67 minutes | Nov 12, 2019

S3 EP5: Designing for Excellent Wow — with Meow Wolf Founder Vince Kadlubek

As humans, we yearn for artistic experiences that disrupt the day-to-day and wow us with a greater reality beyond our to-do list. That’s what draws us to the wonder of film and literature and art exhibits. In the absence of such experiences, we fall down the rabbit hole of digital distractions, scrolling Instagram for the unpredictability, the excitement of discovery we’re not getting from our physical environment. But what if we didn’t have to go to a gallery or a theater to encounter these transformative moments? What if artful experiences were available in ordinary places? What if you yourself could design for disruption and delight on a small scale in your own business and brand? Today, Jeffrey explores the impact of artful, transformative experiences with Vince Kadlubek, cofounder and executive advisor of Meow Wolf, an award-winning immersive arts production company out of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Vince explains how he went from struggling artist to head of a company valued at nine figures, describing how he thinks about the tension between art and commerce. He speaks to what he calls the crisis of imagination, discussing why people are hungry for imaginative analog experiences and what businesses can do artfully in response to the crisis. Listen in for insight into how the emerging experience economy is changing the way businesses engage with customers and learn the design parameters Vince uses to create the kind of reality-bending, transformational moments that make for an excellent life. Key Takeaways [0:02] The human desire to be moved by artistic experiences Want to be surprised, disrupt day-to-day doldrums In lieu of such experiences we seek digital distraction Potential to design artful moments in business/brand [5:17] How Vince’s creative genius expressed itself early on Desire to serve + engage creatively (host sister’s sleepovers) See world with critical eye, ironic commentary on capitalism [8:34] What moved Vince to disrupt the mainstream Santa Fe art scene Disconnect between gallery owners and creative energy of city Experience at Warehouse 21 inspired to uplift true creative spirit Opportunity to save economy by appealing to Gen X tourist [16:23] The early days of the Meow Wolf arts collective Dumpster dive for materials at Salvation Army and Goodwill Build large sculptures from trash out of necessity [20:20] The turning point when Vince was arrested for shoplifting Doing media literacy art program in Santa Fe elementary schools Caught stealing video games at Walmart to fund project Arresting officer supported in court, got into 12-step program [26:36] The mammouth growth of Meow Wolf in the last four years Took business course in creative startups, shift to for-profit Wrote business plan and pitched to George R. R. Martin Opened House of Eternal Return ($9M revenue first year) Currently expanding art attractions to other cities [34:35] The opportunity around our shift to an experience economy Disrupt default drive for mere efficiency or profit Use creative spirit to design memorable events for customers Engage on physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual level [37:10] How Vince reconciles the tension between art and commerce Used to strive for predictability, efficiency in value exchange Addicted to unpredictability again with advent of internet Gives creativity opening (billions willing to pay for experience) [43:04] Why people are hungry for memorable analog experiences Built reality needs art + imagination to compete with phones Creative economy will transform how we think about value [46:44] Vince’s description of the House of Eternal Return Through dark hallway to front yard of Victorian house at night Visitors have agency to go anywhere they want from there Access to portals to other worlds (e.g.: refrigerator = hallway) [52:03] The design parameters for creating transformative experiences User must own experience Operate on gradient (blended vs. singular aesthetic) Create transformation with dimensionality, subspaces Get people out of comfort zone with movement Take from known to accessible unknown [59:17] How Vince is contending with the art of saying NO Any idea = good idea in isolation Look at opportunities in context of defined framework [1:03:00] The questions that arise out of today’s conversation with Vince How are you assuming creative agency of your life/business? How does your brand foster creative agency in its customers? How could your brand help people stay open to uncertainty? How could your brand design transformational moments? Connect with Vince Vince on LinkedIn Meow Wolf Meow Wolf on Facebook Meow Wolf on Instagram Meow Wolf on YouTube Meow Wolf Documentary Origin Story Resources A Wondrous Mind on 1440 Multiversity House of Eternal Return Warehouse 21 Center for Contemporary Arts Santa Fe Matt King The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Yayoi Kusama James Turrell teamLab My Project Brief ‘Welcome to the Experience Economy’ in Harvard Business Review AREA 15 Video of the House of Eternal Return Chip Heath & Chris Fink on Tracking Wonder S2EP02 The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have an Extraordinary Impact by Chip and Dan Heath Exploratorium Meow Wolf in Denver Meow Wolf in DC Marc and Angel Chernoff
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