Design Director of Experience Will MacNeil reveals what audiences can expect from his upcoming talk at OFFF Festival

News March 21, 2023

What is your role at the Mill?

I’m a Design Director in the Mill’s Experience team. I handle projects from the pitch stage and work through delivery with our designers and CDs to conceive a wide range of projects. These projects range from spatial experiences, such as museums, interactive theatre and installations, to data-driven designs, like our shirts for Hope United and to big out of home events, like product launches for Nike.

You will be speaking at OFFF, tell us a little what attendees can expect from your talk?

My talk is focused on the three elements that — to me — make experiential work so exciting: Breaking away from the limits of small screens, and their multiple formats, to a whole new world of display tech, such as large LED volumes, massive outdoor screens and even to unusual canvases like textiles for clothing. Then I look at how I approach experimenting for experiential work. There’s a universe of new opportunities out there that mix emerging technologies. To make the most of it, we need to step away from the tools we use everyday and just play with new techniques for crafting our work. 

Personally, I do my best work when I’m a little outside my comfort zone, letting myself make mistakes and just seeing where they lead me. Our most successful projects have been possible because of the techniques we developed through experimentation. Finally I talk a bit about how important it is that our work disrupts the one-way nature of traditional advertising and marketing. The days of just shouting slogans at our audience are over. At The Mill we’ve always talked about moving people through moving images. We need to take that a step further and get our audience engaged. We create worlds where our audience can play, interact and discover. We’re not really storytellers anymore, we’re story starters. The best experiences let the audience complete the story themselves.


You’ve been part of OFFF for quite a few years now. What is it that separates the festival from others?

While OFFF has been going for over 20 years and now hosts over 3000 attendees, it still feels very grounded in its original concept as a festival for artists, by artists. It has very few rules. Speakers are encouraged to be honest and playful in their talks, which means visitors get a lot more than glossy slide shows, or people pushing software. Instead we hear about the struggles and triumphs of a career trying to be creative while working in design and marketing. There’s also an extended OFFF family. Working in digital design can be quite isolating. Throw in the pandemic and home working and it’s easy to feel like the design community is miles away. Visiting OFFF brings us back together.


What in the industry is exciting you the most right now?

The last few years have seen some cool tech advances that seem to fall a little short of their promise. We keep hearing about the next big thing: VR, AR, The Metaverse, AI, NFTs. They make a tremendous impact when they first hit our screens and then seem to slowly fade out of view. I think this is because we rarely see them used in ways that people can genuinely relate to. All this tech is great, but we’re still humans. The same things still inspire us: friendship, love, adventure, wonder. There are several companies, including The Mill, working hard to craft experiences that leverage these great advances in technology to genuinely move people.  I’m very excited to see where this goes.

You can catch Will’s talk at OFFF this Friday 24th March – read more here. You can also get in touch with Will and our Experience team here.