I started 2008 in sunny, happy, and freezing Orlando. Our family has somewhat of a tradition, traveling to Disney World every couple of years since I was born.
Let me first make one thing clear: Disney World is not just for kids. It’s a shame that most people think this way because while yes, the Magic Kingdom theme park mostly contains rides for small children, it is not the only theme park there. I guess it doesn’t help that most of the happy travelers flocking to Disney are families with children under the age of five.
Anyway. I didn’t vacation at Disney as the regular Carrie this time. Nope. Blame CMU on this one, but I vacationed as Carrie The Designer this time around. Whereas before I marveled at the rides, the endless amounts of Disney merchandise, and the three-hour waits for rides, this time I looked at everything from a different perspective: I marveled at what had to have gone behind the scenes to design the rides, the meaning and value of Disney merchandise to kids and adults alike, and the management and innovation that goes behind the design of ride queues.
It’s amazing what Disney does. Bypassing the more childish Magic Kingdom and thinking about my favourite Disney theme park, the EPCOT center, I like to think of Mr. Walt Disney as one of my personal design heroes. I mean, EPCOT stands for “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow”. How much more modern and design-y can you get? And he proposed this park over 20 years ago. Even though Walt Disney had initially imagined EPCOT as an actual community, it’s nice that The Walt Disney Company made it into a theme park, while still maintaining Walt’s visions. Now, the park contains different attractions that highlight some of the current and future innovations in different areas. It’s almost like a giant playground to introduce the public to what we do everyday.
Of course, Disney isn’t all fun and magic. The restaurant where we had dinner at Epcot was backed up over an hour. Customers were yelling and the lobby was packed full of people who should have been seated hours ago. There seems to be some sort of disconnect between Disney and its restaurants; Disney owns all the restaurants on its sites, but manages all the reservations without knowing how the restaurants operate.
In the end, the great things about Disney make you forget about all their mistakes. Their ingenious distractions while waiting to get into attractions and rides, their Fastpass system for shortening wait times, the way they create the Disney atmosphere using everything imaginable (but never overdoing it)… a lot of companies could use some service design tips from Disney (and it’s nice to see that some have).
Thanks to good ol’ Walt for providing me with my first design eye-opener of the year ;)