Scenography has always been an important element of immersing audiences in live experiences. It’s origins are in the world of theater and it’s traditionally defined as “the art of perspective representation, especially as it applies to the design and painting of stage scenery” (1). For centuries, it was the stage designer who was responsible for the décor and ambience of a theater’s stage productions. As performance moved beyond the theater and with the invention of film, the role of the scenographer evolved into preparing a broad mix of art installations, stage sets and video decor, often used in modern times to create branded experiences for live events. We sat down with Bob Klenk, MCH Global’s Head of Studio, to discuss his views on set design and the role scenography plays in experience marketing.
Bob studied classical theater design at the prestigious Motley Theater Design school in London and has been working with MCH Global since the late 2000s. He believes creating branded experiences runs parallel to creating theatrical experiences. “When you do design work for theater, the only content you have to work with in the beginning is text. In principle, what we do for brands is very similar: we are given the brand’s content and we transform that into something that’s tangibly visible. The technology and context are different, but otherwise the work is very similar to what we do for theater.”
Bob’s team begins every project by gathering content and brainstorming ideas in collaboration with the project’s creative and production teams. The visual component of any live experience is built simultaneously with the event’s other content, and Bob stresses the importance of finding a balance between these two elements. “You can only tell a compelling story if everything comes from a single source. That’s something that’s extremely important to us at MCH Global.”
“You should think of scenography as a visual language,” says Bob, “one that’s brought to life through various elements, depending on the brand.” These can be physical constructions, audiovisual media, explicit use of light, sound, or even things like taste and flavor, all in the goal of creating a distinct feeling of presence and ownership of space.
Bob has worked on many event-related set design projects, and early in his career he describes them as being built around an idea of “lots of light, lots of lasers, lots of everything.” Today that has changed. When asked about current and future trends in scenography, Bob says he has noticed a rising trend of design he deems “honest and provocative”- or in other words, a “cut the crap” approach. “The live experience should be a real, live experience that brings the brand to life and makes it tangible,” Bob explains.
The role of the audience has also changed, and this too has played a key role in the evolution of scenography. As editors Joslin McKinney and Scott Palmer write in Scenography Expanded: An Introduction to Contemporary Performance Design (2), “the variety of spaces in which scenography is now encountered facilitate a number of different relationships between spectators and scenography. Free from the constraints of theatre auditoria and the particular ways in which the viewer is positioned there, we can rethink the role of the audience and their mode of engagement.”
Bob would agree. “We know we achieved our goal when we’ve managed to place the essence of the brand or product at the center of what we do,” he says. “Scenography is essential in storytelling, and brand experiences are becoming more and more integrative. We don’t want to distract from the product with loud or screaming spaces, but rather let the brand content speak for itself.”
MCH Global is a full-service experience company with a central goal: to bring your vision to life and life to your vision. For examples of our work that includes elements of scenography, explore the work section of our website, and stay tuned for future expert talks, insights and news articles from the team at MCH Global.