Digital, interactive and physical prototypes for an innovation space
Co-founded by Zen master Masamichi Yamada, Treehouse — a mindfitness and innovation space in the Aoyama neighbourhood of Tokyo — is dedicated to helping the world’s biggest companies enhance leadership and collaboration.
Supporting and enhancing the visitor experience
We partnered with SY Partners — whose role included the development of a creative curriculum containing 12 innovation modules — to translate the content into a strategy for immersive experiences. Our role was to consider how technology can support and enhance the visitor experience, while remaining sensitive to the beautiful and calming environment. Building on Japanese rituals, we created a series of interactions that disappeared into the fabric of the space and built on the deep tradition of ‘Omotenashi’ — the non-servile culture of anticipating someone’s needs. Our work explored how a member experience begins before they visit Treehouse and continues long after they’ve left.
Digital, interactive and physical prototypes
The project was driven by our ‘30 Ways’ project methodology — a series of weekly innovation sprints designed as an antidote to the usual 'agency' approach where three 'routes' are proposed as a solution to a creative problem. Our approach is based around a small team creating 20–30 prototypes over 10 or so days. These can be illustrations, diagrams, sketches, video mocks, or interactive demos. We use these as props for discussing the impact of various ideas and shortcut towards an innovative solution much quicker than guessing with a handful of approaches.
For Treehouse we ran three sprints, creating a shortlist of prototypes, ranging from interactive objects to room scale experiences — covering apps that start the experience at home; peaceful virtual landscapes for when you arrive and decompress from daily life; magic tools for interacting with sand and immersive pods you could talk to during your visit; and data sets to explore after the Treehouse experience back at work with teams. We traveled to Japan to demonstrate each experience first hand with the project team and learn about the opportunities for each interaction.
Technology to create an atmosphere of calm
The whole experience is bound together by the concept of ‘Kaiseki’ — literally ‘bosom-pocket stone’ — stones warmed by fire and used by monks to keep hunger at bay.
We designed a system to allow each member to create their own unique stone. The system translated each design into a model for advanced 3D printing, with embedded technology and a custom die-casting process. The stone acts as each user's guide throughout the experience and for unlocking new experiences before and after visits. Surfaces are sensitive and react to it, and data can be saved to, and retrieved from it.
Our work specifically supported invisible, or minimally intrusive, use of technology, creating an atmosphere of calm and reinforcing the client’s focus on mindfulness. We delivered a series of prototypes and proposals that enhanced the visitor experience, supporting rituals, enabling the sharing of knowledge, promoting social working and reflecting Japanese culture.