Design of amusement equipment

inflaDesign of amusement equipment is not as easy as it may seem. Amusement rides designer should have both talent and knowledge about rides safety and standards. Taking into account that most of inflatables are made for children, it is not always a good design which appears nice to adults. Designers have to take into account many paramaters. Below there is an interview with designer of  company VIV 1, European manufacturer of inflatables and mechanical rides VIV 1 Sp. z o.o.

What are the main stages of amusement equipment design? What tools are used? Is it a long term process and is inspiration important here?

Of course, the idea is, as usual, the most important thing. As well as good concept work. This is a very important stage, because it may happen that a very good idea is thrown away only because we approached it in a wrong way. And that would be a shame.

Everything else is a question of our craft. It consists not only of our knowledge and skills but also of the tools we use. This is usually professional graphics software for designing in 2D and preparing complex spatial installations. The technological process is very important here as well. Having high quality materials, great specialists and suitable machine park we can allow ourselves to have more daring solutions and more freedom in creation. This is a very important aspect of our work.

And speaking of inspiration, its role is indespensable, because designing is a creative process, hence an art itself. You can compare it to what the fashion designers or stylists do. By creating our visions in the world of entertainment, we influence what people choose for themselves and what gives them fun. And this is how the real art works.

Personally, however, I do not feel an artist. The things I do come from my sensitivity, the sense of aesthetics and a permanent will to create. It is also a great fun for me and I feel really good in this job. And this is the most important thing, I guess.

Is it important for a designer to know the safety standards of amusement equipment? Are these aspects taken into account during design process? Can you give some examples if possible?

I will put it like this: can a person worrying about one’s health think about fun at all? I do not think so.

And that is the point. We all care about true entertainment. Fully spontaneous and without setbacks. So there can be no rational fear or other worries. Therefore our principal task during designing entertainment products is to focus on the safety of possible users. VIV company always pays much attention to it. For many years our products has been considered in the market as exceptionally safe and entertaining at the same time. What is more, for two years all our products have been designed in compliance with European Norms established by international experts. One has to admit, that these norm lifted the bar for us – the designers. But what could we do? Now each design is analyzed by the whole team in respect of these norms.

You ask for examples, but I would not like to bore you. Here are a few details regarding only the plating (the sliding part) in our pneumatic slides. The end of the slide plating can not be shorter than 50% of the whole platform height. Or: the area at the end of the plating can not have the slope bigger than 10 degrees. And so on. There is a lot of data and they include all scope of requirements such as: length of platforms, height of the safety platforms, width of the sections, pressure level, the number of stay ropes according to wind strength, paints non-toxicity, material fire retardancy or size of eyes in safety nets etc. There are a lot of them, but we do everything to increase our customers’ safety.

It is obvious that being familiar with safety standars is every designer’s obligation. As I mentioned, the bar has moved up, but new forms appeared thanks to it, such as new style lines. We can also say that VIV developed its own style, different from old-fashioned standards present in the market. The incompetent fakes and modifications of our products that I come across in some Chinese websites are grotesque to me. But, returning to the subject, please believe me it is very pleaseant when a product is, at first sight, recognized worldwide as VIV product. Especially when you are an author of this design.

What do you consider to be a good design? Is it design which attracts children or adults?

This is a wide topic, so I will do my best to cover it with a few sentences. The term “good design” itself is very wide and I think it has different purpose for everyone. That is why there should be a compromise between the designer, the customer and the company’s business. This order is random, however the client is always the most important. So, having big knowledge, experience and objective versatility, we can combine these aspects to create a rational design that would satisfy the customer.

And a good product is: safe, relatively cheap, easy to transport, aesthetic, well crafted, functional and granting good entertainment. Generally speaking it is the customer and the company that should be satisfied, and the designer should be glad of the opportunity to create his ideas. And if such product starts being mass-produced, we can say it is a good design.

Should a good design attract the adults or children? While designing I think of children and how I can meet their expectations, however in the final vision I do my best to draw the attention of the adults. Because I know that the children like to play, but the toys are chosen and bought by the adults. That is the way it was and will be. So when I manage combine this, I can say: “Yes, this is a good design”.

Can you remember some interesting stories connected with the amusement design (perhaps, some interesting orders, some funny situations)?

Apart from numerous and original orders for recreational devices there has been some that we can call “a different cup of tea”. For example I remember an order for a theater stage design in Wroclaw. It was supposed to be a giant, pneumatic landscape with mountains that the actors were to climb. It included also a forest and, as fa as I remember, a small lake with hills around.

Another interesting order was designing a huge knot that was placed on the television tower in Stuttgart. It had to look as if the top of the tower itself was tied in a giant knot. That made a big impression.

Some interesting orders came from Polish and Austrian television, too. There was also a peculiar order from a client in South Korea. That were one of our most exotic-looking slides and castles.

Speaking of castles. A record probably belongs to sheikh from Arab Emirates. For his son’s birthday he ordered a castle that was to be entered in the Guinness Record Book. The whole device, with Oriental outfit, had an area of 50 x 50 m. There were also galleries, huge fountain-shaped slide in front and it was surrounded with palms and beautiful animals. The structure consisted of many segments which made this giant easier to install and transport.

I give you these examples only to show a scale of our skills and the challenges our clients make us face.

One of the funniest customers we had was one Italian man. He once sent us a picture of a hen-shaped slide and asked us to do an identical one, only with a tiger instead of hen. After long negotiations and many attempts to convince him to change his mind, a new Tiger slide came to life. It was a mutated tiger. I think it looked terrible. And there would not have been anything funny about this if the cliend had disliked it. But he liked it so much, that he ordered another pieces. Since then we have been joking with my colleagues that it is not a problem to us to turn Mickey Mouse into a crocodile or a bear into locomotive.

What knowledge are important for a designer of inflatable and other amusement equipment and constructions? Are there any specialized educational establishments or seminars?

Personally I have never attended any specialized seminars, so I can not say if they exist. And as for trainings, yes, there are some, however they usually include topics connected with particular software or some aspect of the functioning of company.

All this is important, however the most important thing in what we do is the experience. That is because our job has its own rules. And it is no way to learn it in any other way than practice. This really is a specific field. Fortunately VIV is a company with long practice, and its own methods and solutions. This valuable experience is now very useful to young engineers and artists. Becayse, as I said, we create a good team although each of us is a specialist in his own team.That is why the individuality is so important to us – we supplement one another and exchange our skills and knowledge. We also receive support from the company management. They are good practicioners, knowing what and how to do. This makes our job easier and help us avoid many unnecessary problems.

To sum it up, I think that a good designer is a person with practice, open to new ideas, inquisitive, a specialist in the field, familiar with necessary computer software, broadening his own mind and eager to work in a team with an unconventional approach.

But, to be honest, even if someone had a half of these virtues, he would be very buse in our company, too.

I will only add that we constantly keep an eye on everything, we watch new trends in the market, check new materials and do our best to fill all spaces in the inflatable – and not only inflatable – industry.

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