What do a Toyota Prius and Avatar (the movie) have in common?

So I went! While almost all parts of my body and brain where holding a ‘noAvatar’ position, the social moviegoer in me was surprised when someone asked ‘We are going to watch Avatar, do you want to join us?’.

And it was better then expected. But that’s not the point.

And the 3D animations where almost credible. But that’s not the point.

And the fact that the story was the same of ‘Dance with wolves’ and ‘Pocahontas’ (see here, I’m not lying) was not so disturbing. But that’s not the point.

And the Stereoscopic 3D interfaces of control panels, computers, tablets etc are in line with some concept video seen in the past (e.g. Office 2019), and they are more credible than those movies from the ’80s and ‘90s (although, I guess, after Minority Report the attention to this aspect is much more). But that’s not the point.

What’s the point then?

The point is that – while watching the movie – I was drinking from a plastic bottle of beer. And munching tasteless popcorns. And wearing 3D plastic goggles.

WTF?!? You may ask.

Think about it: I’m watching a movie that would like to make us more aware of the potential and beauties of nature; a movie that opens to the interconnectedness of what we find in our ecosystem. And then the cinema is full of things that (to my knowledge) are going against what the story of the movie say. It’s a matter of credibility.  It’s a matter of delivering the message in a clear way, avoiding all possible contradictions. Ultimately, it’s a matter of designing as much as possible of the experience, from the point of view of those who sit and watch the movie.  Including multiple touchpoints. It’s service design, someone would say. Or experience design. Or design.

I can hear you say: “Yes, but this was just a movie!”

Yes, Avatar is just a movie, and it’s been designed to be as credible as possible. To generate that suspension of disbelief typical of a very engaging film. Everything has been conceived and planned for making a spectator feel part of it. Given what I assume is a pretty strong negotiation power, the production could have extended the ‘designed components’’ to other parts of the experience to make it even more credible. To differentiate the movie brand. What if they would ask cinemas to sell organic, locally produce food. Or not to use plastic bottles. Or at the bare minimum, offset their carbon emissions and then tell the story to everyone.

This thing makes me think about the Toyota Prius. It is a technological revolution.  It  benefits the environment.  But it fails when it’s time to take the core proposition and create a system around it. How does the Prius get produced? What is the impact of shipping it? And why aren’t the colours chosen to reduce the albedo as much as possible? As metacool say:

“What if Toyota could make the entire Prius brand cradle-to-cradle by maintaining it and taking it back in a completely holistic way?” (see more here: http://metacool.typepad.com/metacool/2007/06/rewarding_brand.html)

And the same is valid for Avatar: what if Avatar would have been designed in a holistic way. Not just the message, not simply the interface and interactions with the main touchpoint. But the whole experience.

This is what I think design should do. Interaction design it’s great. But too many times it becomes too obsessed in polishing few details, rather than considering what other elements haven’t been even painted.


One response to “What do a Toyota Prius and Avatar (the movie) have in common?

  1. Curious, after watching the movie I got to a slightly different question, yet bringing to similar conclusions: What do Midiclorian and Avatar have in common?
    I was pleased to find such an inspired hymn to nature in the movie, but someway disoppointed by its urgency in explaining mechanically how biosphere (of any sort) is interconnected on the planet.
    Though not being a big fan of Star Wars, what I thought watching Avatar is:
    Pandora : Gaia = midiclorian : the force

    This is just to say that beyond the message and fictitious explanations, maybe something more could have been done to convey an actual sense of connection with the living world. And, I agree with you, it would have been nice if it was through the suggestion of “blue-green” practices, during the viewers’ experience. Also, it would have been interesting (and so effective) if responsible practices were adopted during the movie production itself.
    Hopefully someday this will happen, as deep sustainability calls for consistency.

    Glad to have bounced onto this post, thanks for twitting the link.

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