For my Master's THesis at the Savannah College of Art and Design, I explored by passion for the big picture of entertainment design a ways to build an infallible infrastructure for a more perfectly designed future. Over the course of this months-long project, I developed tools for communication and success in the course of theme park design. The goal of this thesis is to better understand the miscommunications that lead to unsuccessful design and bridge that gap so that designers can select and treat Intellectual Properties with more understanding, develop new stories, and increase guest satisfaction with the potential for greater success.
As the thesis is quite long, I will only display a summary of it here but if you would like to read it in its entirety, the full thesis can be found here.
To begin with, I made the case that a better understanding of stories and source material lead to a more successful design.
Therefor, I developed a classification system to categorize stories and intellectual property for potential theme park use. My classification system has categories including, but not limited to, age of the material, desirability of the setting, and size of the franchise.
Using this classification system, I categorized hundreds of movies, books, stories, games, and other intellectual property. I grouped these then by companies that they belonged to, focusing on those currently in use in theme parks, and using a circle graph that I developed for this thesis, I was able to plot these properties out visually, to see the qualities of IPs most used by each company.
Moving on from the understanding of stories, I looked to elements involved in design processes. For the purpose of focus (and keeping my thesis from going on forever) I made the choice to focus on what I'm calling "themed areas": any areas in a theme park that includes multiple elements to deliver a themed story. Tracking designs of these themed areas around the US, I developed a 13 point scoring system to quantify the depth of design. These 13 points include, but are not limited to, a ride as part of the area, fulfillment of a guest "fantasy" related to the source material, and vernacular appropriate to the source material.
And finally, I wanted to be able to quantify the success of these designs, so that we could look at the full, big picture. These designs don't exist in a vacuum, and in order to know how to design successfully, we have to know what works. Therefore, I gave existing designs a score from 0-4 based on elements including, but not limited to, positive press and increased theme park attendance after the implementation of the design.
In the end, my biggest final deliverable was a large matrix and database of all my findings and systems compiled together, which is not included here. With all of this information, I was able to track which kind of stories perform the best in a theme park setting. In my database, I charted those currently performing well, then used that information to flag other stories with the same properties that are currently unused, and which companies they belong to. I could see the most important elements to contribute to a lasting and successful attraction.
There were many, significant conclusions to be drawn from my thesis as a whole. To finish it out, I picked several stories which were flagged as potential successes and illustrated concepts based on these. It is my hope that with the information gathered and developed in my thesis, we will be able to charge into an exciting future better stories, better designs, and spectacular new attractions.
Again, you may find my complete thesis paper here.