• Fabien MANUEL, designer

FROM SKETCH TO REALITY: a concept designer experience since design thinking until follow up on site

Mis à jour : 2 août 2020

In every company, each people has their own skill, expertise. In theme park design business, each designer has his own speciality. You know who to call for a kiddy ride theming... and it couldn't be the same guy who design the theming for the last thrill coaster "à la mode". This one could be better on a story telling for a roller coaster and this one for a restaurant theming because he's better on client experience...

This previous situation is well known in big companies. But what about concept designers in more little companies?

That's a good thing, in big compagnies like Disney Imagineering, to have people for each specific things: lights, props, set design, queue lines, trash can designers... The result, with a very great art direction, is very stunning. The amount of all theses skills (and a good high level budget...) produce that kind of magic impossible to visitors to explain. It's a feeling, it's an emotion.

And us - concept designers from smallest structures 😉 - we have a «huuuuuge» respect to this creative process: we try so hard to study all the elements from a World of Avatar and a Star Wars Land in order to understand how visitors live their emotional journey.

We keep secret ours discoveries because one day: WE KNOW THAT IT WILL BE HELPFUL IN OURS FUTURE PROJECTS.

The thing really interesting when you work in a less bigger structure than Disney Imagineering or Universal creative, you have to know a minimum on maximum items: able to draw and design your idea, understand landscaping, light design, toilets experience (yes, it's really important because we try to make an immersive experience everywhere! 🤣)

I'm Concept Designer at Compagnie des Alpes since 2014 and before I was Art Director in advertising... You don't have to be a genius to understand that it's not the same job at all, but I had the chance to meet people who gave me this opportunity. I realized a dream from my childhood and now it's my real life... I worked hard to keep this chance.

It's that thrilling when you get the pen to design, to share with F&B or safety departments, engineers, landscapers, light designers, music composers and going on site each week to see your design becoming reality.

It's stressful to understand that a bad decision from you - like a little change of walls color or patina finitions, bad light design or just visible speakers - could change the story that you wrote 18 months before.

But what a relief when you see the final result. Now, it's not your design at all: it be part of the storyline of the park and it belongs to visitor experience.

2 secrets to succeed in theme park design: be passionate and wear the shoes of your visitors.

I'm Concept Designer at Compagnie des Alpes and I learnt a lot from scratch.

My biggest project since 2014 is the quite full retheming of Walibi Rhône-Alpes, near Lyon in France. I designed and wrote the "theme design brand books" of each land to describe atsmopheres, colors, musics. I thought about story telling for coasters, restaurants, toilets and shops experience... with a very restricted budget. I met a lot of wonderful people on site ready to take this new "revolution experience" as a challenge for them. I improved each year my skills and I correct its each year.

I'm a lucky designer in a good company who choose to trust me. I’m thankful for this.

For all of those who dream to do this job: keep faith, improve your skills, sit on theme parks benches and look at visitors behaviors but the most important: wear the shoes of your visitors.

Thanks to Anne Levacher(Design development) -Blaise Pons(Landscape Designer) -Imascore(Composer soundtrack) -AZ Decor(Theming Contractor), Ingelo from Compagnie des Alpes and all the Walibi Rhône-Alpes teams

From sketch to reality: examples for FESTIVAL CITY and MYSTIC - Walibi Rhône-Alpes

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