report and documentation

On October 5th, 2017, we hosted the symposium “The Craft of Experience Design”. Goal for the symposium was to bring together different views on creating participative artworks: in which the audience is invited to take part in playful and open-ended experiences. We invited six speakers coming from performance, theatre, exhibition design, media art, game design and larp to share their ideas and methods.

On this page, you can find the full video documentation of the symposium.


At the start of the symposium we introduced the schedule for the day and the ways in which we invited the audience members to get to know each other and exchange their experiences with each other, including conference badges as icebreakers for conversation on interesting topics and giving the audience time to process what they heard in each talk and discuss with their neighbours before the plenary Q&A-discussion.

Marinka Copier, the moderator for the Q&A sessions, introduces a game to get to know each other in the audience, before introducing each of the speakers and the question they have for the day. These questions come back at the end of the day in the final discussion with the audience.

Marloeke van der Vlugt

Marloeke van der Vlugt gives an overview of her work and starts with how she got interested in creating ways to have an experience like the performer on the stage, but still be an audience member – watching and reflecting on what is happening during the performance. In the different works she discusses, she describes how she tries in different ways to give the audience members something personal, something to learn about themselves and take home.

In her early work Kameleon (2006), she does this in an analog way, creating an environment with career tests for visitors to take and actors who portrayed different career stories within the environment.

From 2006 onwards, she became interested in using modern technology. At first looking at how Second Life and mobile phones can create overlaps between virtual and real world experiences. Then – rather than having devices like a computer screen / controller or mobile phone as an interface, she wanted a more direct interface and became interested in using sensor technology to make the body an interface to the performer, or to give the audience members agency over the performance by embedding the sensing into the seats of the audience.

She discusses the need to make the work personal to engage the visitor, and the challenges of getting the visitor to cross the threshold of interacting with a performer and dealing with the comfort zone of the visitor.

Carina Westling

Carina Westling describes the practice of PunchDrunk theatre company, who create large-scale immersive theatre performances. She addresses the structure in terms of space, time and actors and the issue of scalability. How these performances become scalable through repetition – and how the participants (the audience) can be modeled in interactive systems. She discusses how PunchDrunk uses ‘black-masks’ to deal with the edges of the designed experience, who help guiding the audience to stay within the narrative without disrupting the immersion. She raises this as a general question of designing for edge cases and delinquent behaviour, rather than considering these kinds of behaviours as problematic.

Attention to detail in the design is considered as a key element to support the immersion of the participants, and to reach the sublime.

Zuraida Buter

Zuraida Buter is interested in creating playful situations and social interactions. She has been presenting games as installations in festivals and in public space.

In her presentation she gives an extensive overview of what is going on in game design, ranging from creating new physical forms of well-known games (both digital and non-digital), shows a history of game controllers for digital games. Then she focuses on the work of independent game designers, such as collaborative games, expanded versions of digital games in physical space and how existing objects are changed into game controllers.

Valentijn Byvanck

Valentijn Byvanck describes how he tries to condition the experience of the people that come to Marres, the House for Contemporary Art. He describes this along the lines of three concepts: proximity to the visitor, filtering of the stimuli, and piling up.

The interest comes out of a search for finding different ways of experiencing art, rather than replicating the dominance of visual cognition that is omnipresent in our culture. Since 2013 they have been working on a program focusing on the senses, which puts the emphasis on the body and on experience.

He describes how visitors were conditioned in “The Winter Anti Depression Show”, lost orientation and gained body awareness through sensory deprivation in “The Relativity of Matter”, and how visitors were overwhelmed in visual and aurally rich “The Painted Bird: Dreams and Nightmares of Europe”, but got comforted again by adding even more.

Johanna Koljonen

Johanna Koljonen introduces what larp is and in particular the tradition of Nordic larp with its emphasis on equality of outcome, co-creation, empathy and agency as central design goals and a culture of reflection.

While the 360-degree illusion helps with immersion, that alone does not necessarily solve the narrative and psychological immersion. Currently there is a move to reduction of the environment in blackbox scenarios.

For a long time the main focus has been on the design of the fictional world, the runtime design, though lately it is found that it is also necessary to take into account and design (in as far as possible) what happens outside the larp: the communication about the larp beforehand, workshops and introduction on site before the larp starts, and the reflection afterwards. These factors are important to manage the expectation (and thereby possible disappointment) and to create an environment where the participants feel safe to enter into the experience.

Time's Up

Tim Boykett from Time’s Up presents the different participatory projects they have made over the past 20 years. Their motivation comes from the desire to play and see people play and explore and learn with the entire body. In their early work they focused on the experience while you are there – providing machines that let the visitor free to interpret what is going on in the interactions and what the world is that they have entered.

In more recent work the interest has shifted to create physical narratives: creating a physical world where you can explore a story – almost like a detective trying to piece together what has happened in the physical fiction that you have entered.

He discusses the importance of the opening shot, to get people to cross a boundary and leave the everyday environment, finding a balance between having multiple entrances, while at the same time not present too many things at once, the challenges of working with time-based media (audio, video) within such environments and the importance to fully transform spaces with attention to detail to provide immersion.

Concluding discussion

In the concluding discussion, the audience members of the symposium entered a discussion with the presenters of the symposium on the question they asked in the introduction.

Topics ranged from the use of modern technology like EEG sensors, how to work with an audience that you do not know, different ways of presentation, what structures need to exist to be able to learn from each other, esthetics of (inter)action, bringing the everyday into curated spaces vs the museum as a place to escape the everyday, how to get people to spend time and playing in daily life.


  • Presentation partner – Korzo
  • Financial support – Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie and Prins Bernard Cultuurfonds
  • Crowdfunding through – Voor de Kunst and IndieGogo
  • Video documentation – Flora Reznik, Nele Brökelmann, Sonja Kerkhoff
  • Audio: Siamak Anvari, Dan Gibson, Marije Baalman
  • Production assistance – Matteo Marangoni, Ingrid Lee, Mosa Sebdani, Sophia Bulgakova
  • Curation and organisation – Marije Baalman