What Does Immersive Design Mean?

BY Danielle Williams /
Chief Design Officer

Just as a level set, let's have good old dictionary.com tell us what the true definition of immersive is: noting or pertaining to digital technology or images that deeply involve one's senses and may create an altered mental state: immersive media; immersive 3-D environments.

Okay, "immersive" sounds like just any other futuristic designy term that is thrown around these days like confetti, right? Well, maybe we tease out a little more meaning below.

We are all a big collection of things: sisters, dads, millennials, pet parents, 401k holders, Netflix bingers-you get the idea. But you don't define yourself by simply one of your characteristics, you would sound insane and highly lacking in personality. "Hello, my name is Danielle and I am a cheese lover. That's it. Just cheese" Sounds weird right? Well the same idea applies to brands.

A brand shouldn't define itself by a single attribute, it should be dimensional in personality and communication. Cohesive, but dimensional. Of course it will have a core purpose, that's the nugget of expertise that brands evolve from. But every brand should be designed to flex across many different platforms: print, digital, audio, environmental, motion, smell. Why? Because that's how you entice and delight your consumer's senses and give them reasons to become invested in your vision. Aka have the makings worthy of an immersive experience. It's hard to care about Danielle the cheese fancier. But Danielle the turophile, hockey fanatic with a not so secret Craigslist furniture addiction and amazing bruschetta making skills sounds a little more interesting and likable.  

So now that you understand why a brand should be dimensional, let's talk about why one of those dimensions should include digital and technology.

Most people are used to the following stereotypes: design is frivolous and unnecessary, technology is for complicated and untouchable. At cheers studios, we have a lot of unique opportunities to combine design and technology to make something special. By having your brand identity work across media, you are creating a stronger more holistic brand message. You are telling your customers/guests/users that they can trust you and believe in what you have to offer them. And doing this through technology helps put you ahead of your competition. That's good for business.

Need examples of immersion? Here are some successful immersive brands who aren't afraid to stand out:


We know their soda, but what if they would have stopped there? Just with refreshing taste and some packaging design. What if they wouldn't have cultivated a brand narrative and voice that captured people's attention and brought them on an adventure? Well, Coke probably wouldn't be in the Top 5 Best Global Brands of 2015. Coca-Cola believes in the journey, which promoted them to have a Coca-Cola Future Room created and displayed in Santralistanbul, a modern art museum in Turkey, to celebrate their 125th anniversary. 

Why this works: Coca-Cola has a rich and long history, and asking people to walk along some physical timeline that shows their countless brand events and accolades just doesn't sound very enticing. So instead, they made an immersive environment by using a 270-degree projection system to display a brand story. The surrounding visuals and audio made viewers feel like they were in another world. And the cool part is that Coke can share this video online and reach people who couldn't experience the Future Room first hand. Talk about double duty.

Kate Spade Saturday

Unfortunately now closed, Kate Spade Saturday had the bright idea of blurring the lines between a physical store and an eStore at a few select locations in NYC. These pop-up shop fronts took previously vacant stores and filled the windows with quirky colored apparel and accessories. Once drawn into the scene, shoppers used a large touch screen display to swipe through the collection, find product details, and order by entering your phone number and the confirmation text. Want to hear the cool part though? Your items were delivered to you within the hour via a a messenger. Sorry Jimmy Johns, this beats that.

Photos are from psfk.com

Why this works: What Saturday understood about their customers is that going into a store, sifting around and hoping their wish list items are in stock, and then waiting at the counter to pay takes time. Time that people don't want to waste. But online shopping is so, boring. It's an expected experience at any site and retailer, so Kate Spade Saturday used technology to create an experience, solve a need for their customers and make it memorable.

Now you're thinking this is great and all, but you don't exactly have a budget of $XXX,XXX to make immersive experiences like these happen. What can you do? Well here are 3 low level first steps.

1. Work with a professional to get your brand image and voice in place.

You have the idea and the passion, now work with someone who is going to actually be able to help you create a real set of tools to evolve your brand from. That doesn't mean your nephew who knows how to use GIMP and will do anything for some extra cash. Use someone who knows how to take what you think you want, and give you what you need. Your brand can be on every social media outlet, tv commercial, billboard and radio spot in the world, but if you don't have the solid building blocks of a visual identity and narrative, then your brand is going to sound and look like a mess. And no one wants to be immersed in a mess.


2. Have an online presence.

It's simple but true, nine times out of ten you should have a website. It's where people are going to go first to find information about you: locations, times, menus, atmosphere, etc. And if they don't like what they see, or worse can't find what they need, they will probably just move on. You don't always need a fully customized site with every bell and whistle out there, but you do need to be true to your brand and have a cohesive look and feel. How will your customers get to you if you don't give them a good looking map that they can read?


3. Know your customer, and then speak to them.

One of the most important parts of creating an immersive brand is knowing who you want to immerse and inviting them to join. Otherwise, you're just talking to a wall, and walls don't like to pay you. Talking to your idea customers and finding the human truths about the experiences they wish to have with you will help shape your business for the better. If you have a coffee shop and your patrons come in every morning to get energized and ready for the day ahead, don't play melodramatic opera over the speakers. It won't bring in more of their kind. Instead, break out something with some eclectic beats that inspires them to do a little heel click before jumping into rush hour. And here's one better: ASK your honey latte guest what they want to listen to. Put a little flyer on the table that directs them to your shop's contact page (boom now they know you have a website too) or go old school and have them write it down and put it into a bucket by the coffee mugs you sell (wow, they didn't know they could buy stuff here). Do they need encouragement? Maybe. Offer a brand appropriate prize (that people actually want) to a special someone who fills their music list out.

You don't have to jump into the deep end right away, but you do have to get your feet wet. And make sure your brand is always positioned to keep evolving. That's how you stay relevant and keep your customers top of mind.