By Brendan Spiegel Posted November 4, 2010, 9:00 AM EDT
For the first-ever event marking its annual list of Game Changers, the Huffington Post wanted to produce an interactive experience that would appropriately honor the leaders and innovators selected by the five-year-old news site's readers. The challenge? The awards were bestowed on 100 individuals, people who used new media to make a global impact in fields as diverse as business, politics, sports, and food.
“The nature of the Game Changers platform—celebrating people from all different fields—seemed to demand an event,” said Mario Ruiz, the site's senior vice president of media relations. “We thought it would be great to get as many of these 100 people as we could in a room together to exchange ideas—almost like the real-world version of what happens on the site.”
To create an atmosphere that would facilitate this type of exchange, the Huffington Post tapped event designer and producer David Stark, who turned Skylight Soho into a neon-lit, interactive homage that was “one part cocktail party, one part museum exhibition” for the reception on October 28. “We wanted to create an event that was cool, edgy, and different, but also auspicious enough to pay homage to the folks who were being honored,” said Stark. “Since the presentation part of the evening only involved four of five of the winners, for the party segment, we had to find a way to showcase all 100 of them.” That objective translated into a design that mirrored the Web site itself—colorful, graphic-heavy, and constantly updating.
To introduce guests to the honorees and the format of the evening, the production team placed a multitiered display of laser-cut silhouettes at the entrance to the downtown location. The piece, which was mounted on a platform, embedded with lights, and had the names of the 100 Game Changers projected above, was one of 13 vignettes designed by Stark to break up the open space and highlight the 12 categories in the list.
As the 600 attendees—including many of this year's Game Changers, like Mayor Michael Bloomberg and actor and political activist Sean Penn—made their way into the room, they found the venue divided into separate sections, each dedicated to one of the 12 category topics. Oversize three-dimensional sculptures crafted from welded steel and painted in florescent colors marked these areas, denoting which category was the focal point of that section through recognizable shapes and images. For instance, the Capitol building symbolized the zone for political visionaries like Elizabeth Warren, a shopping cart indicated innovators in food such as Dogfish Head Brewery founder Sam Calagione, and a laptop represented technology leaders including Steve Jobs.
“The setup made it so that you wanted to circulate through the space and get a look at everything,” said Ruiz. “And that encouraged people to co-mingle and connect with one another.”
The walls that subdivided the space served double duty as room dividers and projection screens, displaying animated images of each honoree's name, along with text about why they were chosen. Each projection scrolled through a series of different Game Changers in that category, so that the information was constantly changing and each person's work was highlighted at some point.
“We wanted to share a lot of information at this event, but in a way that was more interactive than just a poster,” said Stark. “The design allowed us to do that in a way that was exciting and digital, like the Huffington Post.”