Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Wright Stuff

The Wright Stuff

by Greg Weinstein

Principle #1 of Jeff Gomez's 8 Defining Principles of Trans-media: "Content must be originated by one or very few visionaries." Or, as my grandmother liked to say, "Too many cooks spoil the broth."

This principle, of course, holds true for most creative pursuits. DaVinci didn't bring in a team to help paint The Last Supper. Rodin did not rely upon focus groups to sculpt The Thinker. And Bach did not leave it up to his orchestra members to write their own parts.

Frank Lloyd Wright is another fantastic example of an artist who exerted full control over his projects. Wright's vision extended far beyond simply designing structures... he crafted complete environments, putting his stamp on virtually every detail -- both external and internal. He managed macro level decisions like community planning and site layout, and narrowed his focus down to the finest details -- designing carpets, lamps, doors, windows, even silverware. Walk into any one of his buildings and the effect is immediately apparent. Because everything sprung from the mind of Wright himself, it all works in harmony.

Chances are you've seen architecture that's not quite as harmonious as Wright's work. Some of the most striking examples can be seen in homes that have undergone renovations. More often than not, renovations are dictated by personal taste or budgetary constraints... not by honoring the designs of the original visionary. Picture a turn of the century Victorian with a 1950's car port, or a modest Cape adorned with stately Greek columns. Ill conceived design can leave you with the subtle feeling that something isn't quite right. Psychologists might describe this feeling as "visual dissonance" -- psychological tension caused by a discrepancy between what you expect to see and what's actually there.

Building extensions onto a media property is not unlike building an addition onto a house. Fans will know what looks right and what doesn't. Get it wrong, and the resulting dissonance will pull even the most casual audience member out of the story and ultimately weaken the franchise. Get it right and you've increased the value of the property exponentially.

Frank Lloyd Wright understood the value of balance, harmony, and consistency. Successful trans-media architects understand that these principles are just as important in cross-platform story-telling.