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Thursday, June 26, 2008

No More Deja Vu

I've been thinking about what makes video so effective and reflecting on a project we completed last year and one we're about to begin this year. Last year we went to the Denver School of Science and Technology to show how innovative design can create a dynamic and highly effective environment for learning. The results of that effort is on our website, as part of the Great Schools by Design series we're doing for the American Architectural Foundation.

The point of the video was to show how the extraordinary use of space, place and design has transformed teaching and learning. In the video we hear from many people touched by the project: the architects, teachers, students, the school principal and founder. Even the mayor had something thoughtful to say. And we spend a lot of time showing different aspects of the school, exploring everything from the physical design to the overall vibe.

So, you might ask, why does the piece work so well? I'd say the answer is in how the piece is put together. First of all, there's no narration. People express themselves in their own words. So that brings in a level of enthusiasm and passion that helps carry the ideas. Second, there are few facts. Facts and data work well in print. Ideas and feelings work well in video. So the video focuses on how people feel about the new school, what they like, what excites them, why it feels special and so on. While we do include some specific information, we tend to show instead of tell. And that leads to the next point. The piece has a beginning middle and end. Because we structure our pieces to tell a story -- starting in one place and ending in another -- and along the way we take the viewer on a journey of discovery and understanding.

And now we're about to embark on the next video in the series, about a primary school in Portland, Oregon. This school serves younger kids, so there will be perhaps less to tell and more to show. And the big challenge will be to find a new way to tell the story. So it won't be deja vu all over again.