Well… what a weekend! What started with a surprise weekend getaway for a friends birthday ended with an experience that beats any to date. The ‘Mona experience’ is one that perplexes and allows you to immerse in a ‘hidden world’.
When discussing what defines visitor experience with a current client; Mona was at the forefront of conversation. Whilst having seen the brand, heard amazing stories from others, I still hadnt experienced it myself. It was time to get down there and see what this was all about.
The most perplexing thing for me is that now I am back… I cant actually pin point one defining moment or feeling that was the enlightening moment of joy. Put simply; the entire experience from woe to go was seamless, on brand, rich with emotional connection and most importantly; consistent across all touch points.
Brand experience is a perplexing field; but Mona really demonstrated an intricate, well thought out balance to us as visitors. So here are a few things that I noted (remembering that I stayed at the pavilions as a guest):
1. The brand is simple and the symbolic components are perplexing (at first… they make sense later in the journey)
2. Integration and placement of the brand within and around the architecture/urban landscape is simplistic and intriguing
3. The staff embody the brand… the language, their personalities, style and the uniforms… brilliant!
4. Check-in, the fitout of the accommodation, the restaurant, the winery… they all speak to one another seamlessly and quietly. There is no clutter and no noise…
5. The gallery culminates it all… the technology and interactivity of visitors is pure brilliance… No other words to describe.
The one aspect that I find integral to a successful brand experience; is the realisation of perception in a distinct and memorable connection. Mona ticks all those boxes!
David Walsh and his creation MONA hit worldwide headlines when he built the space only a few years ago for his dedication to quirkiness… This combined with several conversations with friends about the space meant that I had a pre-conceived idea of what I was going to walk into.
And… the actual not only confirmed and reflected that; it built on it. The journey was one of confirmation, but one that also intertwined further perplexities and continual amazement at every new turn.
The small branded, subtle element on the main entrance gate immediately made me feel that I was entering some form of sanctuary; a void of space that was an escape from reality. The car park features an art installation of a smashed car, an experience before you even check in. Walking to check-in at the main reception saw a view of mini-hand shaped stools on what was a large expanse of grass that I could only imagine would be perfect on a summers day (not so enjoyable to relax on in cold, wet winter). Rohan (the general manager) was a quirky individual that exuded passion for MONA at the highest level. His knowledge, introductory nature and attention to detail was impeccable; flawless in fact.
The Walter Pavillion that we were to call home for the next two nights was architecturally magnificent, but also quirky in its own right. Simplistic, modernist design; functional, capturing the stunning views. And of course, round the corner in the bedrooms; fuscia pink/purple carpet. All building on the experience…
‘The Source’ restaurant provided us with amazing food of the highest quality, inspired by local produce. The wine tour of Moorilla/Moo Brew again didnt fail to amaze… not only was the story fascinating and the wine delicious; it all culminated under ground with a dimly lit private dining room where the group sat, tasted the variety of wines, bonded and had a laugh. All finished by more wine in the secondary
Lastly… but by far not leastly… MONA the gallery itself. Entering the gallery space through a silver mirror facade provided an adrenalin of excitement and uncertainty of what was below. Yes thats right, its all underground. And I am sure that was David Walsh’s brief to Fender Katsalidis Architects (who should be commenced on transforming the visible architecture into something magnificent and landmark like).
With our Mona device and headset; we were off. The architecture complements a collection of the most bizarre, wonderful and intriguing artworks I have ever experienced. I must admit, I am a bit of a museum/art gallery skeptic and can quite easily get bored. But with my device in my hand… navigating artwork and descriptions/interviews with artists via Wi-Fi, I quickly had spent two hours fully immersing myself without even realising… and having not left the bottom level. All the way, having the ability to ‘like’ or ‘hate’ each piece of artwork via pressing one of the brand’s symbols (a + and a x) Integration and visitor experience at its best…
Lunch and discussions about the experience over food and wine at the Wineroom with friends had us all talking about our interpretations of different artworks and the space in general… the good, the bad and the indifferent.
Back in and another 2 hours down… I had seen it all, but could have spent much longer… another full day in fact! The collection is one of the most inspiring, perplexing assortment of artists’ works I have ever seen. Old and new, vulgar and conservative; MONA has it all.
You leave with a sense of fantasy, a sense of having completed the most amazing journey; and most importantly for me, a sense of diversity. All whilst having completely forgotten about reality; the world that I escaped for the weekend. Absolute bliss
And as I am typing this back at my desk in Melbourne reminiscing about the amazing weekend; an email pops into my inbox. Go to a website link, log in with my email and to my amazement, an interactive 3-D model that has tracked my path through the entire gallery with information and images of each of the artworks I viewed on my journey.
You can log out, and back in to view this as many times… the final touch point in a visitor experience that beats no other!
I will be back for sure (we even discussed making it an annual event) and I urge you to as well… this place is somewhere that EVERY SINGLE PERSON should experience at least once in their lifetime.
Oh and in amongst all of that… the signage… execution, content, integration, simplicity… all brilliant. And the best thing from a wayfinding perspective, the signage was where it needed to be on a journey path and that’s it. Nowhere else. Something I believe in strongly… Information delivery… only when you need it