Designing a Great Audience Experience: Lessons from Winners of the Fast Company Innovation by Design Awards

FastCoFast Company‘s Innovation by Design Awards competition yields some of the most cutting-edge design work being done in virtually every major creative industry. Each winner represents the best aspects of modern design: big ideas, well-planned details, and a clear notion of life today and how we can improve upon it. The award winners also teach us something about engaging an audience in creative ways. Here are some examples:

Building Bytes

Brian Peters’ Building Bytes bricks are a unique combination of 3D printing and ceramics, which has revolutionized the fabrication technique. As the bricks don’t require a mold, it’s easy to construct one-of-a-kind Building Bytes shapes and patterns. As such, the bricks that people create are often much more complex than traditional rectangular building blocks (e.g., interlocking honeycomb segments, X-shaped bricks), which offers a world of new possibilities for architecture and design. With the technology already in place, architects and designers can work up prototypes before presentations to wow audiences and fully demonstrate the potential that these blocks have to offer.

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

The Smithsonian Design Museum undertook a three-year renovation and redesign – largely initiated by Local Projects’ Jake Barton – to bring the notion of interaction in a museum to a whole new level. Their technology is intended to entertain as well as educate museum goers. Each visitor has a digital pen, which they can use for a number of different purposes, such as bookmarking favorite art pieces to view again later or to draw on a vase to gain insight about the proportions of the piece. Once visitors have finished at the museum for the day, they return the pens and are given tickets with unique Web addresses that provide access to their content.

The clear takeaway from the Smithsonian development is the power of visuals in a presentation. Instead of simply telling an audience about an interactive pen, why not give them a live demonstration?


 Purple is advertised as a smart necklace that’s like a locket for the 21st century. This wearable necklace connects the wearer to her social network, collecting text and visual content from family and friends. The wearer is then able to save her most cherished digital memories right in the locket. Creator Jennifer Darmour emphasizes that Purple is not about collecting as many friends on social media as possible but instead growing closer to the people who matter to you the most. One of the biggest issues with social media channels is that it’s way too easy to lose memories amidst a flood of daily content. With the locket, you can tag and save favorite memories.

Purple offers ample opportunities for presenters to engage audiences through storytelling. Speakers can use the device’s settings to collect images and other content that are being shared by thought leaders who aren’t present at the presentation. The audience will be intrigued by what influencers are talking about with their colleagues on social media.

To view additional winners of the 2015 Fast Company Innovation by Design Awards, including the other finalists in each category, visit Fast Company Design.

For a complimentary 30-minute consultation on how to build your brand and inspire an audience through events and communications, please contact Brian Duffy by calling 630.427.4235 or by emailing


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