Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Design and the Beijing Olympics

China's most famous film director, Zhang Yimou (right), whose films include "Raise the Red Lantern," and "House of Flying Daggers", has spent the last three years designing the opening ceremony for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, trying to boil 5,000 years of Chinese history into a 50-minute show. This kind of design, that might be thought of as Experience Design, takes a person who can visualize how people will be emotionally engaged in a visual display.

The opening ceremony, viewed by millions around the world, is an excellent "teachable moment" to help make students aware of the power of design to inspire and move people.

An unauthorized video shot by a Korean news crew has been circulated showing some of the preparations. Undulating white columns apparently simulated a waterfall, and giant blue whales were projected onto the strips of roof bordering the opening of the top of the stadium. The video showed a giant blue-and-green illuminated globe on the floor of the stadium at one point.

The rehearsal included contemporary dancers dressed in black and others twirling ribbons, dozens of drummers, martial arts experts, and several colorfully dressed performers suspended by wires and floating above the audience. One segment featured a half-dozen actors on a raised platform surrounded by hundreds of other performers, while cymbals clanged noisily in the tradition of Beijing opera. The most impressive part of the show was evidently a countdown accompanied by drums, the SBS report said. Footage showed rows of hundreds of people, flashing cards to form the number two, then one, while chanting lustily in Chinese. Strobe lights flashed.

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