Design a place where kids can feel like real explorers, and teach them by taking them on wild, hands-on adventures
I was a member of the blue sky team (the group that creates a comprehensive theme park concept) on the National Geographic Ultimate Explorer (NGUX) park project. This is a new type of family entertainment center, designed to combine the National Geographic brand values of conservation and staying true to science. Our goal was to create a place where kids can feel like real explorers, and teach them through taking them on wild, hands-on adventures, encouraging them to be responsible stewards of our planet and all its inhabitants - and inspiring them to become actual explorers themselves!
As part of this effort, I drove the branding design, creative directed attractions and interactive elements, directed the application of the brand in Mexico and China, across every park element – from staff uniforms, 3D media, theming design, attraction scripts, marketing, merchandise and more.
Executive Creative Director, Experience Designer, Blue Sky Team
While designing initial concepts for the park itself, several interim logo and branding elements emerged. As I refined these elements, National Geographic had completed an internal brand refresh for the bigger National Geographic brand, so we needed to align closely with their new visual branding elements, while retaining a child-friendly, fun, adventurous feel to the NGUX brand elements.
Working closely with National Geographic, I refined a final logo and brand elements that captured the feeling of adventurous exploration. We also developed a graphics toolkit and global set of typography rules and guidelines that touched every part of this new themed park business.
Ultimately, this new brand design has become one of National Geographic’s kid-focused sub-brands, influencing the design of other sub-brands in the National Geographic portfolio of content.
The NGUX brand influenced the design of other sub-brands in the National Geographic portfolio
The National Geographic Ultimate Explorer park contains 20 themed activities and attractions, and each of these needed branding of their own. This attraction branding would adorn the entrance to each activity, mark attraction-specific merchandise (from the retail element of the park), and be used in signage throughout the facility.
As the team designed each of the attractions, I brought the new branding into each physical and digital element. This included developing hundreds of achievement badges and mission cards for the digital guest engagement system, launch campaign ad expressions, and the creative direction of almost every park element – from staff uniforms, 3D media, theming design, and attraction scripts.
National Geographic Ultimate Explorer has a retail element with completely original, high-quality merchandise. As creative director for the brand, I guided teams as we developed product concepts that embodied each of the learning moments inside the park.
Each attraction was represented by products, and each and every product in the store is a moment of discovery and learning - each product features a factoid printed as part of the design, allowing guests to teach others about the longest jump from the stratosphere, the actual size of the largest dinosaur tooth, the first cat in space, and more.
My goal for NGUX was to have the core intent of the experience expressed not only inside the park, but captured in all the marketing elements , no matter the location - from China to Mexico to Amsterdam to New York. As part of this mission, I directed marketing teams in the design and development of web, mobile, social, and out of home expressions of the the National Geographic Ultimate Explorer brand.
Years in the making, the National Geographic Ultimate Explorer opened its first park in Shenyang, China and its second park in Metepec, Mexico (with more on the way). Thousands of people experience the adventure and thrill with their families and school groups every day.
Laughter, smiles, surprise, awe, and real learning through play - this is a completely new type of family experience, and an amazing global amabasador of the National Geographic brand and values.
We achieved a truly cross-cultural experience filled with laughter, awe, excitement, and countless smiles, and have touched generations with these adventures.